Archives for posts with tag: job search

June 10th, 2011, was my last day at work at my last “real” job. I left that job to move cross-country, ending three years of bi-coastal marriage. Had I known I would be less than fully employed three years later, I might not have been so sanguine about relocating.

Those of you who have followed this blog know that I have been looking for work, with varying degrees of  effort, since I have been back in North Carolina. I tried to find a place in my field, and my efforts were met with indifference. Uncertain that I cared to knock myself out to start at the bottom  when I’d left at the top, I looked at new avenues of employment, and my efforts were met with indifference.

I realized that I was most likely part of the problem, and I began to explore the things that were holding me back. I’ve written about some of them, and will continue to do so. There is no such thing as “finished” when it comes to self-awareness and improvement. I got help with my resume, polished my LinkedIn profile, and started joining groups and getting out more.

Last fall, I rededicated myself to finding full-time work. I systematically searched and applied to a range of interesting positions where I felt my skills would transfer. By April of this year, I had made dozens of applications and inquiries, to “stretch” positions, but also to three investigative jobs where I had solid, easily recognized experience.

In mid-May, I was discouraged and despondent, bemoaning the lack of response to anyone I could get to listen. I tried to get a grip. I reminded myself of the adage “Success is what happens right after you don’t give up” and I felt cheesy.

Remarkably, the next day, I got a call. I scheduled an interview. Today, exactly three years after leaving my old job, I am accepting the new one, doing exactly the same thing.

There is another saying: “If you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always gotten.” Sometimes, that is a bad thing. This time it is not. What I will get now is another  opportunity  to be of help to people who need it, to spend my days with like-minded people in service of the same goals, and to know my place in the world again.

Did the resume, the online presence, the introspection and  all the rest help, or was it simply a matter of allowing opportunity to present itself? Either way, I am finally home.

 

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We love to talk about whether a year has been “good” or “bad.” (Or is it just me?) The real answer is usually “both.” For purposes of this post, I am only addressing my own progress, or lack thereof.

For the first time, I chose a personal “Word of the Year” for 2013.

https://thatdifficultstage.com/2012/12/31/stretch/

Did I live up to it? No and yes.

No, in that I have not done yoga every morning. Or most mornings. Yes, in that I can still kick higher than my head, and have actually done so unsupported by furniture recently. (No guts, no glory.)

No, in that I haven’t posted as regularly to this blog as I intended, nor have I added any visuals. Yes, in that I have posted about more personal topics, and haven’t abandoned the blog. Also, I’ve linked to posts from my Facebook page, and shared posts directly with people I don’t even know, including real, live, published writers. Another yes: I attended WordCamp this fall.

No, in that I have not found a “real” job. Yes, in that I have, with the help of my friends, a new resume, and some ideas on what I would like to do next. Yes, in that I have applied to some interesting jobs, and made it to a phone interview once. I’ve joined a professional group in a field of interest. Yes, in that I am actually telling people I am looking for work.

Yes in that I am reaching out and developing new friendships. Yes in that I have pushed myself far out of my comfort zone by joining Toastmasters, and will be giving my “Icebreaker” speech on January 28th.

I plan to choose another Word of the Year for 2014. I was considering the following: Control, Connect, or Direction. I think now I prefer “Momentum.”

Recently, as I perused employment listings, I was delighted to see an addition to the usual generic job posting:

“Questions? Please contact:  job poster@prospectiveemployer.soandso”

I had questions.  I included them in a concise and courteous message, along with my resume. I said that I would be very appreciative of any feedback before filing my formal application electronically.

I told myself I would allow 48 hours for a response before just going ahead and filing my application.

Within 24 hours, I saw the email. Hooray! My effort was rewarded. I clicked in anticipation, and saw this:

“Dear Applicant,

We thank you for your interest in (prospective employer.)  Please ensure that you also make application to the ( position) listed on the (prospective employer) HR website.  We will be screening the applicant pool for those candidates who most closely match the job description.  Your resume and cover letter should reflect that you meet the minimum qualifications for the position.

Again, thank you for your interest,

(Person posting the job , direct phone line and email address)”

I’m still trying to decide whether or not to bother filing the application.

 

 

The worst thing about blogging and job hunting and blogging about job hunting (especially blogging about job hunting) is probably the complete lack of response that follows a given post or application.

I didn’t necessarily start this blog for an audience, and have, in fact been reluctant to draw much attention to it. I have to admit though, that a “like”, a comment or a “follow” can make my day. The problem is that now that I’ve had a taste, I want more, (There. I said it.) and I fret a bit when I don’t generate a reaction.

That’s nothing to how I feel after submitting an application. I am pathetically grateful for an automatic email response, or a chance to track my application online. Something truly is better than nothing.

The best thing about blogging and job hunting is that there is always another chance. All I have to do is write something else, and find another job that looks interesting. Practice may not make perfect, but it should make better. I can find a new topic, or refine my arguments that I am the best qualified applicant.

In the meantime, I remind myself that I do exist in the real world. My family and  friends, the people at my little job, and the folks at the Literacy Center, B.R. in particular, provide a warm-blooded context to counter the cold-blooded isolation that is writing and looking for work.

I’m going to make that a thing.

Recently, I reactivated my search for a real job. After sending out about a half dozen applications to jobs I knew I could do, but wasn’t particularly excited about, I spotted one that got me charged up. It was outside of my fields of experience, but definitely drew on my core skills.

I considered it carefully. Over-carefully, perhaps. I sent the notice to a couple of trusted friends who were familiar with my resume. Was it too much of a reach? I wanted to know. My friends reinforced my belief that I had the skills, but may have a hard time getting noticed without the specific requirements.

Armed with reassurance that I wasn’t delusional, I approached a local friend who works at the target employer. She was encouraging, and offered to forward my application to the appropriate HR rep. She advised me to apply through the main, electronic channel as well.

Last week, I got a call. I survived the screening interview, and was told my resume would be forwarded for further review. The rep who called me indicated she had concerns about my lack of experience in the field. I replied that I had been successful in transferring my skills to disciplines where I’d not had previous experience, and was certain I could do it again. I went on to say that I have already joined a local professional group as an associate member, and intended to obtain the certification I lacked regardless of whether I got the position we were talking about. (All true. Unfortunately, I have since learned that although I can study for the test, I can not apply to take the test until I have a year’s experience in the field. A little Catch 22 situation to worry about on some other day.)

I really wanted a chance to interview. I believed that with a live interview, I would be able to illustrate how well suited I was by experience and temperment for this job. I was deconstructing the requirements line by line, preparing to demonstrate how my experience had prepared me. I read about the company. I saw myself in the building, visualizing my new routines. I already had the job.

At the same time, I knew it was a long shot. There is always someone who looks better, and has all the requirements. I prepared to be realistic, and disappointed, if need be. I kept looking for other attractive opportunities. Yesterday I noticed that something else I’d been interested in was still open, a week after I spotted it originally. So I took the time to apply.

I’m glad I did.

I checked my application status on the automated system for job number one. There it was: the dreaded “resume no longer under consideration.” Sigh.

I gave myself permission to feel sorry for myself for five minutes. I shot off a few emails to people who were in the loop on this adventure, giving them the update. I remembered to thank my friend at the company for her help. Then I went and took a shower.

Five minutes is a really long time sometimes. I got distracted, thinking about what to wear for work, and remembering that I had fallen off schedule for posting to this blog (I think I was in suspended animation waiting to see what would happen after that phone call.)

I am still sorry not to have been interviewed. I still think I could have done a great job, but I have things to do. If I start to get discouraged again about this or any other thing, I will make a date with myself for another five minute pity party, and set a timer.

The advantage of a set of well-developed, broad skills  (critical thinking, analysis, oral and written communication, “people skills”) is that they can be applied in many disciplines. The distinct disadvantage is that they don’t lend themselves to condensation to a simple label.

Some of us remember when a job search was conducted on paper: cover letters and resumes via snail mail to prospective employers. It was easy then to prepare communication tailored to a discrete audience. A letter to an insurance company would look different to the one you sent to a hospital, and so forth. The resume could be “targeted” highlighting information most likely to impress a specific recipient.

Now, everybody can see everything all the time, thanks to the internet. Job hunting is simpler, and more complex.

On LinkedIn, the best profiles include a simple tag line: CEO, engineer, consultant. My profile does not include such a line. I know I should have one, but what should it be?

In my recently resurrected search for full-time employment, I am struggling to reconcile valid but conflicting  advice:

1) Don’t  limit options with narrow labels if skills and experience are transferable.

2) Develop a “Brand”:  a clear, consistent message about who you are, what you can offer, and the type of opportunities  you are seeking.

 Am I the only one who finds it difficult to craft an on-line identity that simultaneously defines my “brand” and allows for maximum opportunity?
I am not looking for just any job; ideally, it will be something that allows me to use the skills I have now, and develop new ones. Recently, I have found several interesting options, all of which relate to my core experience, and none of which share titles: Litigation Specialist, Patient Advocate, and Employee Relations Consultant.
What kind of tag line would apply to all three? How do I cast that broad net and be specifically attractive in three different capacities?
You tell me.

Normally, when I haven’t posted to this blog for a while, it’s an indication that things aren’t going well: someone is ill; there’s some sort of family drama, or I’m just in some sort of inert funk for no easily articulated reason.

I am happy to report that’s not this case this time.

I’ve had a pleasant and eventful six weeks. Inspiring even. OK, there was one (very scary and horrifyingly expensive) instance of family illness/drama, involving my sweet little cat, but even that ended well, and it served as reinforcement of what I need to be doing.

Briefly, since I posted last, I’ve been back to California to attend a multi-class high school reunion, and squeezed in a daylong visit to my former office. I’ve attended two more meetings of the Toastmaster’s Club I wrote about in my last post. I registered for WordCamp, a conference hosted by WordPress, which I will be attending next weekend. I’ve applied to a handful of jobs. I’ve had several frank and friendly conversations with the boss at my part-time job, and there  are avenues to explore there. I’ve been reaching out to friends for job search help and advice, and I am encouraged and motivated as a result. I’ve stood next to Dr. T as he was sworn in as a lawyer; his exciting new venture makes me even more eager for one of my own.

Those are the highlights. There’s been a lot to think about, and a lot to write about. I am challenging myself to choose a schedule for that, and stick to it. In the interest of developing something I can stick with, I will plan to post on the days I am never scheduled to work: Saturday, Monday, and Wednesday. We’ll see how that goes.

I’m just a few days out from yet another birthday. If achieved, it will be a refutation of the Ouija board prophecy made when I was still in elementary school. (Tip: for a carefree life, never ask a Ouija board how old you will be when you kick the bucket.)

So I will not be indulging in the “Mortality App”

http://www.deathclock.com/ that has so many folks buzzing. I get it; I’m gonna die, and sooner rather than later, proportionally speaking.  I’ve been around for more years than I have left.

This knowledge has doubtless been one factor in my mission to find something worthwhile to do, my willingness to take a few more risks (small as they may be.)

“If not now, when?” I have been asking myself this question for the last few years, but finding the answer seems more urgent.

The flip side to this urgency has been an increasing awareness that most of it just doesn’t matter. I will die, and then who will care what my last job title was, what I had in the bank, and how deep that line between my eyes got?

I know that some doors have closed forever, and some are swinging shut. I know that I will probably not travel as extensively as I now wish I had, and that I am not likely to be anywhere near wealthy, and that’s ok.

What continues to bother me is the fact that I have not, in the words of every frustrated guidance counselor in my life, “lived up to my potential.”

I did not lack ambition; I smothered it.

I was certain that the fields that attracted me were too competitive, and that there was always someone who was better suited to a job than I. Having had a ringside seat to many dunce-filled arenas, I now realize my mistake. I could have accomplished more. I want to accomplish more. I worry about my “sell by” date in the job market.

I am now on my feet, hustling across a concrete floor nearly 30 hours a week, with loud music playing and a walkie talkie incessantly chattering in one ear. I am up and down ladders and crouching low to reach product. I out perform peers decades younger. I can’t possibly be too old for an adult job.

The trick now is to retain the sense of urgency and purpose without sliding into panic. Time is short, but I still have some.

I’m doing well in my little job, so well in fact, that I am often first in various store metrics used by my company: sales, sales per hour, credit cards opened, etc.

The leads fluctuate among three of us. The other two top producers have worked at the store for years. Both of them have degrees in design, and have run their own companies. I am a criminal justice major who spent most of her working life in investigations.

My co-workers have formal training and experience that far exceeds mine. They can walk into a home or sit down with a client and quickly come up with product and arrangements that would take me hours or days longer, if I could do it at all. They deal with the store’s top clients, making presentations that lead to single sales in tens of thousands of dollars. I don’t.

It never occurred to me that I would be selling at the same level as our store’s top designers. But I do. Consistently.

So how do I manage to keep up? I’ve been examining this question lately.  The answer is that I just grind it out. I substitute effort for experience, and play to my strengths.  I keep my eyes open, and approach everyone. I engage. I listen. When I sense a lack of interest, I move on. When my customers display interest, I hang in, and respect their pace. My product sells itself; it’s my job not to get in the way.  And I truly enjoy what I am doing. I like helping people, and having fun. I tell them, “If you’re not enjoying this, we’re doing it wrong.”

Something tells me that if I apply this approach to my search for a “real” job, I may end up with one.

I have been at my little job for slightly more than a year and a half now. After a month or two of wondering if I was in the right place, I’m comfortable and happy there. The job was probably just demanding enough to keep me from being swallowed by the bad things that were happening in my life when I took it. In retrospect, it is probably just as well I wasn’t trying to establish myself in a full-time, “serious” position while I was dealing with the death of my mother, my dog, and various family health issues. I suspect that my current restlessness is a good sign: my life is calm and stable enough to seriously pursue something bigger.

Here are a few things I’ve learned that I am sure will help me going forward:

I can succeed at something new:  I’ve mastered the infernal computer/register/inventory system, and learned to navigate all four channels of our business. I am producing results comparable to those of two senior colleagues, both of whom have design degrees and have run their own design businesses.

I am not motivated by money: I earn a fraction (a very small fraction) of what I used to. I would make the same amount of money just by showing up, but every day, I put forth my best effort, and continue to challenge myself. The proof of this is that despite having been momentarily stunned and disgusted by my insignificant first “raise” I am still  working hard.

I can simultaneously accept my reality and change it: I had hoped that I might be able to eventually meet all of my needs in this  job. My first review and wage increase showed me that I couldn’t.  It’s just not that kind of job, and I might have known it, had I asked the right questions when I interviewed.  After some reflection, I realized that I enjoyed the job too much to quit, and that I could alleviate my resentment  by simply reducing my availability to four days a week from seven.  Saving Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays for myself gave me a sense of control and  needed structure in my schedule.

I am most successful when I forget myself: Fully focusing on my customers and meeting their needs allows no room for self-consciousness and insecurity, and produces excellent results.

I am not my job title, or my paycheck: I knew that, but it’s good to remember.

George Lakoff

George Lakoff has retired as Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley. He is now Director of the Center for the Neural Mind & Society (cnms.berkeley.edu).

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