Sunday, May 21, 2017

Tell me about yourself...

Back in April, many of my friends and some of my co-workers told me to take my time and take a break. Don't rush into a job search. Let the stress of the last year (it has been a stressful work year) go away before diving in to find a new job. Their advice: Do fun things! Binge watch tv shows you've been meaning to watch! Read all of the books! Travel! Bake things! I did try to follow their advice to some extent. I did fun things (and still do fun things). I've read a ton of books and have baked at least one thing per week. I did binge watch tv. As a matter of fact, I'm still binge watching shows and have developed a somewhat questionable love of the show Kitchen Nightmares. I can't explain it; Gordon Ramsay's yelling at disaster restaurant owners and chefs soothes my soul. 

I received a far amount of advice about what I should do next. These suggestions ranged from the obvious yet unrealistic ideas of opening my own bakery and opening my own record store/bakery to the ridiculous (courtesy of my father) of moving to small town, opening a weird store, and helping the local police force solve crime. We were watching a Hallmark mystery movie at the time so my dad has an excuse for this one (all Hallmark mystery movies have this plot structure). It's also been suggested that I should start my own consulting firm (I think I'd want to consult on how not to be a jerk but I'm not sure if there's a market for that) or that I should sell all of my possessions except my car so Pumpkin and I can go on a massive road trip, doling out sage advice (me) and being adorable (her). I love all of my friends.

I appreciate what my friends were trying to do by encouraging me to take my time before rushing into my job search. I worked for my last company for almost 11 years; that's a long time and it's rare these days to stay at one organization that long. I didn't do the same job that entire time (thankfully) but I "grew up" there. A lot of professional firsts came to me during my tenure, most of which I am very proud of and thankful I experienced. I agreed with the idea of needing to let go of the event and the organization but not with the idea of not moving forward with my search. I am my father's daughter after all, and if you know my father, you know that the man cannot sit still for any amount of time. I have the same problem. Neither of us can do nothing for long periods of time so the idea that I would take a break seems alien to me. Doing fun things and reading and baking only fill the time for so long. I need to have more purpose, more meaning in what I'm doing. So I dived in.

I did all the things one is supposed to do when beginning a job search. I updated my resume, created an "All-Star" profile on LinkedIn (this is not that challenging by the way), and I reached out to people in my network to let them know I'm looking. I signed up to work with the career coaching organization my previous company offered; the reality of the movie Up in the Air hit the moment I got that folder with all the information on the next phase of my career. I won't say too much about my coach except this: I love a list but people aren't lists.

I've attended about ten webinars through this coaching service on various aspects of the job search. Some have been helpful, particularly around writing a positioning statement (live a value proposition for you as a qualified worker), tips for handling the "why did you leave your last company?" question, and coming up with an interesting way to answer the dreaded "tell me about yourself" question. These areas can be awkward to discuss and as I'm prone to awkward, it's been helpful to have a professional review these items and provide feedback. Other times, it's a struggle to sit through. There are only so many times I can hear the question "Do I really need a LinkedIn profile?" before realizing I'm not the intended audience of many of these webinars. It's been good to look at this as a process since I love a process and I love a list. Each step in the process is one step closer to not having to fill my time with these webinars or getting more attached to canceled Gordon Ramsey shows.

I'm not the first person to compare the job search process to online dating nor will I be the last. You have to talk about yourself and why you're awesome and why they should pick you all the time potentially while wearing clothes you bought for this occasion so you look professional and trustworthy (I'm looking at you black jacket). You have to prove your value in a way that isn't as clear cut as online dating. You could met or exceed every qualification for a position and still not get the job. It's very possible searching for a job is worse than online dating. The idea of rejection in dating doesn't sting nearly as much as the idea of rejection in work. I'm extremely proud of what I've accomplished in my professional life; I've had the opportunity to create engaging and powerful content, deliver training to lots of people, and help hundreds of people start their careers off on the right foot. I helped build part of the business; that's not me exaggerating, that's fact. It pains me to think that I won't be selected or that I'm qualified but not in exactly the right way or whatever else could come up because I know myself and I know what I'm capable of doing. None of these feelings are helped by the fact that the hiring process is excruciatingly slow. It can take weeks to hear back about a position...and that's if the company replies at all.

It's also incredibly isolating. I'm not saying that I don't talk to people anymore but my day isn't filled with the dailiness of going into an office. It's filled with me, my computer, and a cat who doesn't understand why I'm home all the time. She has cat things to do and I'm in the way. Her current question: how many Radiohead albums in a row is too many?

I'm lucky to have wonderful friends and family who are being supportive and helpful during this process. They've helped me connect with other people who might be good contacts for me to have (because networking is the only way to get a job these days...apparently) and have gotten me out of the house when I need to get out of the house. They check in to see how I'm doing. They send me funny pictures of cats and ideas for other businesses I should open (apparently, they think I'm made of money). They're keeping me sane and keeping me motivated. I know it's a process and the process will eventually end. I'll find a new job and all will be right in the world. I know this...I only wish it would end faster. That's all. And Pumpkin does too. She has so many cat things to do. 

Summer is so freaking exciting! Things to look forward to in the next few weeks: my summer playlist/long-form discussion of the song "Brandy", a summer kickoff "Lazy Movie Weekend", my 38th birthday, and my 20th high school reunion.

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