Every hour in my day seems to fly on by and suddenly it’s Thursday. I feel like I can’t keep up with the clock…it just keeps going. Whew. Welcome to the (almost) weekend. You made it!
1. Growing up is like growing a garden. We’ve loved having a garden this summer–there’s nothing quite like some fresh tomatoes and basil (with cheese, of course). We’ve expanded this year’s garden to also include okra, spinach, cucumber, kale and a few herbs. But let me just say, it takes work. It requires daily attention, cutting out the bad and elements completely outside of our control (like good weather and no rabbits). In the same way, personal growth and development takes time and effort, working through and eliminating the bad and faithfully waiting through the variables we simply cannot control. A garden is the perfect reminder of that process.
2. We all have strengths and talents. Mine just happens to be writing incredible to-do lists. While you may never see me performing that in a talent show, it’s still pretty significant and can help out the people around me. So, use your talent. Even if it doesn’t belong in a frame or on a stage, it can still make an impact.
3. Rest is important. We live in a culture that praises busy and expects constant work. The problem is, that’s not sustainable, healthy or necessary. Yes, use your strengths but also, set aside time for rest. You can and should take some time to rest every day, every week, every month and every year. Take a break. It’ll be okay.
Okay, many of you know that I’ve done my share of job searching in the past. For some of you, I’m sure that statement alone cues an eye roll as it’s old news. Here’s the thing, no one seems to openly talk about the struggle in a job search. We talk about the successes and the outcomes, but rarely the struggle as it shows weakness and vulnerability. Not to mention, if you share such things publicly, it can make for a weird second interview. The problem is, when no one hears about the struggle they assume their struggle is an isolated issue. Well, ladies and gentlemen, here I come to save the day…
Searching for jobs sucks. Oh, excuse my language. I meant to say, it’s really, REALLY hard.
So, if you’re out there wondering why that job you want hasn’t happened yet, let me just reassure you that you’re not alone. From time to time we all meet that oddball of a person who just seems to “happen” upon their job and effortlessly climb the career ladder. Either a company approaches them first or their initial application in the search just got scooped up from the pile and a generous offer simply falls in their lap. (If you are one of those oddballs: 1. Congrats, you lucky duck. 2. You will not relate to the rest of this post, so you might as well walk away now. 3. I know you feel like it was merely all your hard work paying off, which might be true…but some of the rest of us also work really hard but it hasn’t quite paid off in the same way yet.)
Job searches start hopeful: There’s another opportunity out there that will suit you and pay better and make all your dreams come true.
Over time, they rip you to shreds: Oh you applied to that? Well, it went straight to the trash and you’re not good at anything.
Okay, stop! You are good at things, so just quit believing that lie. Write down your list of strengths right now and tack them to your fridge or mirror or whatever you look at a lot. Now remind yourself this search takes time. It also takes a whole lot of perseverance and effort. But just because it takes time does not mean you’ve suddenly become worthless.
In the past year I applied to nearly 60 jobs. I’m talking a custom cover letter, revised resume and all 7 pages of the application form for every one of those jobs. People would ask me how the job search was going and all I could say was that it was “still on”. I’ve been rejected so many times by companies that don’t even have the decency to send an automatic email. Of those jobs, I interviewed for 17 positions (many of which included several rounds of interviews). I was a finalist 8 times and almost always under the impression that I got the job. Do you know how hard it is to be the runner-up in an interview process? You think the next time you hear from them it will be with an offer but instead find out you’re left with nothing but dashed hopes and a wrinkled suit.
How do I know the numbers? I have a master spreadsheet containing information on every job I applied for. I included the title and company of the position, the date I applied, the referral I used if I had one and record of any communication I had with the company, whether it was an automatic email or my handwritten thank you card after an interview. Two months of searching went by…three…six…eight…to the point where I wondered if I would ever be hired again.
So what’s my point in saying all this? To give you a taste of what a real job search struggle looks like. By no means am I trying to discourage you or scare you. In fact, just the opposite. I’m confirming all your frustrations that this might be a long and painful process. I’m also saying, it’s not just you.
Even though you have not heard the feedback you want, don’t lose hope. Sure, you might have to pivot and think of different angles and opportunities that fit your strengths, but don’t mistake that for being worthless or unwanted. You bring value to a team. You have strengths and skills that are desirable and important. But you can’t give up. You have to keep going.
Go to the networking events that slowly seem to suck the life out of you. Reach out to the person who might be able to give you a referral. Send your resume to the people closest to you and see where it can get circulated. Apply for the job that you might first think you are under- or overqualified for and see where it goes. Set a schedule and make a list of all the places you plan to regularly check for jobs. Ask someone you know who works in HR or editing/communications to look over your cover letter. Find someone in your field to critique your resume. Continue to invest in yourself and your skills.
There are parts of my life that don’t seem to line up. Like, I’m not quite hip enough for all the shows I go to. Or don’t have kids hanging off my arms like most of the other women at church. Or I don’t look old enough to do the things I am capable of at work. Or maybe I’m not musical enough for what people expect in relation to my incredibly musically inclined husband.
It seems like I’m never quite what “they” wanted. Sometimes I want to shout in return saying, “I DON’T FIT IN HERE! I KNOW IT JUST AS MUCH AS YOU DO!” Yes, I get it, thanks. Because trust me, I feel even more awkward about it than you do. It feels as if my life is hanging in the balances, tinkering on the edge of total discord and absurdity.
So maybe we don’t have the same amount of money, number of kids, personal beliefs, musical talents, magnitude of eye makeup, years of experience or extensive vocabulary. No matter where I turn, I don’t seem to be matching everyone else there in some major life area. As uncomfortable as that can sometimes (often) be, I think there’s something incredibly valuable in it, too. Because instead of continuing on our own little paths, we get to learn from each other and grow from each other. That can’t happen if we all look, talk, act and think the same way. So maybe it will take a little more effort to bridge the gap. Maybe we’ll have to take those differences in stride and assume the best of each other. But I’d much rather that than living a life removed from those who have different experiences and understandings than my own.