Category Archives: Careers

Cutting myself some slack

I have a confession. Some times I just sit here and stare into space instead of looking for a job. Some days, I can barely bring myself to do it. I AM SO SICK of tweaking cover letters and resumes and sending them out into the black hole known as APPLY ONLINE. I am so tired of telling my so-what-are-you-doing-now story. I wish I had the nerve to say, “you know, here’s what I do: I sit on my ass most of the day, eating cinnamon toast and oranges.” Honestly, if I let myself, I could slide right into dinner and bedtime without having moved more than 40 feet (the distance from the couch, to the bathroom, to the kitchen and back again.) Some days, I don’t brush my teeth.

Searching for work has never been easy

Searching for work has never been easy

The truth of the matter is, I don’t do idle very well. Not because I’m some superhero, it’s because I’m afraid of what will happen if I don’t. Trust me, I’d rather hide in my closet than face another day of job hunting.  I’m tired of being upbeat. I’m tired of saying to myself (and to others) that this is an opportunity for me to do something interesting and terrific (because I don’t always believe it.) Some days I search with vigor, other days, it’s a half-ass attempt. Some people consider my determination a sign of moxie, gumption, true grit. But I think it’s a sign that I’m just burning myself out. 

Today, I took a shower, brushed my teeth and put on clean jeans. I applied for two jobs. (This is more of an exercise than anything else because I’m starting to believe there’s no one on the other end of that APPLY tab. I don’t expect to hear anything anymore. Having your hopes dashed day after day can suck the optimism out of the best of us.) I contacted two former colleagues to see what they were doing and schedule lunch. Perhaps they’ll have some freelance work. I work a little on an online media curriculum that I’m developing and do more research for a contracted SEO project.

 If I knew all my efforts were leading to a job, I’d dig until my knuckles were raw. But, sometimes I wonder if I’ll EVER get another job. I wonder if there is something more I can be doing. I call people I know to see if they know someone who knows someone who can get me an interview. I’ve got a blog, a website, I do pro bono work, I make cold calls, I do follow ups, I make a few bucks doing freelance and consulting. I stalk people on Linkedin and Twitter. It’s exhausting.

It’s time for a new strategy. 

 After three months, I have come to terms that a full-time job may not be around the corner. So I’m making plans, something I couldn’t bring myself to do two months ago. I decided to put more balance into my week. I’m letting go of the fear that if I skip a day of looking for a job, I’ll have missed some great opportunity. I don’t think it works that way. So I’m giving myself permission, heck, forcing myself,  not to take it all so seriously all the time.  If I chose to sit on my ass all day I won’t feel guilty about it. I’m going to go out more and do the things I couldn’t do when I worked full-time; go to the museums on a week day, walk to the Dairy Queen with Lenore  when she gets home from school because the weather is sunny and warm,  let my friend Carolyn make me breakfasts that last until lunch without having to worry about the time, and read a book in the middle of the day and not get up until it’s finished. Plan a road trip with my sister that takes us everywhere and nowhere. This week, I’m helping a friend who owns a consignment store in town sort and tag clothes. Business is booming and she can use the help. I can use some place to go.  

The mother of a friend of my daughter said to me the other day when she learned I had been laid off, “Oh, that’s great, now you have all this time!” I thought she was nuts – and clueless. News flash: I LIKE working. But her comment stuck with me and while I still wouldn’t wish unemployment on anyone, I’m realizing now it’s  important to embrace the time off. Not waste it, but make the most of it.  I’m cutting myself some slack. So  if you find me Monday, sitting on my ass, still in my pajamas at noon watching The View, only chastise me a little – and then ask me to go for a brisk walk to the little bakery downtown for hot tea and a cupcake where we won’t talk about the economy. 

3 Comments

Filed under Careers, Economy

A little more honesty (and humor) as we age, please

I’m a loyal reader of More magazine, it “celebrates” my age. Over 40. In terms of women’s magazines, I relate to it more than say Glamour or Marie Claire and certainly more than Cosmopolitan. I don’t read Family Circle or Woman’s Day, although I used to. The fact is I just don’t need another recipe for boneless breast of chicken. imageaspxSo while I prefer More than any other, I admit, I’m getting weary of the “How Great Life is over 40 Testimonials.” I know. I know. Embrace your age. Love the skin you’re in. Yeah. Whatever. Here’s what would be fresh.  Interview someone over 40 who admits to having to pop a couple of Advil with her morning coffee before she can start the day. Honestly. I want to hear a woman over 40 candidly talk about hemorrhoids and how she found a really good cream that gets rid of that awful itch.  I want to hear a woman over 40 talk to me about thinning eyebrows. I want someone to admit the reason they don’t have sex more is because they’re too damn tired to undress – and then get dressed again, not because they’ve lost their will.

I don’t feel inferior reading how some women over 40 feel more confident because I know they’re mostly full of shit. “I love being 50.” Yeah, right. You’re now ok with having stomach fat and gray hair and having to spend a fortune to replace all the metal fillings in your mouth because some 30-year-old dentist told you they’re getting old and will crack at anytime.

Look, I am more comfortable with myself than I was at 25. I know myself better. I understand the world better. I’ve traveled. I have more money. I have better friends and a great marriage. I raised two terrific daughters.  And, I don’t give a rat’s ass about so many of the little things that I used to when I was younger. But I do wish I had the more resilient body and skin I had in my 20s, heck even my 30s. I wish I were still a fearless skier. I’m not so afraid of falling, but that I won’t be able to get myself back up again. I wish I didn’t have to put on glasses to read the directions on the back of the brownie mix box. I wish I could experience the joy of being a young mother again. I wish I didn’t have to work so hard to lose weight and stay fit. I wish I didn’t have dreams about my teeth falling out.

The idea behind More is to make us feel good about ourselves. I know that. And I do believe plenty of women are OK with being 50. After all, embracing it is healthy, physically and mentally. There is a lot of really good life to be had at 40, 50, 60 and beyond.  But I just hope that as we age, we can be more honest with each other and stop pretending that we’re 100% OK with our bodies aging. I’d be so much more OK with turning 50 if I new it meant more honesty and humor and a truly effective hemorrhoid cream. 

2 Comments

Filed under Careers, Humor, Parenting

Social networking: Diversion during a down and out economy

Out of work? Join the crowd. No really. Join the crowd. Online. It’s where we’re all hanging out. 

According to a report earlier this week in the Wall Street Journal, surfing the net is how we’re keeping ourselves busy, occupied and out of trouble.   

It also keeps us from going off the deep end. 

The article quotes a psychologist who contends there is evidence that Internet games, blogs and social networking sites provide a “psychological benefit because they prevent a downward spiral of rumination.” In other words, it keeps us from drinking ourselves into a stupor.     

Here’s why I think this article is spot on:  Social networking is the lifeboat on a sinking ship for me. To the critics who suggest I’m wasting my time or avoiding reality, I say: Aren’t you lucky to still have a job to go to everyday.

Just as people flocked to the movies during the Great Depression, today’s out of work workers are flocking to the Internet. They’re doing it for a number of reasons but mostly because it’s so damn diverting.  Last week, I spent an entire day writing “25 Random Things About Me.” I admitted to the world that I go weeks without changing the sheets on my bed and that I’m addicted to scratch tickets.  It was absolutely cathartic. Who needs a therapist? (Hell, who can afford one?) I may have avoided looking for work that day, but no way was it a waste of time. It lightened my mood and energized me. Sometimes, you just have to know when to escape. 

Probably more important, the Internet keeps me from feeling isolated. From the minute I was laid off nearly two months ago, I was communicating with co-workers and friends who were in that sinking ship looking for a life raft, too. Because the company cut off my networked email, the only way I had to communicate those first few days was through Facebook. It’s how I found out what was happening; how I found out about others who had lost their jobs, too. It helped diffuse anger, fear and helplessness. 

A bond was formed during those first few weeks and that connection sustains me day after day as I build a business while looking for full-time work. It’s like a support group.

Social networking allows me to socialize with more friends more often, sometimes on a daily basis. The first thing I do in the morning after pouring myself a hot cup of tea is check my Facebook news feed. It’s like meeting my girlfriends for breakfast. 

Could I go out? Go to the movies like they did during the Depression? Sure. And I do. Social networking is just a different kind of diversion. 

I agree, what we do with our day is much different than what we would have been doing 10 years ago or 70 years ago if we found ourselves out of work. Are we better off because of the Internet? For me, I don’t know how effective I would be with out it. Searching for full-time work, building my content development business, writing my blog and doing volunteer work keeps me busy, but it would be a lonely kind of day with no one but myself to talk to. I need the social interaction that the Internet provides. And, frankly, I’m grateful for it. 

1 Comment

Filed under Careers, Politics, Social Media

Inauguration Day: Using hope as a strategy

As our 44th President is sworn into office this morning, I, like much of America, and the world, am hopeful for a better future. As the economy continues to spiral downward it’s a tough mantra to follow, but for many, hope is the only strategy. 

For those of us who have lost jobs as a result of the economy, hope has to take on a new, or at least more poignant, meaning. As we send out resumes, make calls, figure out how we’re going to pay the mortgage after the severance runs out (if we were lucky enough to get one), hope is the rock upon which we all stand.   

So today as I watch the news and listen to the stories of faith and renewal, I’ve posted my view of my lay off experience and why  I’m betting that hope will see me (and all of us) through.  

In mid-December, I become one of the millions of laid off workers in this country. The company cut 76 workers, 12% of its workforce. They say they feel bad but it has to be done. It is not about performance, they tell us. It is not that our skill sets are no longer required. It is because times are tough and they believe consolidating positions will help. dsc09279a

The phone call is well scripted and rehearsed. They offer me 18 weeks severance and an extension of my health care. I know this is a good deal and I don’t complain.  Within three minutes of hanging up the phone, I am disconnected from the company network. A month later, my job is posted on the company’s website. Executive Editor. I hear the salary is considerably less.  

We are told to come into the office to collect our things on the following Saturday at 8:30 a.m. No one is there except a company executive who opens the door. It makes me sad that nine years of my professional life fit into two small boxes but I’m relieved there’s not so much to carry out the door. I feel like I have a disease and no one wants to come too close. The executive never looks me in the eyes. I want to say “Fuck You” as I leave, but I don’t.   

I get messages on Facebook for the next several days. Many people say they’ll pray for me, which makes me laugh. I think this is a bit over the top. I’ve lost a job, not a child. I suspect they are relieved their jobs have been spared but secretly think it is because they are better than me so I “defriend” them. One former colleague calls and shouts: “Congratulations!” when I answer the phone. I think this is a much better thing to say. 

The package that details the “terms of my job termination” arrives via special delivery. My package is bigger than some of my colleagues’ packages because my package also includes information about age discrimination. I can’t help it. I think this is funny, too, but in a pathetic ‘if you don’t laugh you’ll cry’ sort of way. Not only am I out of work, I am old. 

I attend a job fair recently and am interviewed by the press. She refers to me as a victim of this economy. I tell her I am not a victim. I have been given an opportunity to redirect the course of my life. Some of this is bullshit, but thinking of yourself as a victim doesn’t help the situation. 

I make a conscious decision to approach the job search with confidence and enthusiasm and I do it so well, it feels like an out of body experience. I get calls from friends who ask how it’s going. “Great, I say. Really, really great.” And I mean it. I start a blog. I join a local freelance writers group. I take a masters class. I get freelance work. I contact everyone I know and have ever known. I have lunch with friends. I change the trajectory of my professional life. I have a blast. 

I am determined to keep my energy up even though responses to applications have been rather pitiful so far. I have applied for eight positions for which I am perfectly qualified, but I have only heard back from one. I had an interview on Tuesday. I thought it went well, but they have not called me back. It’s hard to be patient. 

I am just one among millions caught in the crossfire of a crappy economy. I am a sobering statistic, I know. Still, even though I don’t believe for one minute that this had to be done, it is what it is, and I move on. Instead of a barrier, I see a challenge. More important, I say it’s OK to hope. If hope can motivate a nation, it can motivate me personally. Yeah, I do believe hope is a strategy. 


2 Comments

Filed under Careers, Politics

Yeah, it was worth getting up at 4 a.m.

Rita the registered nurse thought it was a pretty productive way to spend a morning. Ditto that.  

When we emerged from the second floor elevator at the Sheraton Hotel at 6:10 this morning,

Kristen Brandt from ManicMommies talks to me about my job search. Listen to the podcast tonight at manicmommies.com

Kristen Brandt from Manic Mommies Media talks to me about my job search. Listen to the podcast tonight at manicmommies.com

there were already 800 people in line. Sharply dressed. Leather portfolios in hand. Brian, a GMA producer passed out lifesaver mints. I thought this was a brilliant gesture to start the day. It’s early, my breath might be kind of stale. It would have been better if it had been coffee and donuts, but hey, it was a free event.

 

Name tags, tchotchke bags and a job-finding tips sheet from Tory Johnson, GMA’s career expert. It was a brilliantly run production. For a room filled with people out-of-work it was an amazingly upbeat, energizing and friendly place to be. We all had one thing in common. It was easy to bond. We made friends. Hopefully, some of us found work. 

Some advice, a handful of observations and a few secrets revealed: 

1. One page or two?  Tory Johnson says one page resumes only. Millie, from the Masschusetts Department of Workforce Development, said two page was better for someone with lots of experience. My one page version said nothing, she said. My two page resume was brilliant. She really liked the font. I really liked Millie. She told me to call her anytime. 

2. There are a lot of people eager to find a job and will show up at the crack ass of dawn to get one. I admire that.

3. Robin Roberts was not there so I did not get to meet her. 

4. The demographic was broad. Some twenty-somethings, some sixty-somethings. Mostly 30, 40 and 50-somethings. 

5. The producers were extremely nice. Except one curly-haired blond guy. We called him Evil Producer. 

6. Tory Johnson was lovely, if not particularly insightful.

7. Gail Huff is gorgeous in person and close up. But I thought she could have worn nicer-looking shoes.

8. There were 73 companies represented, including PartnersHealth, Home Depot, Macaroni’s Restaurant, the FBI and Secret Service. EMC was also there, which I thought was interesting given it just announced it would lay off 24,000 employees this year.

9. Companies were looking for primarily administrative types, technicians, assistant store managers, as I suspected.

10. There was a really nice guy handing out high-quality stock paper for resumes. He also had thank-you cards that he did not give out but imparted on us the importance of writing thank-you notes. I told him he was preaching to the choir. 

11. Diane, a charming and energetic professional, is looking for a job in marketing, but is staying away from the real estate business. 

12. Some people still rely on the newspaper for job listings.

13. The oatmeal at Starbucks is delicious if you get it with nuts and brown sugar.

14. Camera lights get really, really hot.

15. Don’t carry a big shoulder bag in a room crowded with people. 

16. There were a lot of people laid off in December. 

17. Experts advise following up on online applications, but we challenge you to find someone to talk to.

18. Tory’s mantra of the morning: Quality over quantity. Better jobs, fewer resumes. 

19. The soap dispensers in the hotel lobby woman’s room need to be refilled.

20. Experiencing a morning like this with good friends and new friends made getting up at 4 a.m. definitely worth it.

2 Comments

Filed under Careers, Education

Is Facebook the new resume?

Branding yourself. Not a new concept. Recruiters have touted for years that branding, at least for C-level executives, is absolutely vital to a flourishing career. But with so many people out of work, this branding idea has come to the masses, thanks to the web, and if you’re job hunting without an online presence, you’re nobody. Literally. Nobody.  52881_hi

You can avoid Linkedin.com or Facebook.com all you want and muss about the evils of social networking sites, but you’re just kicking yourself in the ass. 

Even the least savvy of organizations will do a Google search — at least you should expect them to. And “the complete absence of an online presence can raise red flags,” says Brad Reagan in this month’s Smart Consumer column in Smart Money  magazine. Branding is a tricky thing, though, so your online presence must be managed well, wisely and often. What a potential employer sees online can determine whether you get that interview (or job) or not. 

Discretion is the key word here. While I assume you know better, it’s my observation that networking sites can be used  for good or evil, depending on the level of stupidity. I’ve worked with people (in their early 20s) who think nothing of putting a picture of themselves in a drunken stupor on Facebook — and are aware that I (their boss) had access to their site (as a friend). Being a brilliant speech writer for president-elect Obama doesn’t preclude you from doing dumb (very dumb) things and posting them to Facebook, either.  This guy was caught clutching the ass of a Hilary Clinton cut-out and somebody put the photo on Facebook. What were they thinking? Oh, wait, that’s right, they weren’t. 

Maybe this is why a recent  Boston Globe article about using Facebook as your professional profile proved to me that too much of the job-hunting advice I’ve been reading is being dumbed down — for the really dumb. Saying a profile picture of yourself holding a beer bottle may not be good for your image, is like saying dropping a cement block on your foot will hurt like a bastard. Some things should just be obvious when you become an adult and expect someone to hire you.

Leave a comment

Filed under Careers, Education, Parenting, Social Media

I just want to meet Robin Roberts

sam_champion_gma1

My morning companions these days. Chris, Diane, Robin and Sam

There’s a job fair this Wednesday in Boston.  I’m anxious to see what’s really up with these things and if people are finding jobs beyond telemarketer or Home Depot associate. More than that, I’m curious to see the lineup of companies and what they’re offering. I’ll keep you posted. And, let me know if you plan on attending.

Leave a comment

Filed under Careers