if at first you don’t succeed

if at first you don’t succeed

So I’d finally landed it, an interview in the television and entertainment industry. This was my fourth stab at trying to get on with this company, and I finally got a call back.

“Why do you want to work here?” the department manager asked, once the interview was rolling.

I had that answer prepared and knew it was a risk, but it was the truth: “Currently I’m working in the financial industry, and I feel like a foreign exchange student who is ready to come home. I’m grateful for all I’ve learned and the people I’ve met, but it’s not where I’m supposed to be, and I really want to be back in television and entertainment where I can offer the best of my skills and experience.”

The co-manager said, “How cool.”

The department manager said nothing. I couldn’t tell how she felt about my response for two reasons: we were on Zoom and I didn’t have my readers on. (I figured the younger I looked, the better, hence no readers.) But her exuberance was underwhelming.

So the questions kept coming, and I did well on all of them except one. I should have asked for a do-over. Can we do that? Ask for do-overs in interviews? 

But near the close of the interview, when I’d asked about next steps, the department manager answered snippily, “We just started the interviewing process. It will be awhile.”

Shit.

I knew then she didn’t like me. I withdrew within myself, put on a brave smile, disguising my disappointment, and thanked them for the interview.

Of course I felt shitty for the next week. Of course it messed with my confidence and I second guessed my foreign exchange student answer. I picked apart every other answer I gave, too, and made note of what I could have done better— namely, I could have asked better questions at the end, before asking about next steps.

But the truth is, if the department manager didn’t like me in the interview, she wasn’t gonna like me later. Because I showed up authentically and professionally. Or maybe my answers related to the industry were more dated than I realized… after being out of the industry for years. I don’t think so, though; I think it was a matter of dislike, plain n’ simple. But also, I learned that it’s just too risky to ask, “When I can expect to hear about next steps?” or something else to that nature… that’s really what irritated the manager the most.

So what do we do, how do we bounce back?

We just do.

That simple.

What other choice do we have? Yes, contemplation, insecurity, and regret are natural. Feeling stupid for showing up as yourself and not being chosen isn’t uncommon. But it’s all part of the job hunting experience. And the sooner we cast off the negative feelings and move on, the better off we are. 

I’m took a moment and wrote down notes on questions I could have answered a bit better, because even after sending out thank you emails, I never heard a peep.

This article is a quick but necessary read to help you pick yourself up and keep going. The author identifes 4 steps for bouncing back, and I can say I implemented them quite a bit while I was job hunting for a year and a half.

Rejection stings, no doubt about it. But we have what it takes to bounce back.

Read the article for the four steps and keep at it!

stuck in the muck

stuck in the muck

It took me a long time to get in at the company where I work now. While I was trying to get in, I worked in a different field as a financial broker and hated it. But it was the bread and butter I needed, while trying to break back into the industry I wanted to be in.

Now that I’m back in the industry, I appreciate it. It’s the first time in my life I can fully appreciate my job, while working on my creative ambitions. Hopefully, one day I’ll be able to live off my creative endeavors, but until that time, I’m happy to keep paying the bills.

I went after a dream and fell flat on my face, which put me in the desperate position of needing to pursue the opportunity to become a financial broker. And I did that until I could get back into the industry I wanted to be in.

Many times we have to work a job we don’t necessarily want to work, so we can do the creative things we want to do. It provides calm stability and a sameness to the routine that is usually healthy for everyone under the same roof. But figuring out when to stay at a job or when to go is sometimes a tricky question.

Though this was written quite some time ago, at the end of 2020, if I remember correctly, I want to share one of Katherine North’s “missives” because it’s so beautifully written, and it expresses exactly what I was going through with building a foundation, so dreams could transpire.

I can only share the first part of it, however, because I want to be mindful of legalities such as plagiarism. If you enjoy her writing below, you can visit her site and sign up for her Saturday missives. Normally I interject thoughts and comments, along with the resource below, but because I can’t link you directly to this missive (it’s unavailable to me), I will simply let you read the first part of her missive without interruption.

I’m emerging from my cocoon.

To be honest, I’m not ready.

This world, my god, how are we to stand it? I am heartbroken and my heart is in my throat and she pounds wildly.

This clamor in our chests is the sound of our humanity, our capacity for grief and rage but also for hope and courage.

I bet your heart is loud right now too.

Mine is tender, craving more cocoon. Like Wednesday’s new moon, I’m here but I’m still mostly dark– just a tiny silver crescent, a promise of more to come.

But I wanted to take the first tentative step out of my sabbatical and talk to you. I missed you. I missed this. Oh, it was magnificent to let myself wane, to curl up in the dark. I had forgotten the power of those innate cycles. And now it’s time for the waxing, time to coax myself back into fullness.

Being away (not just from this missive, but from all social media) gave me more time to think. It gave me perspective. It let me float a little bit higher above my life and see more of the landscape. I looked at my life like it was a topographical map.

And what I saw was that my world, right now, is made up of two different types of work with two different types of energy.

There’s my creative work. All the books I plan to write, the conversations I have with my clients (their own art form), all the missives I wrote to you in my head, the photos I take trying to find beauty and make alchemy of the daily messes and glories. This realm is made of thoughts and feelings, ideas and glimmers, all ethereal flow. I love it there.

Then there’s my physical world work. The 21 meals a week for seven people that need to be planned, shopped for, prepped, and cleaned up. The kids who need clothes, shoes, forms, immunizations, and 47 rides to appointments and lessons and birthday parties. The house that requires paint, picking up, putty, vacuuming, wiping, washing, folding, over and over and over. The dreaded paperwork.

Often, I resent the physical world. It is harder for me, heavy and sticky and glitchy, unlike the ideas that fly so quicksilver, unhampered by wrenches or clogs or stains or grime. All this physical busywork feels like it takes me away from what I’m meant to be doing.

But I could also see, with a little more breathing room, that this physical world is what supports every bit of the creative work I love so much.

I remember being single and in my twenties, living in a tiny studio apartment in Tokyo, being utterly paralyzed by fear and panic. I’d think to myself, “I should be writing, I should be writing, I should be writing.” I had no kids, no pets, and my weekly laundry would fit in a thimble. But I did not spend my swaths of responsibility-free time pounding out great novels– no, I spent them numbing myself out from the guilt and shame that I wasn’t writing, wasn’t creating anything, wasn’t doing anything worthwhile with my life. I’d look around at the dishes in the sink, the stack of scary mail, and the pretty purse I knew I couldn’t afford to have bought, and feel such terror at the mess I was making of my life that I shamed myself into paralysis. I had believed in the glamorous myth of the tortured artist, drinking and creating in poverty and squalor– and hey, I had the squalor but not the art.

During my sabbatical, I came to a shocking realization:

I have a lot less free time now.

But I make so much more art.

This simple fact surprised me, caught as I was in my “if only my children didn’t need CLEAN clothes and shoes that FIT, I’d probably be writing DOZENS of books!” mindtrap.

Because even with my vastly larger physical workload, I have made more art in the past seven years than I did for the 15 years before that.

HUH.

The more I thought about it, the more I could see that it works two ways.

On the one hand, learning to manage my physical world (adulting, money, making a home, parenting, paperwork, creating beauty) made me stronger. It gave me muscle. It taught me persistence, resilience, and the unlikely power of tiny actions to compound over time into a great sea change.

On the other hand, my physical world humming along is the very thing that gives me space and time and permission to sit down and make things just for joy. A beautiful and orderly home lets my anxious nervous system calm down enough to even be available to flow and practice. I look around and it appears that a capable adult is running things, and this is vastly reassuring.

This epiphany– that all my creative work rests on the foundation of a beautiful and functioning physical world– brought me to a wild gratitude. And no wee aclick here to visit her websitemount of chagrin.

It was shocking to see that the thing that I resent most had actually given me what I long for: a flourishing creative life.

I’m interjecting here… I ended her missive before it actually ended, for legal reasons, as I stated above, but if you enjoy her like I do, click here to visit her website.

steppin’ out

steppin’ out

As a young mother, I was anxious about how I would one day re-enter the workforce. I remember taking my four-year-old to a haircut appointment, and, while I waited, I picked up a magazine. The article that caught my eye was geared toward stay-at-home parents, entitled something like, “Ways to Make it Easier to Re-enter the Workforce When You’re Ready.” 

I wanted to tear the article out and keep it, but why didn’t I? (These days I could just take a pic with my phone!) Looking back, I think it was because I was intimidated by the article because my hands were full enough with an on-the-spectrum four-year-old and a two-year-old; the thought of the trying to stay relevant in the workplace, while managing to be a mom who was truly present for my two boys was overwhelming.

So, I left the article behind but never forgot it. Although, unfortunately, I forgot the specific advice offered.

I think re-entering the workforce, after being a stay-at-home parent, has its own set of challenges. Let’s just say, after changing mountains of dirty diapers and being stuck indoors for what felt like years on end for nap times, I began to feel extremely irrelevant in the corporate working world, and, as much as I loved staying home with my two boys, it took a serious toll on my self-worth… until I realized, after my family broke apart, what I cared about contributing to most was my family.

Oh, the things we learn in hindsight…

It’s easier said than done, I know, because I’ve been there, but if you’re feeling lost from staying home with your kids (which has nothing to do with how much you love them), take time to examine those feelings.

Truth is, you ARE still the capable, bright professional you were before you became submerged in playgroups, doctor appointments and nap times. It all can feel so isolating sometimes.

If you come across tips and tidbits on how to stay relevant in the workforce while being a stay-at-home-parent, save the information for present or future reference. Don’t shy away from the advice or allow yourself to feel intimidated by it.

You can start a journal/scrapbook just for your thoughts, articles, leads— anything pertaining to the field that interests you. Even if you’re not ready to go back to work NOW, by taking a little time each day or even once a week— even if it’s just five minutes— to express your work fears or add a helpful piece of advice to your collection, this will move you through feelings of hopelessness to feeling more centered. Let your mind ruminate on the advice, and you should become more comfortable with eventually acting on the advice given.

Another thought is, if possible, to work part-time in the industry you may want to go back to at some point.

For me, getting back into my industry was a little like playing leap frog. I took a job in a field I did not want to be in until, a year and a half later, I finally got back into my industry… and that was with the help of a former colleague. But I also downplayed the years I’d been away, and now that I’m back in, no one remembers I had an employment gap.

Although this article was written in 2020, it is very much relevant now. I don’t want to freak you out, but planning to return to work, after being at home taking care of family, is likely to take some time. That’s why I think this article can be really helpful. Unfortunately, according to this article, it can take longer for those of us who stayed home to take care of family to return to work compared to those who were away for different reasons. But we can’t let ourselves become discouraged by this, otherwise we’ll feel powerless to change our lives and that’s no good. The truth is, if we are resilient, eventually something has to give and change will come.

Here are the bullet point tips from the article. At the end I will include the link so you can delve into how to apply these tips.

 

Make Time to Find Work

Get in the Right Frame of Mind

Get Some Advice

Determine What You Really Want to Do

Make a Job Search Plan

Update Your Social Profiles

Answering Tough Questions About Going Back to Work 

You got the job!

what you really want

what you really want

If you’re in the throes of job hunting long enough, you can become thoroughly exhausted.

A mixture of insecurities, positive thinking, intense preparation, putting your foot in your mouth during an interview, then putting your best foot forward afterward, again and again, can tend to land you in a blender full of Overwhelm pulp.

And the longer the hunt goes on, the more debilitating it can become. Or, on better days, the more determined you can become, to improve yourself and try again. But boy, staying steady while on that see-saw of defeat can be one of the most challenging feats to accomplish, at least for me.

Speaking of me, let’s do the math… I attempted getting on at the same company for a year and a half and applied for six jobs there.

From those six jobs, I interviewed for three positions.

Of those three positions, two of them required a second round of interviews— so, five interviews total with this company, not including speaking with HR first, for each position. It felt like so much more than five interviews… because of the intense prep, then actually doing the interviews, then writing thank you follow-ups…

I once believed I would somehow have a better chance at landing a position, if I put enough positive vibes into the universe.

I don’t believe that anymore. I don’t believe saying to the universe, “Please give me the job,” or “Please, Mr. or Ms. Decision Maker, pick me,” will make any difference at all.

What did make ALL the difference, was how I took the hits, managed the see-saw. And fortunately, eventually I landed a position within the company.

Failure can be useful when it leads to re-assesment.

So, the way I see it— there are two layers of assessment.

Layer One, top level

Continue to strengthen job hunting tools: resumes, LinkedIn presence and membership, interviewing skills, maybe hire a career coach… although a coach is pricey

Layer Two, deeper level 

Determine if the pros and cons with leaving your current job and going to the prospective new one will truly make a difference in your level of happiness. However, keep in mind no matter which job we have, we alone determine our overall happiness.

I’m once again offering Jennice Vilhauer’s work to you as a resource. She works with people, to help them get more out of life, and she tells us a lot of people don’t know what they want their life to look like when she asks them.

She makes a point that the choices can be overwhelming, but, for the most part, we know what we don’t want in our lives, such as war or poverty. She tells us once we have identified what we don’t want, we can flip it and hone in on what we do want.

She tells us to get as specific as possible and offers a worksheet to help with this here.

To read more about how to hone in on what you want and change your expectations, read her article here.

the naked tree

the naked tree

I remember one particular day, while in the midst of job hunting anguish, I’d debated about whether or not to take the Christmas decorations down sooner than usual. Usually, I wait a week until after New Year’s, so when I woke the day after Christmas Day, waffling about whether or not to take the decorations off the tree, I knew something was up.

The tree looked so festive, bright and merry… I didn’t want to remove that feeling from the room. It’s not like my kids were little anymore and would grab the ornaments. Not even a cat to worry about in that regard. So, why not just leave it in all its merriness?

A nagging remained, beckoning me to pack it all away. I knew it wasn’t just about packing up Christmas, it was about how I was going to manage the new year mentally.

When evening rolled around, I finally succumbed to the nagging and packed it all away.

Taking down the tree earlier than in years past was most definitely about wanting to control my work circumstances. The more I could clear off my to-do list, the sooner I could continue to focus on clearing out the main thorn in my side, the job.

I’d had several interviews for a few positions at other companies, but hadn’t been able to land anything new. It was incredibly taxing on me while working the job I had. There was no doubt about it, that job search took more grit, resilience, and self-love than I’d ever needed before. 

I knew my most important lesson, as I moved into the new year while job searching, was to mindfully select jobs that were right for me, from a place of realistic calm. And to work on my personal goals from a steady and peaceful place, while working to change my job situation. And also, to be more lighthearted about it all in general.

The most difficult part was not knowing when I’d land a new job, but eventually it happened.

Coping Skills for Anxious Job Seekers

Advice for Handling a Stressful Job Search

This article is worth your time if you’re feeling anxious about the job hunt. It begins by telling us there are many factors in a job hunt that can contribute to stress and then those possible reasons are listed, along with STRATEGIES on how to handle those reasons. Also, there are tips to manage the anxiety, such as taking care of details like unemployment and getting organized.

Click here to read the article and help alleviate anxiety.