Sunday, February 17, 2008

Getta Job!

Woke up around 8:30 this morning, turned on the ol' 'puter and started catching up on some blogs. My friend, Tickle the Pear, had posted a piece about her Saturday activities. I'm reading along and I find myself befuddled. She's describing everything in the present tense and it's not even 9:00 a.m. yet. I'm thinking, "how did she do all of this today and write about it before nine a.m.?"

Finding myself in a state of confusion (and realizing I'm not quite as awake as I'd like to be), I start to wonder what day of the week it is. Then I realize, it's Sunday. Not Saturday. That was yesterday.

I've gotta get a job.


Speaking of getting a job, I finally met with a career counselor last week. I have a bunch of homework and a follow up meeting this coming Friday. I'm trying to be humble in all of this, in the sense that a lot of what she told our introductory group about how to craft resumes, what to say/not say in a job interview, how to network, etc., is stuff I'm already doing or am known to be good at.

That aside, I'm trying to approach this with an open mind for what I can learn and how I can succeed at securing a job that stimulates me intellectually, allows me to contribute to making a difference in my little corner of the world, and provides me with the means to continue living the simple, but comfortable, life to which I've become accustomed.


Speaking of success, I know I cut an impressive figure when I interview and new employers are always excited to have me "join their team," but then I end up falling down and disappointing them miserably with my performance. I'm not entirely sure what happens between Point A and Point Z. What I do know is, the confident, think-outside-the-box, forward-looking, leader and producer I brought to this town five years ago is not the woman I see in the mirror now. Now, I'm a navel-gazing, doubting, hold-my-hand-and-lead-my-every-thought-and-action, ineffective lemming.

I'm not exaggerating. I'm being serious. (And I'd appreciate it if everyone reading this would take me seriously for a moment.)

Somehow, I have to overcome that. I want to blame it on the culture that is pervasive in workplaces these days where we fail to mentor and we expect the sun, moon, and stars from people from day one. But I'm tired of that excuse.

I want to blame it on the fact that I've worked for really insecure, political people who can't handle it when the people around them outshine and outperform or push the envelope. But that's an equally tired excuse.

I discussed this with friends at a brunch yesterday and what we concluded is this: there are managers and there are workers. In today's work set-up, managers aren't managers anymore. They're expected to be managers and workers and you can't do both. The result is, people-managing and -grooming suffers. And yet, that seems like a cop out, too.

I'm beginning to believe it's entirely possible that I'm not as smart as I've believed all these years. Rather, what I am is charismatic and articulate, but not savvy and intelligent. (Before you protest that, think about it for a while. I have. What I lack is intellect and erudition, but I've managed to cover it up with intelligence, articulation, and charisma. Protest all you like--and I love you for your passionate attempts to dissuade me otherwise--but that's the cool, steely reality.)

But getting back to the first sentence in an earlier paragraph: I have to overcome that. I have to find that "thing" I do best that allows me to thrive and be the employee/leader I was five years ago. I miss her and, frankly, I hate the employee/lemming I am today. I'm tired of feeling weak and timid. I'm tired of appearing sharp but then being dull.


Unfortunately, I've worked myself to a place of income where I need to make what I was making as an ineffectual lemming if I expect to meet my adult financial obligations--a mortgage, a car payment, utilities, insurance, some modest financial investment, pay off of my exorbitant student loans, etc. and maybe a vacation or two every few years. The jobs I'm contemplating and know I would be successful at don't pay the kind of salary I'm looking for. Not by half.

And that raises another question. How do people in the D.C. Metro area make less than $40,000/year and live on that? Even if I was making what I was making when I left San Francisco--which was more than $40K--there's no way I can manage on that. (And I know what you're thinking. I don't have to, because I have my other half. But when evaluating finances and monetary growth and security, I try to look at it from a singular standpoint as a baseline.)


All that to say, I need to get a job.

But before I can be any good to anyone, I need to get around and over and on top of this foreboding sense of doom that is wrapped up in feelings of utter inadequacy, stupidity, and outright inability to perform to expectation.

Ain't no job can work that out of me, but me.


Di said...

You needn't worry that I'm going to argue with you about your cool assessment of your current strengths and weaknesses. I will say I believe you're being tougher on yourself than reality actually calls for (ie, I think you're not being objective about empirical evidence), but I also believe it's a phase in this process called (mid)life. I have had to reassess my own talents...and lack thereof. I just wish I was at a concrete list about myself, as you are. Whether it's accurate or not, it's a great starting place. I also think it's still incredibly important to consider other aspects such as looks, personality, things you do that people love, things you do that annoy the shit out of people, etc. All that stuff that gets categorised as "soft" skills, or "image." Or something. I think there is actually a LOT more that is in play in that are than there is in actual smarts or skills.

But before I can be any good to anyone, I need to get around and over and on top of this foreboding sense of doom that is wrapped up in feelings of utter inadequacy, stupidity, and outright inability to perform to expectation.

Ain't no job can work that out of me, but me.

Well, I certainly relate to this. The sense of doom is killing me. The feeling of being trapped and inadequate and clueless somehow. I don't believe you have "inability to perform to expectation"...I believe the expectations have been misaligned. Yes, you HAVE had a run of bad IS possible (and actual, IMO) that you can have a string of bad jobs, and bad matches with your skills. That last job was especially a horrible trip for you...a worse mismatch would be hard to imagine. And yes, a very bad manager/boss person who undermined your every move, word, thought. Do not underestimate how badly that can fuck with you.

As to your final sentence? I have it on extremely good authority that that is quite possibly just incorrect. After some extremely bad experiences (leading even to suicidal thoughts), I'm told that a good job (not higher paying, but definitely better fit) was pretty much all it took to feel successful and strong and powerful again. Took a bit of time, but it had amazing powers to heal.

I know you take a lot on yourself. I think responsibility is a good thing. In your zeal to be coldly realistic with yourself, consider that you might be going too hard on yourself. F'reals. Keep hope alive, and I will try to do the same. Deal?

sylvia/ticklethepear said...

I think you'll have a lot of insights from the career counseling. It always help to have a neutral, professional perspective.

You deserve this break too.

Miss Understood said...

I am SO with you on this. I feel your pain.

I know what I'm really good at and what I enjoy, yet that won't ever pay the bills.

I know what the last 3 jobs on my cv are (management) yet I felt completely unqualified and ineffectual to actually think of myself as one in the last two of my three postions.)

Yes, a management job would pay the bills and on cv and at interview I come across as more than capable, but even if I were lucky enough to land a job in that field, I know I'd spend my free time worrying that I wasn't good enough, and my workng time trying to impress.
Not good.

So where does that leave me? Up the thingy without a wotsit, I think.

ME said...

Ditto to Di--especially those last two paragraphs.

I won't argue with how you're feeling and I hope there are better things ahead.

I do want to ask a couple of questions. The job you had before leaving SF: what made it great and what were you doing that made you feel smart, competent and successful? Was it the work, the clear expectations, the people (colleagues, mentoring, etc.) or a combination?

I think a job that showcases your strengths and develops your many talents would make a world of difference in how you feel about yourself. But I think it may be up to you to do the work/homework to identify what companies/employers may offer something similar to the jobs in which you have excelled. Like the Ask a Headhunter guy advocates.

I know that former you is still in there and I look forward to her reemerging and blossoming, like bulbs come springtime.

oxox ME

Phoenix Touch said...


I had the thought while I was reading this... do you LOVE what you do for work - when you are employed? These jobs you are applying for... are they what you love or is it to pay the bills?

Just wonderin...


Liz said...

A very honest post.

janeannechovy said...

Di and ME are smart women, and both far more in touch with the world of working than I have been for quite some time. I do remember, though, what it felt like to be unemployed. It was even more hard on my self-esteem than having a grandmother who repeatedly told me how much happier I'd be if I were just thinner. And amazingly, Di's right--a good job can do wonders in making that all go away, eventually.

Sending hugs and fortitude your way!

Anonymous said...

You ARE that woman who was making over 40k, competent and managerial. You let some bad experience get your funk going, and suddenly you buy into the self-doubt.

Well I'm not buying it.

I used to think the way you did -- that I'd win people over at the interview but disappoint them in the end. I refuse to believe that anymore.

"Disappointing people in the end" means we expect a high level of constant buy-in from our co-workers. It doesn't work like that. Sometimes people like us, and sometimes they don't. We learn to deal with challenges and conflict. We learn to face the fact that the way we do things is not the way somebody else would do them, but that doesn't mean our way is the wrong way. It just means it's our way, and the rest of the world can go jump off a cliff before we apologize about it.

Goodness knows I have to adjust my own attitudes and schedules around people who don't do things the way I wish they would. If I can accommodate other people, I've decided they'd better accommodate me, you know what I mean?

I mean would you farkin' believe in yourself again?

Gosh-blamit I've seen hugely incompetent people in positions of power, and they never apologize for it. I know you're at least twice as good as any of them, and worth twice as much.


Di said...

I'm LOLing that JaneAnne says it's amazing that I'm right. Tee hee. I'm amazed too, JA!! :-)

Plus, I totally agree with what Pheebs said.

Jess said...

This is really interesting and very objective. I think you are probably better than you think you are at a lot of these things. My question would be whether or not you are doing the right kind of work. I feel like the main reason why people who can be good at their jobs aren't is because it isn't the right job for them, and therefore it doesn't motivate them enough or something.

Also, when I moved to DC I was making $33K and it blew. I babysat all the time and spent as little money as possible. It was very hard.

ME said...

As Julia Roberts said in that reprehensible movie, "Pretty Woman," the bad stuff is easier to believe.

Maybe so, but don't stay stuck there.

I'm with Di & Phoebe and all the other friends and loved ones who think you rock and want to see you pull out of the slump.

oxox ME

Miss Understood said...

Bugger. Blogger ate some of my last comment. (That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.)

Fancy being my editor?

janeannechovy said...

D'oh! It's not amazing that you're right, Di, it's just amazing that the feelings of incompetence and inadequacy go away. Of course you're right--you usually are. ;)

j.m. tewkesbury said...

All: Thank you for your comments. I'm not ignoring them, but I am mulling them over. I'll be back in a day or two with a follow-up post.



hm-uk said...

I'm not entirely sure what happens between Point A and Point Z. What I do know is, the confident, think-outside-the-box, forward-looking, leader and producer I brought to this town five years ago is not the woman I see in the mirror now. Now, I'm a navel-gazing, doubting, hold-my-hand-and-lead-my-every-thought-and-action, ineffective lemming.

T, maybe you've just got your point A and point Z mixed up. When you started your first big job in SF, you may have been able to be led more easily, open to others' ways of doing things (rightly or wrongly) and you built upon your experiences rather than assuming that you had the experience to change the organization for the better, only to disappoint with a method right for one company but not another.

I don't know whether I should even be responding to this email. I might just be adding to the cluster fuck of information on this post, as brilliant and supportive as it is. BTW, I've been realizing lately that I'm not as smart as I thought I was, either. Don't fret, it's okay. Build your reality and play to your strengths. You are kind. You are good at customer satisfaction and you want to please people. You want to work for yourself and be your own boss. You do not want to be beaten down by corporate ca-ca anymore. Open your flower stall.

LG said...

A few thoughts ...

- I'm job hunting right now, too. It sucks. Especially when companies have taken on this new tendency to do absolutely nothing to aid the job seeker in the process. They don't give feedback, and that's if/when they ever communicate. I don't assume anything anymore.

- The jobs I'm interviewing for now aren't necessarily what I want and love to do ... they will help pay the bills. But I'm also creating a foundation to move toward something that IS what I love to do, and I'll continue doing that no matter what "job" I have.

- I've also noticed that when people are doing a job they love, they don't worry about being smart enough to do it; they enjoy the journey of learning about it.

All right, I'm all hopped up on cold meds so I'm going to quit while I'm semi-ahead.

Cele said...

I have nothing of value to add to these great comments, except my support and faith that better will come to you.

Iknow that doesn't help at all.

Di said...

So...what are you thinking now?

Holly said...

I recently explained to someone that I didn't much care about a career; I could be perfectly happy without a "job," provided I had an income--and believe it or not, I've been in that situation several times, thanks to fellowships and the like. I think of myself as a busy, productive person, even when I'm staying at home, blogging, knitting, gardening, writing books I think will get published but then don't, etc. But something about not being able to pay the bills.... Well, I've been there too, and it sucks. It's death to your self esteem. So what I hope for you is that you are self-sufficient in all the ways you want to be, and that your way of being that is also really rewarding.