Thursday, February 21, 2008

Looking for work and other energy drains

Wow. It has been more than a month since I last wrote. WOW. That is all I can say. This job and career hunt is one exhausting and outrageously time-consuming venture. Pretty much eating up all my creative energy, all my writing energy for anything other than cover letters.

I feel like Charlton Heston, another Northwestern alum, in Ben Hur. Driving a wild chariot with too many horses.

Horse #1 is the horse of a full-time job, one with an above average salary and benefits for my whole family.

Horse #2 is the horse of One Purpose PR, my message and media relations consulting biz that is just taking off the ground and which is what I REALLY want to put all my energy into. But times being what they are, folks are understandably squeamish about plunking down dough for anything, and since my layoff was so unexpected, we don't have a cushion to sit on for too long with this horse.

Horse #3 is the horse of not wanting to do anything except eat buttered popcorn, bon-bons and fill up my Netflix queue or head to the Rockies Spring training camp. Seriously. I could use a long rest and nothing does it like either baseball, chocolate and salt.

Horse #4 is the horse of living the life of a writer. Getting paid great amounts of money to sit and write whatever comes to my mind.

Back to reality.

The thing about looking for a job is that it is until you get one, it is all you do and it is amazing how long it takes for decisions to be made. Mostly this is because the people hiring already have full-time or more jobs and the process of interiewing once, two or three times, plus checking references, takes up most of their working hours.
I recently signed up with a temp agency and had to fill out a skills form, which included math. I'm a writer, mostly because words make the world make sense, while numbers just confuse me. When I was struggling over averages and square roots, I wished my oldest had a cell phone so I could have texted her for the answers. Not a great moment. I did at least ask for a calculator and the receptionist didn't guffaw at my answers, so I suppose I was able to do pretty well, after all.

My parents may scratch their heads, and I know they have to the point of self-injury, as to why I spent so much time chasing after the dream of being on stage. I can safely tell them that all those years of auditions and rejection are finally paying off. I know that if I don't get a job it is not because I am not good enough, smart enough or talented enough. My resume says otherwise. It is because there are so many of us overqualified folks out there that it is a real buyers market and the employers are the buyers. I feel like the house I live in, a sweet 1950's brick ranch house which could use some work, but which has really great bones. And going on job interviews is like being in an endless open house and you know what that means in this market - the house has to be perfect, clean and look brand-spanking new.

Case in point. When I first moved to in the winter of NYC, circa 1988, I would go on auditions for hours. Get up at 6am and come back, exhausted and dejected, at about 5pm. When spring began to emerge, I found a stunning yellow dress that I felt great in. Light, effervescent, like a tulip who could sing. I went to an open call for some show I was not right for and proceeded to sing my little heart out for the casting director, a woman who must have been the inspiration for the grunge movement. I have never seen so many variations of faded plaid on one person in my entire life. At the end of my 32 measures, she looked up from her NYTimes crossword puzzle and said, "That was very nice, Lisa, but DON'T EVER WEAR THAT COLOR DRESS AGAIN." You see, sometimes, you just can never tell what will set a person off either in your favor or against you. I guess this person either had some deep psychological response to the color yellow, or who knows? But what I did know was that it had nothing to do with me.

In the past six weeks since I was laid off, I have probably sent out 200 resumes and cover letters. It's pretty much all I do. I use Monster, PRJobslist, CareerBuilder, YahooJobs, Craigslist, CANPO, LinkedIn and more. I've become a networking maniac, turning every encounter into a possible connection for work or consulting. I'm relentless. In six weeks, I've had three job interviews. This is with more than 12 years of experience as a marketing and public relations specialist with a damn good track record. Is it my hair, my wardrobe? My age? The ever-deepening worry lines forming between my eyebrows? Got me.

Today I went to an interview and pulled out my portfolio, to proudly show off my collection of brochures, newsletters, ads and so on that I have designed, overseen and conceived. When I began to open the flap of my chic-ly black portfolio, I spied a small pink sock stuck in one of the plastic sleeves. I clenched my teeth, balled up the sock and shoved it into my satchel. I don't think the interviewers saw the sock, but it's presence gave me a great laugh on the way home. A little humor to keep it all in perspective. I have my health, my family, our house, a car that hopefully won't die anytime soon, pets and children who adore me.

Because in the end, as the wise ones always tell us, that is what all this is about. This endless job search. Being able to provide for my kids, do work that I love, make a positive difference.

And because I don't know any better, I am foolish enough to believe that something is coming. Something big and real and just right for me.

I'll let you know when that happens.


Rosemary Carstens said...

Lisa: I'd like to say "Whoa, hold your horses, reign those babies in and take a deep breath!" But I know you can't. I've been where you are and know it can be discouraging. But I am amazed at how many resumes you've sent out and everything you are doing to get a job--surely there IS something coming toward you that will be perfect! I hope so. Until then, Ride-em cowgirl! Rosemary Carstens -

Boobies&BodilyFunctions said...

Thanks, Rosemary - keeping the faith is sometimes hard to do, but I come from a long line of optimists, so have to carry on the family tradition of plugging away!

Kathy said...

Been there, doing that. Try having 20-plus years experience, a bulging portfolio and people who will say glowing things only to be told later (when I call) that you don't have enough experience. Seriously, I hope you don't get to try it, and you find the perfect job (then hire me as assistant). We must have hope, for it's all we have. The blog, I have found, is a great mood lifter, diversion, practice and smart answer to the question all writers are asked. Good luck!
(from the same boat, catch the wave of

Beth Hayden said...

Hey, Lisa - it's Beth Hayden from BMW. Sounds like an incredibly frustrating situation right now! Pat yourself on the back for the great work you've already done.

Is it possible employers are looking for a lot of social media PR expertise? Are you spotlighting your online/blogging/social networking experience to the maximum? I'm not in PR, I'm just trying to throw out anything that might help. Have you read "The New Rules of Marketing and PR" or "Marketing to the Social Web"?

Best of luck - and keep us posted!


ClaireWalter said...

What you could do in 1988,what I could do in 1988, what any of us could do in 1988 and what we can do now are separated by a 20-year chasm, aren't they? You moved to New York in '88. I moved FROM New York in 1988. I was a single mother w/ an almost 6-year-old and was able to concurrently pack up a household (a 4-story brownstone which required a running up and down the stairs a lot, hauling stuff), taking care of my little boy, finding appropriate charities for things I didn't want to move nearly 2,000 miles, spending time w/ friends whom I wouldn't be seeing quite so often, etc. Then I arrived in Boulder, oversaw some major remodels of my house here, looked after my son, painted a lot of rooms myself and unpacked after the moving van arrived. And oh yes, during all that, managed to turn in a bunch of freelance assignments w/ a lot less technology than we enjoy now. Could I do all that now? No way, but did I survive it (and perhaps thrive?), sure.

And you will too, perhaps having to readjust your desire, in this dicey economy, for "above average pay and benefits." While I haven't had a full-time job since Noah got off the Ark, from my observations, it seems that companies are in the driver's seat right now with what they offer propsective employees -- which is, from their perspective, as little as possible, because there is such a pool of talent on the job market.

Sometimes, you have to make compromises to get board the career train and keep looking from a position of current experience. But keep on truckin' -- or driving the chariot or whatever -- but don't expect to do as much as you could two decades ago.

Boobies&BodilyFunctions said...

I guess it is all about riding the waves, staying flexible and endlessly thinking on your feet. Sounds a lot like being a mother. What I find exhilarating about this time in my career-life, is that literally, I could go in all those different directions the aforementioned horses are taking me and any of them would be right where I need to be.

The biggest wave for me to ride is the one that I'm on, with both eyes on the one coming right up behind me.

Thanks for the words of advice, kindness and encouragement. I know lots of folks are out there in the same situation and there is some comfort, actually a great deal of comfort knowing that.