Archive for the ‘musings’ Category

job hunt woes: the waiting.

You knew I was going to write about this, didn’t you? It’s inherent in most job searches: the time between sending out applications and getting a response, especially the one you want. And it can feel endless.

Some organizations send an auto-reply, letting you know your application has been received, and on very rare occasions I’ve received a “Thanks” email from a real live person. But there’s always the moment of Now what? after hitting “Send” or “Submit” on the application, knowing it could very well be weeks before I hear back, if I hear back at all.

There’s plenty to do while I wait, of course: researching and applying for other jobs, writing blog posts, doing freelance work, running, yoga, washing dishes. But some part of me is always waiting – not just for any job, but for the right job – to call me back and prove to me that the effort I spent crafting a cover letter and polishing my resume is worth it.

Waiting can be difficult at the best of times, even when you’re waiting for an outcome that’s likely to be good. With the job hunt, of course, there’s no way of knowing what will happen, or when. This additional lack of information (and control) can make the waiting even harder.

Job hunting often exposes deeper fears and frustrations about my life, and it’s especially true in this case. While I wait for my next job, it can feel like I’m waiting for my life to resume: to come out of that strange in-between limbo that sets in between jobs, especially as the pandemic drags on. It can feel like my worth is primarily tied up in the work someone will (eventually) pay me to do; more on that in a future post. It can feel like an exercise in futility, putting in energy and effort and creativity with no guaranteed return. And it can feel like this strange, in-between life will continue indefinitely.

As I keep sending out applications, I’m trying to acknowledge the waiting: it’s just part of the process, as in so many parts of life. I’m also trying to fill my days with things other than job hunting (morning runs, afternoon walks with friends, freelance gigs and enjoying the springtime are good for this). Some days the waiting is a steady background hum; other days it’s louder, more insistent. But I know I have to keep waiting, and working, until I find the next right thing.

How do you deal with job-hunt waiting, especially when it feels endless?

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It used to be a kind of game: I’d sit in meetings, especially ones marked “strategy” or “content,” and mentally (or sometimes physically) take note of every empty word or phrase my colleagues, or especially outside consultants, used to talk about our work. Words like stakeholders, platforms, multi-channel, workflow and especially content. The words ask and creative used as nouns; the word language used as a verb; acronyms like KPIs and ROI and SEO. I’ve even heard a few like operationalize (what?).

All of it makes me itch – it seems like a false, too-easy way to get away from talking about what we’re really doing (writing stories, interviewing people for podcasts, creating websites and brochures) and why we’re doing it (to get students to enroll, to advertise events or programs, to inform and entertain our alumni or other audiences). Jargon is also a way to exclude people: it’s so easy for students or new colleagues or even experienced folks not to know what you’re talking about. It’s gatekeeping language, often used to self-aggrandize or hide problems, and it is bland and impenetrable as tofu.

This is a problem as I continue the job hunt, because most of the job descriptions I’ve seen contain a fair amount of jargon. I can translate it, and I don’t fault them for it, necessarily, but the jobs I’m drawn to tend to be the ones whose posters write clearly and concisely about what the job actually entails. If a job description is stuffed full of hyphenated phrases with no real meaning, I’m wary of both the job and workplace it’s trying to describe.

While communications work in general is a bit more abstract than, say, serving coffee or teaching a yoga class, it does include measurable, concrete tasks along with the broader work of “strategy” and “ideation.” I don’t want to work at a place where people are so wrapped up in high-flown phrases that they’re unable to define what they actually do. We are all human beings who live in a tangible world, and I believe it’s important to talk about our work in human (vivid, interesting) terms. I also believe we should be able to laugh or roll our eyes at ourselves when we do get tangled up in jargon.

Have you run into long-winded, abstract job descriptions in your own searches? (Please tell me I’m not alone.) And other than a well-practiced eye roll, what is there to do about it?

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Look at the silver lining, they say.
But what if, instead,
I pluck it off
and use that tensile strand to bind
myself to those things I do not 
want to lose sight of.

Families knit together by evening walks,
board games, laughter. 
The filament fixing us to friends
no matter the distance apart.
A braid of gratitude for small kindnesses.
The thin gauge wire of loss.

Let me twist that lining 
around my finger, 
it’s silvery glint a reminder 
of just how quickly life can change. 
I will remember to love more.
I will remember to give more.

I will remember to be still

I will knot the string tightly. 
So it won’t slip away.
So I won’t forget.

I found Paula’s poem in the anthology How to Love the World, and was struck by the idea of silver linings becoming tangible. You can read more of her poetry on her Facebook page.

April is National Poetry Month, and I am sharing poetry here on Fridays this month, as I do every year. 

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Hello, friends. It’s Monday again and I’m back at the computer with a mug of Earl Grey at my elbow, watching the fog drift over Boston Harbor and pegging away at the job hunt. There are a few postings today that look appealing, so I’m making a list and diving in, while pausing to acknowledge the Groundhog Day quality of this whole enterprise – namely, search-draft-apply-rinse-repeat.

I keep thinking of that old saw about the definition of insanity. I don’t know if Einstein actually said it or not, but it seems clear to me that doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is a recipe for at least feeling crazy.

Why should I apply to this job or that job, if the same set of actions last week garnered a rejection or (more) radio silence? What makes me think this college or nonprofit will answer my email, or call me for an interview, when most of the others have not? How do I know which job description, full of industry jargon and careful HR-approved wording, might possibly lead me to a real place with real people where I can be useful, be welcomed, make a contribution (and earn a living)?

I don’t, of course. And while it’s true that getting creative with the job hunt – going to webinars, letting friends and former colleagues know I’m looking, even writing a whole blog series about job hunting – might help, it’s also true that, for many jobs, a resume and cover letter are required. You have to go through the process: find the posting (or look at the one someone sends you), decide whether it sounds interesting, write and proofread a cover letter, go through the electronic steps to apply. You have to sit through the auto-response emails and the waiting (more on that in a later post). You have to, in short, do a version of the same thing, and expect – or at least hope for – different results.

I don’t have a neat and tidy answer for this one, except that it’s got to be done. Grit and gumption (and lots of tea) are definitely required. And for now, I’ll try to vary the process (and my cover letters) enough so that it doesn’t feel exactly the same every day.

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oh, heart,
remember that being brave
is not
that you are not afraid.
it is to choose to sing with a trembling voice,
to walk with one foot in front of the other
& to hold on to a hand as you do so.
it is to live,
to truly live
& to share your life,
to listen to the voice of fear
& to sing louder.
to be brave is to be here
despite it all,
despite the voices that tell you that you
do not belong.
to be brave is to look at injustice in the eye
& to still, somehow, have hope,
to dream of tomorrow & all that it holds.
oh, heart.
to be brave is to be you.

Months ago, a friend pointed me to Gaby on Instagram, where she shares a lot of her poetry. She’s a Dominican poet and educator, and her words are brave and whimsical and lovely.

April is National Poetry Month, and I am sharing poetry here on Fridays this month, as I do every year

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Thanks for your kind comments on my previous post, everyone. Your empathy means so much – job hunting, in addition to being stressful, can be lonely. So let’s keep talking about it. Here we go with the second post: the sheer overwhelm of trying to find the right job(s) to apply for.

You’d think it would get easier, honestly.

I’ve been through the job hunt many times before, so when I started keeping an eye on job boards last fall, and then sending out applications in earnest this winter, you’d think it would be a simple matter to narrow it down to the strongest possibilities.

But. In this age of the Internet, there are a million places to search for jobs – which is a blessing, but it can also be a curse. Especially if, like me, you’re easily overwhelmed by too many options. The job boards all seem to be eerily similar-but-different, like carbon copies of each other tweaked just enough to be confusing. LinkedIn, Indeed, Glassdoor, ZipRecruiter – the names and search boxes start to blur in front of my eyes after a while.

And how to sift through the myriad of postings to find the jobs I actually want? I work in communications, a field so broad and ubiquitous as to sometimes seem entirely meaningless. I’ve loved my 15 years in higher ed, but am also exploring other industries right now – which can feel exciting, but also even more overwhelming. My most recent job title was “communications manager,” but typing that into a search bar brings up dozens of postings, most of which only slightly resemble the work I want to do. Typing in “writer” or “editor” casts the net even wider. It can feel daunting, if not downright impossible, to use those search engines to find good possibilities for how to earn a living and spend my days.

My strategies for this are pretty simple: set up a few job alerts on more targeted sites, like HigherEdJobs or HireCulture; sift through the longer lists to see what’s out there; send out applications to the jobs that seem the most interesting and/or a good fit for my skills. And the big one: close the computer and walk away when it all gets to be too much.

Job hunting is usually a marathon, I know, not a sprint. It feels like I’m on about mile 8 of a cold, rainy Boston Marathon, to be honest. (Full disclosure: while I am a runner, I’ve never run a marathon, much less conquered Boston.) But I’ve got to keep going, till I find the next right job – or at least something to tide me over for a while.

Can you sympathize with the job-hunt overwhelm? And do you have tips for dialing it down a notch? I’d love to hear.

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Friends, I am job hunting. And it is the worst.

Some of you know that I was furloughed last spring, then had my furlough extended through the fall as the pandemic dragged on. I was officially laid off a few months ago, and have been slogging through the job hunt ever since. (Photo is of my makeshift standing desk at home.)

Some weeks, that means sending out applications and resumes; most weeks, it means combing through job boards and email alerts, and doing freelance work (like this recent story I wrote for Harvard’s Ed School, where I used to work). And every week, it means fighting the job-search demons in my head.

Everyone I know has been through the job-hunt wringer a few times, but it seems like nobody talks about this stuff, at least not publicly. We gripe to our partners and get networking tips from friends, but I’ve yet to find a real, honest exploration of the toll it can take on your soul. I need a way to wrestle with those challenges outside my own head (and my journal), so I’ll be sharing some of my job hunt woes here on the blog for the next while.

First up, the blindingly obvious: what nobody tells you.

Nobody tells you how disorienting it can be, the sudden feeling of being cut adrift from a paycheck, a workplace, an institution, a community. No one admits–or, in my experience, people rarely admit–how daunting it is to wake up in the morning and have no idea what you’re going to do next. How it feels to have a few tools at your disposal–a newly polished resume, job boards, cover letters to tailor and send–but to know that so much of the search is completely beyond your control.

It’s like chipping away at a mountain with a pickaxe, or like those diggers working to free that ship in the Suez Canal last month. No one, least of all you, has any idea when the daily patient effort–or some totally unrelated effect of an external force–will crack the granite wide open and let an opportunity through. And no one admits how demoralizing it can be.

I’m job hunting, we say, as if it were going to the dentist or walking the dog or cleaning the kitchen floor. Just another item on the to-do list. Something everyone does, sooner or later. While that last part is true, nobody tells you how painful and frustrating it can be, although most of us know. Nobody talks about how it can wear away at your sense of identity and self-worth, not to mention your bank account. And in the middle of a pandemic, few people seem to have any idea what work will look like in a few months. Remote? Hybrid? Fully back in the office? No one can tell me that, because no one else, at this moment, knows.

I’m writing these posts because I need this conversation, but I’m hoping that maybe it will open up a space for others, too. If you’d care to share your job-hunt woes (past or present) in the comments, I’m all ears. Let’s be honest about how tough it is, and maybe share what’s gotten us through, or what’s helping right now.

More job-hunt musings to come.

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Hope has holes
in its pockets.
It leaves little
crumb trails
so that we,
when anxious,
can follow it.
Hope’s secret:
it doesn’t know
the destination–
it knows only
that all roads
begin with one
foot in front
of the other.

–Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

I found this poem in the gorgeous collection How to Love the World, edited by James Crews, which will be my companion for National Poetry Month this year. It’s also on Rosemerry’s blog, where she posts a daily poem.

Hope – however foolish it may seem – is my one little word for 2021, and I am looking for it wherever I can in these spring days.

April is National Poetry Month, and I will be sharing poetry here on Fridays this month, as I do every year. 

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Wrapping up the month—life is still a struggle, but it helps to name and celebrate the good. I’ve enjoyed this format and will keep looking for hope as April begins.

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Masked smiles from strangers, neighbors bringing in packages, snail mail from friends. Kindness keeps the world going, especially in times of isolation and strife. I give it back when I can.

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