Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Roller-Coaster Ride

The modern job search journey is rougher than anything I would have ever expected.

Going on month 13 now, I feel like I have been on one of the worst roller-coasters ever!

I used to like roller-coasters when I was younger; everything about them, from the anticipation while you slowly climbed up the giant hills, to the feeling of freedom and flight as you plummeted down the steep tracks; all of the zig zagging and loop de loops  made me feel alive, energized and free!

But now, just like this job search journey, they only make me feel nauseous.  The highs, lows, and all of the zig zagging of job searching are endless and exhausting. You take turns that you didn’t know you had to take, and feel that you will crash, or get thrown completely out of the crazy coaster.

From the silent days, weeks and months with no solid leads, to the hectic prepping for a rare interview, only to receive the  standard, “thanks, but no thanks” response. And that is IF you are lucky enough to get any response at all.  

Keeping your hopes up, and not getting discouraged is easier said than done. Believing that you are worthy of being employed again starts to feel like a fantasy. You read, hear stories and see others being offered their dream jobs. You feel happy for them, but don’t understand why that is not you; what are you doing wrong? Depression and isolation become too familiar, and with each rejection letter, you go into a darker, deeper hole of despair. You wonder what is wrong with you. Have you been somehow put on a blacklist? All sorts of thoughts try to take over your mind. You want to give up. All of the words of encouragement sent your way become hollow and empty. You search deeper for why this is happening to you; are you being punished for something? No answers, just darkness.

 Somewhere you muster up the strength to keep looking, researching and reaching out. You have no choice. The lyrics in a song by Wynonna Judd play in your head. “When you hit rock bottom, you’ve got two ways to go, straight up, or sideways. I have seen my share of hard times, and I’m letting you know, straight up, is my way. Things are tough all over, but I’ve got good news, when you get down to nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose” She’s right, you’ve got nothing to lose, so you keep going.

Through all of the research, work, prep and rejections, you learn. Not so much the things that you thought you were going to learn, but rather, different kinds of things; you learn about who you really are, what you are really made of, what you are really good at, and what you really need to work on.

You learn who is willing to help you in this difficult journey, and more importantly, and sadly, who is not. You learn that sometimes the most unlikely person is the person who helps you the most.

You learn to be patient, which for some, feels almost impossible. You learn to be more assertive than you ever wanted to be. You reach out to friends, acquaintances, and oddly enough, you get really good about reaching out to strangers. This can be very difficult for those that want to figure everything out for themselves and are not accustomed to asking for help. You have to ask for help, and be grateful to anyone who is willing to assist in any way.

You learn that the jobs that you were 100% certain were the perfect fit for you, (and were reinforced by your usual reliable gut instincts) turn out not to be. And then you learn how to deal with that new feeling, which is extremely difficult for those who rely on gut instincts.

You learn that everything you thought you knew about job searching, no longer applies, and then you realize that you have to learn how it works now. Here’s a tip, it’s not your parents’ way of finding jobs, and it’s nothing like it was 20 years ago. Not even remotely close…

You learn that you must get out of your comfort zone. And for some, waaaayyy out of it.

If you weren’t already, you learn to be humble. If you were already humble, you are even more humbled. This process is not for the faint of heart.

You learn that maybe you took a few things for granted when you were employed, and you swear that once you are employed again, you will never do that again. You start bargaining with God, like you did when you were a kid wanting this or that, and promising that if you just got this or that, you would never do this or that again. It didn’t work then, and probably isn’t going to work now either, so you stop the bargaining and get back to the task at hand.

You learn that not everyone (almost no one!) is going to respond to you with positive feedback, or any kind of feedback. And then you realize that they don’t have time as they are just trying to do their own jobs. You are not their top priority. Finding you a job is not their primary job. It hurts, but then you learn to let that go, because you really don’t have much control over it anyway. Oh, and by the way, you learn that you have to let go of trying to control the entire process because a lot of it is out of your hands. So for control freaks, you must learn how to let go.

You learn, or at least I choose to keep it classy by sending out thank you notes even when you were not selected. Why? Because 1- It’s the right thing to do, and 2- You never know if it could lead to another opportunity. At the very least, you should do it to show your gratitude for at least getting the opportunity to talk to anyone about a position.

In this very competitive day of computer generated resume review, you learn that if your resume doesn’t have 75-80% of the key words listed from the job description, most of the time, your resume will never make it to a live human for review. And with hundreds of qualified people wanting the same job, your chance of getting that first interview, just went down exponentially. Not very encouraging, so that is why it’s so important to send thank you notes when you are lucky enough to get any human contact.

If all of this wasn’t enough, add to your list of things to do, how are you going to pay your bills while you are trying to find your next job?

Depending on your circumstances, you may or may not have received severance pay. If you did receive severance, then you have some time, but you may also have a false sense of time and security because not much has changed financially for you. If you don’t find a position before that pay runs out, you will probably have to get creative in order to pay your bills, and that’s when the real panic sets in. Everyone’s circumstances are different. Adding the stress of figuring out where the money is going to come from, to the stress of finding a job is almost unbearable for any length of time. Suddenly you find yourself expanding your job search criteria to different cities and states, and becoming so desperate that just about any job looks good, as long as it pays something…. Anything!!

You feel like you are standing on the top of a tall building, shouting at the top of your lungs, “Please, I’m begging you, will anyone hire me for anything!”

It really can feel that desperate.

You have a couple of really good interviews; you are certain that you nailed them!

You finally get some positive feedback; you are talented, valuable, and desirable. They will be in contact with you! Hallelujah!

Finally! You feel your spine straightening up. A tiny bit of confidence comes back, and you see a ray of light that you haven’t seen in months.

You watch your computer and phone 24/7 for that next step call or email.

You breathe a little sigh of relief, but not too much. Don’t want to jinx anything.  You wait and wait, and the doubt creeps back in. It wasn’t that far away anyway, and now you wonder if everything went as well as you thought. Are you going to be offered a position?

Get ready….. Not necessarily.

Oh my Lord! You have got to be kidding?! How much more of this can you take? Seriously, what is it going to take to get someone to hire you?

Companies are complicated, with lots of layers of red tape, internal politics, limited budgets, etc….

So many qualified candidates.

Are you willing to relocate?

How much money do you need?

You are overqualified- We can’t pay you that. - Fine, then give me a counter offer, but don’t just assume that I am not willing to negotiate and dismiss me without further discussion!

You try to emphasize that you are willing to take a pay cut from what you used to make!

Companies don’t believe that, and don’t want to put the expense out to bring you on, assuming you will keep looking for something better, even when you swear that you will be loyal to them. Just give you a chance! You will sign in blood, give up your first born, anything in order to get you off of this crazy roller coaster ride!