The Dreaded Job Search


September 29 was the day my professional life crashed and burned – or at least that is what I thought. It was the day that we had to make the decision to close our family non-profit. That meant that I was out of a job for the first time in over 20 years.

On that day, the non-profit meant everything to me. Our family put our hearts and dollars into growing an organization for which we felt real passion. Being the go getter, action oriented person I am, what did I do first? Felt sorry for myself. I shut down. All I heard from people I spoke with was doom and gloom: you will never make the money you want, people only want to hire young people and you’re too old, you can’t find a job this time of year, expect to be out of work for a year or longer in this economy, and on and on.

My husband and kids were incredibly supportive. Too bad I didn’t listen to the people who meant the most to me!

After about two weeks, I decided to call my friend Eileen Saffran who had been a mentor to me. She helped me realize that I was grieving. More importantly, I needed to give myself permission to grieve because I lost something. But, she told me to know that it would not feel like this forever. I left her office that day as a new person.

Less than a month later, I landed a great job that is an upward career move.

I’ve been reflecting on how I got here, how did I get so lucky. How did I find such a great job with growth opportunities and the chance to make a comfortable living. It actually wasn’t luck at all, but came from real focus and the ability to ask for help.

I had lost a significant amount of confidence in myself, so I needed to dig down deep to find it. I am always the one that helps other, so asking for help was so hard.

I knew I needed a resume. I put something together that was simply pathetic. I sent it to two of my friends. My special friend Jennifer Thomas bluntly told me, “you are not doing yourself any favors”. I asked my family for help and it was my kids and husband who started reminding me of my past accomplishments. They were right, I had done some pretty awesome stuff. With their help, I wrote a resume that showcased accomplishments – not just what I had done. There is a BIG difference. Allowing myself to realize that I had done great things brought my confidence back. If I believed I could do a good job, only then could I show that to potential employers.

I also remembered to put things into perspective. I’ve been through a lot – my family has overcome some significant, life altering challenges, but, we always landed on our feet. We always ended up in a better place. Sometimes, it took time, but no matter what, each storm ended and the sun returned.

I started to look at my job search as a project with goals and objectives. I needed strategy and tactics. The first thing I did was make a list. The list had names of people who were high level influencers. As my husband likes to say, “it isn’t always who you know, but who they know”. High level executives know people! I knew some of the people on my list, but there were more that I had never met. I did some sleuthing to find phone numbers and emails and I worked the list. It was awesome! Almost everyone I contacted agreed to meet with me.

That same week, I received an invitation to hear a speaker at Notre Dame College. The speaker turned out to be Jeff Hoffman, a person I’d heard several months earlier who calls himself a serial entrepreneur. During his program, Jeff posed the question, “what is your dream job”. He suggested writing each dream on a post it note. He further instructed the audience to place those notes in a highly visible spot where they would be seen every single day. My friend Jennifer also told me to do something similar. She told me to write down the minimum salary I wanted to earn on a piece of paper and she promised I would get it.

I went home that day and made 5 post its and placed them on my desk at the base of my computer. They said, “be a speaker” “work with pro athletes” “support good causes” “travel outside the US, especially to Australia/New Zealand”, “make $$”. I admit that I was skeptical. Just because I wrote these things down didn’t mean they were going to come true. I mean seriously, just writing things down was not going to make them happen, but, I was willing to give it a try. They were lofty goals, but, these were my dreams.

What I later realized is that when you make a goal that you see every day, you subconsciously start to look for things related. I was keeping my eyes open.

I started the process of meeting the people from my list. I went into each meeting knowing that I needed something, but I was terrified to look desperate. My first meeting was a disaster. It was with a high level executive at an ad agency. She asked me what I wanted to do and my answer was, “I don’t know”. She then asked me how she could help and my answer was, “I don’t know”. If there were a bubble allowing her to see my thoughts, she would have seen, “I’m blowing this”. I refused to panic and thought quickly and asked her how she would approach a job search. Best question ever because boy did I get great advice! Lisa Zone, you are the reason I started this blog!

I left her office a bit embarrassed, but I learned. I learned that my post it notes were what I wanted to do. I realized these meetings were not interviews, but fact finding missions. Maybe they would lead to a job, but, more likely, they could lead to a recommendation. I remembered advice from my friend Libby. She is a very spiritual person and helped me understand that if something isn’t meant to be, then something better is coming. This philosophy allowed me to use these meetings to get to know people and to learn about their goals and objectives. After all, it was my job, as a job seeker, learn how I could help their company.

My friend Earl suggested that I also set up Google Alerts. He told me they would help me see what’s happening, know when jobs open, or learn valuable industry information. This was so helpful and led to me feeling more, “in the know”.

As the days went on, I realized I was having a blast. I was meeting some amazing people. If only I could make a living looking for a job!

The result? I landed my position with VIKTRE in less than a month from the start of my job search. And, how about those posts its…. I’m working with athletes and I’ll likely have an opportunity to travel to Australia! Though people I met along the way, I’m now involved in a couple non-profit projects that will focus on building self-esteem so I still get to give back. This job may present speaking opportunities – this blog is part of meeting that objective.

But, the thing I learned the most came from another post it on my computer. It says “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up”. Its funny how we can be our own worst enemies and not see real things that are right in front of us. When you allow yourself to open your mind and really see, you will be amazed at what’s out there.

And that list, I sent a humble thank you note to every single person who helped me.

I beat all the nay-sayers. You can too!

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