Alone vs lonely

 

lonely leaf

This week has felt good so far (I realize it’s just Tuesday!) even though the days have been a bit chopped up. I met up with someone that a friend suggested I talk to yesterday and had another meeting today. That feels like progress, even though nothing tangible comes directly from those meetings. That’s what is kind of funny about this whole process – the days of answering newspaper ads for a job are long gone (though I still peruse listings as part of the process). So progress is kind of like trying to hold water in your hands. It’s there but it takes some faith to remember that it’s there.

I say that this week has felt good, and yet I also sort of feel scattered. Because my job is to find a job, it by definition is somewhat solitary. Yes, I meet up with people and have great conversations. But it’s not like being part of a team where there are always others literally around you. That struck me today when I was talking with someone about wanting to be part of a team and making an impact. The aspect of having others physically in the area – not necessarily in the room but in the vicinity – is a part of that. And what I do each day I do alone. I’m not lonely, per se, but I am alone.

I think that piece of being part of a team is why I feel a bit out of sorts. I wonder, as I write this, whether I feel less discombobulated on the days that I swim in the morning as part of a group. Does that short period of camaraderie make a difference to the overall on those days? I’ll have to see tomorrow. In the meantime, it’s back to learning advanced techniques of Excel!

 

 

Data Processing

When I was little, my father worked at Prospect Hill which was, unsurprisingly, at the top of a hill. While I can’t remember what he did there exactly, there were computers and at that time, computers were new enough that they took up entire rooms. And, I’m sure just for our entertainment, had these great punch cards that we could use for all sorts of things.

Those computers were loud. Like “OSHA would now require you to wear earplugs” loud.  There was no doubt that those machines were processing data. As with most data processing, the more data a machine has to work with, the more outcomes exist. With their size and sounds, the impression those metal boxes gave me was that they could get a LOT of stuff done.

Some days, I feel like those old-time computers. The more I have to do, the more I can get done. Faced with a bunch of tasks, my organization-loving brain spits out (much like those old computers spit out punch cards) the order and requirements for each task so I can get right to it. I guess when I really have a lot going on I become sort of like a machine. Do this, then this, then move onto this, and oh, you’d like to throw a wrench into that? No problem, I’ll fix it and move on. On days when there aren’t as many demands on my time or projects I’m working on, there is a more measured approach to my work. Certainly, stuff still gets done and there is always a plan (gotta have a plan) and I appreciate the time available to dig deeper into certain things. There isn’t, however, as big a stack of outgoing papers so to speak as there is on days when personal, professional, volunteer and “other” come together in a perfect storm of need.

I really don’t want to be an automaton, and I don’t think I am. I’m just often struck by that fact that with more to do, more gets done. And I’m not the only one – so many of my friends are the same way. I wouldn’t trade that feeling of getting things done for much, so bring on the requests!

 

Ants in my pants

ants working

My first job was scooping ice cream when I was 14. Well, actually I did some filing for a neighbor’s business when I was 12, but shhhh, that was probably illegal.  Suffice it to say I am well past the age of 14 now and have always worked in some capacity or other and for the most part, been able to support myself. Some might say I’m too antsy to be idle. That’s probably a fair assessment. And all the other reasons I’ve always worked are probably great fodder for a psychological study.

That one concept though, being able to support myself, sits like a circle in the middle of a mapping exercise. There are a lot of offshoots that come off that circle, but the idea of self-support is something I value strongly (more fodder for another psychological study). Money for the sake of money isn’t the motivator, money for the sake of living – in a house, with food on the table, and some extra for fun – is. That’s not to say I don’t like nice things or travel or hobbies, I do. But I sit on an underlying fear that I won’t have what I need to be warm, dry and full.

So while that’s the basis for wanting to work, I also like to feel productive, want to contribute to my family and society, like to learn new things and yes, have a hard time sitting still.  My overactive, analytical, Type-A brain yearns for things to chew on and stew over.

So, this period of transition of not working is weird for me. I fill my days with productive things like practicing 21st-century job seeking practices, taking online classes, etc. At the end of the day, I know I’ve accomplished something, if not many things. And I don’t feel pressure from anyone other than myself to get this job search done. But I do feel the pressure from myself. What more could I do, who else could I meet, what other resume could I send out? It’s that impatient side of me, I guess.

I aspire to fit into the mold of “working to live” in the sense that Richard Branson would say it: working to earn enough to create experiences and live with no regret. But right now I have to win the struggle of knowing I’m doing all I can to literally work to live and that I’m going to be able to make an impact somewhere, soon. I won’t lie, though; it is a struggle.

Roller Coasters

roller coaster

I was thinking as I was plowing through the pool this morning (that’s what I call it when I really don’t want to be in the pool at 5:30 and my body is resisting actually moving through the water but my brain says, “hey, if you don’t move those arms and legs, there’s this thing called drowning happening. So yes, I plowed through the workout) about what my day had in store for me.

Today I’m headed down to Boston for a meeting with a friend of an acquaintance. Which means the majority of the day will be “shot” with driving and meeting with this person (who, by the way, I’m excited to meet and chat with, so please don’t interpret that last sentence as my being unhappy about meeting him!) and driving again. So, kind of a slow day in terms of the amount I’ll accomplish. Yet the quality of that accomplishment will be incredibly high.

Yesterday, on the other hand, I felt like I was cruising and crushing it. I spent a lot of time poking around project-based work and bidding on quite a few, then moved on to setting up networking opportunities, then did a little exercise break and ice breaking – that storm Wednesday left inches of ice to pound out – then some more online learning, then onto looking into a new side project that I’m psyched about digging into. At the end of the day, I felt like the list of accomplishments was large, the output was strong and the fact that I can now walk down my front steps without ice skates is huge.

So I had the high speed, downhill section of the roller coaster yesterday and today, I have the uphill, working towards the next swing approach of a slower day. And there have also been the days this week that I felt like I was spinning my wheels just trying to get out of the gate. Up, down, up, down – the days can be a trigonometry teacher’s dream of sine and cosine graphs. I have all sorts of analogies I could apply! At the end of the day, though, I try to look at the day and week as a whole and remember that it’s kind of like a diet – if there is one day that feels like a total loss, that’s okay because tomorrow brings another change to move ahead. And I always remind myself that some things I’ve put in motion are working behind the scenes without my active involvement so those “lost” days aren’t so lost in the end. Up and down. Up and down.

How do you put those highs and lows in perspective?

 

 

The Super Bowl v. Interviewing

Football-Generic

So the Superbowl was last night. Sigh. I made asked a friend in the middle of the game, “How much do you think the plays on the field look like what each time watched on films of each other these past two weeks?” (Because frankly, the Patriots didn’t seem to have much of a clue when it came to what the Eagles were doing offensively.) Since I am not a professional football player, I don’t know exactly what the prep is for a game – not to mention THE game – but I would imagine it comes down to a lot of analyzing how the other team plays and devising plays and strategies to counteract said plays. Then it’s a matter of practicing said plays and strategies and maintaining fitness, etc. etc. etc.

In other words, there isn’t one approach to every opponent, but a structured approach based on every opponent. All of this is to say I realized last night that getting ready for an interview feels like it’s the same process.

I had an interview last week and since it’s been, oh 21 years since I’ve interviewed for a job, I thought some prep work was warranted. There was matching the job description to my experience, both generally and coming up with specific examples. There was a deep dive into the company itself, looking at the employee list on the website and LinkedIn to see if I had any connections and how the company was structured. I also needed to feel comfortable with exactly what the company did so I could mentally connect the dots on what the job description said and how it (and I) might fit. Then it was onto trying to understand the person who would interview me as well as all the crazy, untraditional, open-ended questions that might come up.

It was a lot of work. Mostly because I hadn’t had to study myself and my experience in such depth for such a long time, but also because a) I like to know what I’m getting myself in for and b) I didn’t want to be taken by surprise by something I should have seen coming. The extra time – which to be honest felt really good. It felt tangible and like my brain was clicking in a way it hadn’t for a bit – had the extra added unexpected bonus of helping me determine whether the job and company might be a good fit. I say might because you can’t really know that until you talk to people on the inside.

The long and the short of it was several days of research and introspection which left me feeling positive about what I have to offer a company. Which ended up being a surprise benefit that I can now carry forward as I continue to scan the job scene and network my way into more interviews. The Superbowl as a metaphor for a job interview. Who knew?

Outside perspectives

head with thoughts

I was talking this morning about how there are so many pieces of my story swirling around in my head that I’m having a hard time editing it down to a simple message. This is who I am, what I want to do and where I want to do it.  I conducted an exercise on myself a few months ago, trying to distill my thoughts and kind of got it down. But as time goes by and I see a job description or LinkedIn profile that makes me say, “Yes! That’s what I do well,” that distillation of thoughts has gotten muddied.

It is hard to see yourself in a few short words; it’s a case of knowing too much. It doesn’t help that my past jobs were such that I’ve been a mile (or three) wide and an inch (or three) deep for the past 20 years or so.  Putting that into 6 bullet points is hard. Which brings me back to focusing on the areas that I want to work in and trying to sort out the noise.

But because I have so much “inside information” on myself, it makes sense and is probably smart to have someone else help craft my elevator speech, resume points, networking lead-in – whatever is causing me pain. On top of having less to weed through, others see strengths that I wouldn’t immediately identify. It’s always amazing to me how quickly someone who knows me well will tell me where it’s at. It also helps when you have friends who know the art of job hunting or networking since there are certain ways of crafting ideas that will make a big impact.

So it’s back to the original exercise, with the addition of some stream of consciousness writing, and some coffees or cocktails with friends to make it all come together again. First thoughts are usually pretty close and with the help of some others, hopefully I’ll get some shine on them and a thoughtful way of communicating my skills and interests.

Keep on Keeping On

IMG_3198This was hanging on a wall in an apartment I rented with my kids in Iceland two years ago. I took the picture because of the typos (do you see them? There are 2). But I recently found it in my photo stash and re-read it. Inspirational quotes aren’t my thing for the most part – snarky drawings about friends or wine or other entertaining ideas are – but this kind of stuck with me.

Sometimes you need a kick in the butt to keep on keeping on. That happens whether you’re working outside the house, working inside the house or working on trying to work. Find what works for you in the moment (because it might be different tomorrow and that’s okay) and then make it work FOR you.