Broad exposures

mile wide and inch deep

I was going to start out by saying that I haven’t had that many jobs – which in this day and age of a job every 9 months or so is probably true. I was then going to follow that up by saying that my first “real” job was in sales. Then I thought, well, there was that job doing technical writing. And there was the job for a neighbor through your high school and college summers that had you doing everything from prepping people for physical therapy to contacting insurance companies to fight for reimbursement – for both the patient AND the office. Then there was your training and student-teaching of English in a high school. And then, of course, there was my real first job of scooping ice cream.

The point of this post originally was that other than my first “real” job in sales, all my other jobs have covered a broad expanse of the business experience. I spoke to this a bit in my “Titles” post, this fact that what I’ve done, what I bring to a company, isn’t hyper-focused in one area like accounting or human resources. That said, I’m not sure any position is or should be narrowed down, but that’s for another day.

After my sales position, all my positions have required me to be a mile wide and an inch (or three) deep.  Certainly owning a business means you have to have experience in all functional areas. You learn quickly that you aren’t the best person for all those areas, but you’d better understand how, why and what each one brings to the table (or financials). I have loved being exposed to, working within and learning about such a broad array of business experiences. I loved the challenge of working with the owner of several small businesses to see how we could make the enterprise better, which sometimes meant financially and sometimes meant process, employee relations, etc.

Owning my business, I decided to learn everything I didn’t know or wasn’t comfortable with over the past few years.  I didn’t become an expert by any means, but I now have a working knowledge of things I never thought I’d want or need – data modeling, investor presentations, lean manufacturing, and more. Does it help or hurt that I didn’t do an extreme deep dive into one of these areas? I think there’s a place for both types of people. Again, a topic for another day, but I now can appreciate what’s happening, what needs to happen and how to make it happen in a lot of business scenarios. I like the fact that I have a broad expanse to pull from in looking at a particular challenge. But I will say that, as I acknowledged in the “Titles” post, that appreciating that skill can be difficult when trying to convince someone that I would be a good fit for a job. Sometimes the skill that we’ve tried to teach our kids, the ability to learn how to learn, doesn’t translate in the job search process. So I now have to learn how to craft that translation and think of it as just another opportunity to educate myself.

Titled or Title-less

name plate

I always thought titles weren’t necessary. Maybe that’s because my jobs have mostly been very wide-ranging so putting a title other than General Manager or what seems to be popular these days, Chief of Staff, didn’t particularly fit.

When I was at Redhook, I started out with no title and as the years went by, when someone asked me what my title was, I somewhat jokingly replied, “Queen Bee” (not the kind of Queen Bee from the movie Mean Girls. It was more that I was involved in the entire entity.). It kind of fit.  I didn’t really want a title; I didn’t hold stock that naming my job was important. I did eventually take on the title of General Manager, however, and when things started shifting around and the CEO wanted to change my title, I resisted.

Somehow, at that moment, I knew that I wouldn’t be at the company for much longer and something inside of me said I’d need the title that reflected what I did (ie General Manager) rather than what the CEO was proposing. Maybe he saw my job differently than I did, or maybe because everything was a moving piece at that point, it made sense to the org chart. And in the end, I did maintain the title, and I did end of leaving. Yet even when I started my companies, I debated whether owner, founder, CEO, etc were the best terms for what I was doing. I guess the idea of a title is just a hard one for me most likely because I feel there are a lot of constraints when a title is given and my jobs have mostly been extraordinarily broad in focus.

As I have looked at job postings, I’m struck by the importance of titles. I’ve always gravitated toward jobs that cross paths across the entire organizations. And not just cross paths, but work between, among and around many if not all departments. Generating a title for that, as I intuitively knew many moons ago, is tough. I’m also finding it challenging to translate my story of my ability to work within a title that has been posted. If a resume gets 6 seconds of eyeball time, and reading a coverletter doesn’t get much more, I find it difficult to force my experience into fairly narrow word combinations that will catch the eye.

I’ll continue to massage each cover letter and resume submission to postings I see, and know that jobs are more likely found through connections (they know me better than a piece of paper for sure!). I’ve just been interested to examine the idea of titles and my odd history with (and without) them.

Back from vacation

M turn 1It seems somewhat counterintuitive to go on vacation when you don’t have a job. And, as I’ve written before, the concept of not working grates on me a bit, so going on vacation means studying the guilt complex that comes with it. That said, I did go on vacation during last week’s school vacation and I’ve had an interesting response since I’ve come back.

I felt somewhat compelled while I was gone to step away from my daily routine of job searching, connecting, learning. I mean, I was on vacation, right? Coming back on Saturday meant Sunday was wide open to prepare for the week or jump back into ‘real life.’ Yet I wanted to preserve the feeling of freedom I had while away so pushed off all but the imperative ‘real life’ jobs (you know, like grocery shopping so we could eat, and paying bills to keep the house above our head).

Once I got around that transition day, Monday stared me in the face with the big question – “Now what?” I didn’t have the normal mountain of work waiting for me since I have no deadlines for projects or work product so that pressure was gone which I appreciated. That also meant my motivation for moving forward had to be internal and jumpstarting that was a tad tough. I had a plan before I left and yet somehow the time away left everything floating, waiting to be directed.

My confidence also took a hit, interestingly enough. My approach of doing a bit every day to move the job search forward was interrupted and in getting back into it, I found I needed to prop myself up a bit, whereas before leaving town, I knew my skills and felt confident in what I bring to the table. The last few days included reminding myself of my story and worth.

I was surprised by the need to give myself a push to get moving again after being away for a week. I am a self-motivated person but apparently need to structure some of my to-do’s to have some urgency in this incredibly unstructured world of the job search. Even things like these posts got pushed back as I got back into the game and started my normal brain functionality of prioritizing.

I let go of the guilt of going ‘on vacation’ and took the time this morning to look at my response to coming back to day to day life. All the little pieces that make us who we are shift and change, though I believe the foundational pieces remain the same. But sometimes those little shifts can be a learning experience as we move forward.

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?