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?
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.
This 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.
While my creative side is lacking (though I am working to build up those muscles), my analytical side just keeps trucking along. When I started my business, I learned quickly what I was good at: the back end of business – operating efficiently, numbers, HR, etc. and what I wasn’t: sales/marketing – that creative stuff. It’s why I am good at making order out of chaos. My brain is uncomfortable when things aren’t done in an orderly fashion.
While I work during the day to find work, I also have other objectives. I do want to push that creative muscle a bit. I want to learn things that I’ve wondered about or realized I didn’t know enough about while I owned my business. I want to meet new people, although I guess that’s technically part of the working to find work. So there are many different things I want or have to do each day, much like when I had my to-do list on my desk at work.
I realized today that I am thankful to have the analytical mind I do. One of the reasons I am good at the running the back end of a business is because I can prioritize, somewhat automatically. Yes, I tend to have to write things down so I don’t forget them, but I can usually look at that and decide in what order things should be done. And do that while taking into consideration the everyday things that need to get done without going on the list (these days, things like walking the dog, fitting in exercise, making dinner, etc).
And I’m glad for that because I don’t have to invest a ton of energy in deciding what to tackle each day. Sometimes, like today, learning takes priority. And yet, when I was thinking about prioritization, I knew I could sit down and write this all out quickly, as opposed to waiting for “writing time” and trying to force the issue. Sometimes, breaking into the to-do list is more efficient and effective than sticking to a schedule no matter what. Do I get it all done? Phssht. No. Who ever does? But I get what needs to be done at that time finished.
I wish I could say I took a course or had a mentor who worked with me on this, and that’s not to say prioritizing for efficiency can’t be learned. It’s really just the way my brain works and during this time of uncertainty for what comes next, I’m glad to have the comfort (at least mentally) of some order and control.
Making the decision to shut down my business wasn’t an easy one and when people ask, “Why did you close?” there isn’t one overarching reason. The end result though is the same: I’m in a state of transition.
So many people find themselves in the same space – in between jobs or job and family or schools. And yet we all handle that “in between” differently. Continue reading “Hard decisions”