9 new, fresh approaches to the old, tired job search

11 Mar


This time it’s going to be different.

Do you ever get tired of change? My life is on the verge of change…again. Occasionally there have been changes that were happily met, but I find the more fear I feel for what’s behind the mystery door, the more resistant I tend to be toward going through it. What could be behind that door could be SO AMAZING. Is it the pessimist in me — or the small fearful child — who believes it’s more practical to be ready for the worst to come through it at me instead?

This is my third lay-off. I’m so fortunate in many ways…other people in other places have fared much worse. I don’t blame the economy. Nobody owes me anything. This is not a blog tale of woe.

The first was a company deliberately sold to liquidation to acquire cash for the owner, providing employees with months of foreknowledge. The second was a business economic downsizing of sorts. This third one was more of a surprise…a bankruptcy leading to forced liquidation. I may tell you more about it later on.

To be completely honest, the first time around it was a secondary part-time job. I needed the income, but I was relieved for a break in my busy life. A few months later I picked up another one. But the second time around was a primary, full-time situation that turned into both my biggest nightmare AND my biggest blessing. How is that even possible?

The nightmare part was that the world had changed since my last job hunt.

I tell people that I was born into a tiny little wedge of a generation that can’t really attach to the one before or the one after. The great folks 5+ years older than me were able to get a little bit more career establishment under their belts the “old-fashioned way.” The great folks 5+ years younger than me were born updating their My Space pages. My contemporaries were born smack dab in technology transition central. Grade schools didn’t have computers until I was in high school, and we weren’t allowed to touch them except by special permission — even when we were seated at them. My college was small and didn’t consider computers a priority — there was one computer lab, and it used DOS. A couple of former students graciously left their PCs at the dorm when they moved out, so our insightful housemom set them up in a little room for us to use in the dorm. I can’t remember if there was an internet connection or not. But though schools didn’t use computers, companies sure did.

When a nice man hired me after graduation, he made sure I had a computer at my desk and believed in me that I could learn as I went. I think he’d been in the same boat himself. So I self-taught. Got the Microsoft Office skills down about the time everybody started getting on email (for fun, of course). During my second job we still used stationery but companies were facing the reality that they must create a web page. And then they started doing business through them. Why drive two blocks when you could order your office supplies online and have them delivered? Duh.

Then my second lay-off rolled around, and a sheer and total panic attack set in.

“The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air.”

Hands up anyone who remembers a world where you printed off your resume, put on your best suit, walked into a business, met a human, and filled out an application? Gee, those were the days. And that was the only world I was prepared for. Young though I was, I might as well have been 70.

Suddenly I found that businesses would not let me past the front door and receptionists would no longer patch my call through to HR. Applications were only received on websites. Not resumes. Not inquiries. Applications which could only be made for specific jobs, which would only be accepted through the system if every qualification was met. I would NEVER have gotten the jobs I’d had if that had been the case. Enthusiasm for learning skills on the job was part of what got me hired. But it gets worse.

I didn’t have internet, so I’d go to the library and be restricted to computer time limits. Getting nowhere, with no income, I installed internet at home. I’d spend 2-8 hours on any given job application (government jobs were the worst!). Sites would not allow simply uploading a resume — each bullet point from it had to be individually entered, and I was occasionally required to submit to online testing afterward. Most jobs I spent hours applying for didn’t even bother to send me an email response, and I never got a single phone call from any of them. One job I was qualified for kicked my application out of the system after four hours filling it out because of a technicality about my college degree. One entry-level job forced me to spend two hours at their kiosk taking a personality test — which if I didn’t give the answers they wanted, I wouldn’t “fit” or be employed on their team. A month later they called me…for part-time work, the full-time job opening still listed on their website. I heard about HR reps who rejected applications because they didn’t understand the technical nature of the jobs they were gatekeeping. Now having been on the hiring end I can only imagine…those poor unseen department managers who desperately needed workers were sitting up there with the world on their shoulders while we random applicants sat here discouraged and not being paid. Wondering if those systems proved as constructive as they looked on paper. (Kinda like how my resume looks different than I do in person. Interesting.)

The back door remains, of course, relationships. If you knew someone who knew of a job at their company, they could kindly let you know about it — and would most likely be willing to print off your resume and walk it down the hallway to their HR department for you. But at the very least, you had the upper hand because you knew about the opening first, and you had their good word put in for you. So, like, I’m an introvert. Which means I tend to have fewer connections. Game over.

It was one of the most discouraging periods of my life. I had skills and passion. I just wanted to work!

After a year of disastrous dead-ends and one fabulous, unexpected educational journey, eventually I found employment — through my relationships. Through a former employer who valued me enough to rehire me at a different company. It was not the work I was looking for, but it has proven to be one of the most valuable experiences of my life. The beautiful silver lining in the storm of my career despair.

Regardless of my personal frustration, I can understand how some of the online HR systems might work for some companies. Perhaps it’s even important for them to protect their brand in their hiring process. But having been around the block a couple of times, I’ve learned that a job is never just a job. I have to spend one-third of my life with the people I work with. I need to see them and meet them to know they’re the kind of people I can trust, who can inspire me to do great work for them…to give them my personality test. Just kidding. About that last part. I am not a commodity. And I need to know we can depend on each other for success.

“Whatever else anything is, it oughta begin by being personal.”

Building great work starts with building great relationships. I don’t expect the world to change, but I am grateful whenever I can find a beautiful back door, shaped like a Hobbit door all round and green with a lovely brass knob in the middle.

Which is one of the new approaches I’m applying this time around:

1 – “You have five minutes to wallow in the delicious misery. Enjoy it. Embrace it. Discard it. And proceed.” Allow myself five minutes to wallow in the tragedy at hand, the self-pity I’m sure I richly deserve. Then toss it in the trash can like a bag of moldy potatoes. It’s done and can’t be changed, and I can’t possibly see exits off this highway of hopelessness if I’m too busy lookin’ in the rearview mirror. Get back in the car and put it in drive. Did I ever tell you about the time I met Orlando Bloom?

2 – Communicate my need and skills with others in the most polite and grateful way possible. Email, tweet, post on Instagram, use Morris Code or smoke signals. Chiseled tablets and selfies with hashtags are also acceptable. If it falls in the “communication” category, it works. Look for trustworthy people in professions or companies I admire and COMMUNICATE respectfully.

3 – Use LinkedIn to “meet” new people, who I can communicate my need and skills with in the most polite and grateful way possible.

4 – Help my co-workers find employment. That may not sound like much of a strategy to some — or maybe it sounds mercenary to others — but it’s very much part of my plan. This time around my co-workers and I are all looking for work. It’s not about climbing higher up the ladder, it’s about survival. So I’m keeping them in my thoughts and prayers as I look. I’m letting them know whenever I find opportunities that might suit their skills…because we know I know what they’re good and gifted at. (I, of course, am gifted at ending sentences in prepositions. Help.) While it’s certainly possible that once they’re employed they could help me become so, that’s not the agenda here. We’ve actually started joking around that we’re a package deal — that we need to find our boss a job so she can hire all of us! Though that’s true, and she would, it’s actually been SO helpful to me to deal with my own fear and grief by spending energy and effort looking out for their needs. That’s who I want to be. Maybe that’s an agenda…

5 – BE the kind of person that I would want to employ myself.

6 – Stay positive. Stay positive that I have skills now that I didn’t have the last time. That I have friends and co-workers (new relationships) that I didn’t have the last time. That people love me and the world can be a good place. That the world-wide web has worked out a few of its kinks since the last time. 🙂

7 – I will not be afraid of the worst thing that could walk through that mystery door or of making mistakes in this process.

8 – Put it in the screenplay. Anything horrible or beautiful or ridiculous or hilarious that happens along the way — which I have no control over — is “going in the screenplay.” Eventually this material is going to make me a sugar mama. I’m certain.

9 – Pray. I will look for opportunities to trust God in ways I didn’t before. And I will believe that the gifts He has given me are meaningful to this world.

I plan to do a little blogging along this new familiar process for the purpose of reaching out to encourage you and saving myself the cost of therapy (a girl has to save pennies somehow when she’s about to be unemployed). So hopefully this will be a win-win. We’re not alone. If you have any questions for me, or if there are any ways I can pray for you in your challenges, or if you’ve discovered your own job-hunting tips, or if you just want to hire me because of our awesome relationship with one another, please feel free to let me know in the comments below. In the meantime, know that you are gifted, and you are a GIFT. May all of your job-hunting processes be blessed!

2 Responses to “9 new, fresh approaches to the old, tired job search”

  1. Urban Wife March 12, 2015 at 7:56 am #

    First, I’m so sorry to hear about your layoff. Though I’ve not had a similar experience I do understand the anxiety that comes with being unemployed. You seem have a positive attitude about it and I will definitely be keeping you in my prayers!

    • Jennifer White March 18, 2015 at 8:54 am #

      Thank you so much! Your kindness is greatly appreciated. Our world changes so fast, and though it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, it’s such a blessing to know we’re not alone and there is always a reason to have hope! 🙂

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