Sunday, March 21, 2010

Unemployment is like Pregnancy because...

No I am NOT pregnant! (Although my shape may suggest otherwise.) For heaven's sake at 52 yrs old at least that is one thing I do NOT have to worry about. The photo is of my beautiful niece Jodi who has since given birth to an absolutely ravishing little girl. But I posted the picture to make a point.

When I was pregnant over 30 yrs ago one of my biggest sources of frustration was that as soon as my tummy started poking out it seemed to make people believe I'd utterly lost my brains. No one ever asked me what sort of books I had read recently or inquired about my opinion on current events. They stopped discussing plays or astronomy or the state of the nation. It seemed that the only kinds of conversation people had with me during those months focused on "how are you feeling?" and "when is your baby due?" Women wanted to touch my belly and/or regale me with stories of their own childbirth experiences. Men got either condescending or uncomfortable. Either way, it was like I was no longer the smart, interesting person I had been before with a multitude of interests. During that time of gestation I socially became a pod person, a vessel for making a new life. Nothing else. Or at least that was how it seemed at the time. I used to get down right cranky about it.

What does that have to do with now? It seems that lately nearly every person I know keeps asking me "How's the job search going?" TRUST ME on this, if I get a job I'll be shouting so loudly it will shake the earth. You will know. But I just can't handle the constant scrutiny about the process. After having applied for 120 different jobs across six states, having had over a dozen serious interviews and all too many very near misses I've had my hopes up and had them dashed too many times to count.

Sometimes I'm very zen about the whole process and truly believe that the universe is unfolding around me exactly as it is meant to. There are days when I feel all the way to my bones that God has a plan for me through all this that I just can't see.

Other times I sink down into a serious funk, feeling very discouraged, disappointed, and concerned about my continued lack of getting a job. I worry. I fret. I wonder what is going to become of my poor pathetic professional career. Especially since I seem to be doing all the right things that professionals tell job seekers they should do and still not getting results it gets frustrating.

But honestly, we are fine. Fortunately for us, my sweet husband has a good job with full benefits. We are essentially out of debt. We have savings in the bank. We've certainly had to cut way back on our discretionary spending since I'm no longer bringing in the big bucks I was when I was working. But we have never once had to go without a single thing we really needed. We do not have to fear the wolf at the door (yet). So I can truly say we have been incredibly fortunate during these many months of uncertainty. Far too many good, honest, hard working people have lost homes, lost confidence, lost so very much through no fault of their own as a result of the shifting economy. I'm very blessed to not be in that boat.

I continue to apply for jobs. I continue to go meet with "experts" and "specialists" who are helping me to refine my approach. I'm still seeking a professional position and not even close to needing to settle for any old survival job. Because we are ok.

Don't get me wrong, I DO appreciate the supportive concern. It's just that when I'm trying to minimize my stress over this prolonged job search by focusing on the OTHER areas of my life that truly are running along smoothly (or at things that I have some power to do something about) to have people keep asking me about the job search just takes me back to the one area in my life where I'm feeling pretty powerless, and that's not fun.

One of the great things about having been poor in the past is I absolutely have the skill sets for living on a very slim budget. I know how to make do. And because we have no major life expenses right now we really can manage living on my husband's income and the meager pittance I earn from teaching a couple online classes.

Still - I do want a job. We work for many reasons besides a pay check. When I reflect back over the track record of all the different jobs I have had over the years it's very evident that I took positions that I could believe made a positive difference. Rather than try to get rich or work my way to the top where I could be all important I tried to DO important things. Being executive director of two different non profits was far less about the fancy title and far more about believing in the missions of those organizations. So that is a part I really miss.

Besides, eventually my husband will retire and then it will be up to me to take on the role of primary bread winner. So hopefully sometime in the not too distant future, I'll find a suitable position in a place we will both feel good about. Clearly the search is on with all the determination I can muster. But until I do land that elusive job that surely is out there somewhere in the universe waiting for me to find it, please give it a rest from asking me what I've applied for lately or how my last interview went. Having to fess up to the growing pile of rejection letters just feels too demoralizing.

The last near miss job that I interviewed for required me to put together a professional portfolio showcasing some of my past accomplishments. I got beat out of the job by someone with more experience, but that process was really good for me. Now when I get discouraged about the search I can flip through the pages of that binder and see solid proof of my talent and skills and be reminded of what I do have to offer. It's a whole lot better that perusing the mountain of "we don't want you" letters.

So if you want a conversation with me, let's talk about the plans for my garden. Let's talk about the high school producton of Les Miserables that I went to see. Let's discuss educational issues. Or we can talk about something that is interesting to you. I'm a pretty good listener. But if you ask me again "How's the job search going?" I'm likely to get a bit prickly. It is a sensitive subject for me right now. So can we just skip it for a while?

There is one BIG exception to all this. If you know of any job leads I could follow up on or even just think of someone who it might be helpful for me to talk to I would very much appreciate the referral. I suspect that networking with others who may have key contacts will be far more useful to my search than constantly reviewing ads. So if you have an idea of something I could follow up on, by all means PLEASE do make the suggestion. It will be most welcome.

Otherwise, if you are simply showing supportive interest or are curious, could we please talk about something else?


Jen said...

Unemployment is like pregnancy sometimes feels like it will never end.

I have so many friends who are unemployed at the moment. A lot of times I don't know what to say--because I do worry for them and I feel helpless. Thanks for your post today--it helps me to be a little more cognizant to not say trite things when I don't know what to say.

Belladonna said...

You bring up a very good point. There are a number of situations that are socially awkward. Knowing what to say when someone we love has had any kind of significant loss can be really hard. We want to be supportive, to be kind, to be there for the people we care about. But just what exactly do you say to someone whose daughter is dealing with a serious eating disorder, or a person who just found out their spouse had an affair, to someone whose house burned to the ground (or went into forclosure), expectant parents who are greiving over a miscarriage or the news that their child is significantly dissabled...let alone someone who lost their job? It's hard to know what to say.

On the one hand I don't want my struggle to become the elephant in the room than everyone sees but no one can talk about. But at the other end of the extreme I don't want it to define me.

I've had comments that were helpful and some that were hurtful. I know that BOTH came from people who care and meant well.

One of our baptismal convenants is to "bear one another's burdens" so learning how to be a true support to those who are strugglings seems to me to be a key part of living the gospel well.

I know that I am learning an awful lot about how to respond differently when others have tough times to go through, no matter what sort of adversity it is. Actually I am learning MANY lessons from this season of not getting the thing I long for most. It's not an easy time. But it is a blessing time just the same.

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