Episode 9: Misadventures in the job market
I’ve applied for, well, a good number of jobs since I went on leave. Jobs I was overqualified for, administrative jobs, jobs inside and outside of academia, teaching jobs, writing jobs, editing jobs, transcribing jobs, jobs I did 20 years ago right out of college, jobs I could really see myself doing well and enjoying, jobs in the nonprofit world, jobs in the art world, jobs that connected with my hobbies.
I put a lot of work into thoughtful cover letters, into making my ten page academic CV into a clear one-page resume. I took workshops. I networked. I met a lot of new people. Some of them really got me. Some of them told me I was a really great candidate, and I should have no trouble finding work with my impressive background. Some of them spoke to me in a grandfatherly voice asking whether it was really such a good idea for me to move on from my job in this market. Some of them, I think, wondered if I was lazy, and that was the reason I was leaving my job. My burn out was poor work ethic, they thought. They said: “Well no job is fun. It’s a job. It’s always going to be work.” I bit my tongue with these folks. They didn’t get it. And they had no idea of the discipline I was capable of . . . at all costs.
I went back and forth between thinking that the only way for this whole “leave my job” adventure to be a success is if I got an EVEN BETTER job than the one I had, to feeling like I just wanted to make enough money to eat, and that would be success enough. I went back and forth between feeling shame unless I could land an even higher power, higher status job, and feeling like I didn’t care anymore what anyone thought of me, just as long as I could slow down and not let this life pass me by anymore. I went back and forth between feeling like I would only be satisfied if I could use the skills and knowledge I worked so hard to develop in grad school and in my teaching career, to feeling like a use of any of my skills, as long as it was not too stressful, would be fine. Pride and exhaustion were battling it out in me. I think I’ve had the wrong kind of pride for a long time. It plays games. It misunderstands what is of real value. Exhaustion, on the other hand, is so simple and so honest. I think it is winning. I guess the positive side effect of exhaustion winning is that it makes you have to face your screwed up pride, reevaluate, look at your old patterns, your parents old patterns handed down to you, and get your shit together.
So again, I wrote a lot of applications. I got zero responses.
I’ve started to hear a message ringing in my head, loudly, powerfully and clearly: “Stop applying for jobs.” You are spending a lot of time doing it, it is quite possible that no one actually reads your well-crafted letter and resume, and frankly . . . here comes the big one . . . no job already created by someone else is going to be the great satisfying answer to your career woes that will really utilize your unique skills, be meaningful, creative, and a reflection of you and your passion. You must create your job. You must create your destiny. No more meat market that cannot see your value. Do not wait for another to notice you. You know your value. You know what you can do. Hire yourself.
Ok, so it turns out that this life and work transformation I am stumbling through is going to involve a much bigger change in mindset, in faith, in courage than I ever thought. Can I take it? Can I take this on? Am I about to create the work that I am made to do? What might that be? Am I about to become my own boss? My own sales-woman? How can I do it in a way that doesn’t run me ragged again? How can I do it in a way that will pay my bills? . . . . How can I change my bills so that they are payable? Much bigger changes are on the horizon. To change meaningfully I see now that “the whole” will have to change . . . and yet in a month I will be broke. How will I change the whole in that reality? How will I hold onto trust and integrity in that situation? How will I create the calm and peace I need so badly in the face of total financial insecurity? Should I really be documenting my possibly impending total failure here on this website? . . . There seems to be something about this documenting process that is necessary. I feel that my companions are out there, with me, and I am not alone.