Employable Employability!

I’m noticing a trend. Normally I like to keep it light. Positive. But when my shell cracks and I really put it out there, I tend to eat crow shortly after. Like my infamous post on Facebook that Graham was JUST. NEVER. GOING TO BE BORN. (2 weeks early… ::huge side-eye to my impatient pregnant self::)

Only to go into labor literally an hour later.

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So of course I write this post last Friday. And in the following Monday’s post, I wrote:

… I feel more positive this week. And I feel in my bones that this job hunt is drawing to a close.

Wouldn’t you know it? I was right!

Tuesday afternoon, I was folding laundry in my bedroom while Graham had a snack downstairs. I had been feeling like it was reaching time to hear back about a job interview I’d had a few weeks back. They had told me at the time that it would be a few weeks before I heard.

And you know that old adage about envelopes when you’re applying for colleges? About how acceptances come in big, fat envelopes and how rejections come in little ones? Well, the job hunt equivalent is this:

Offers come in phonecalls. Rejections come via email. 

Knowing it had been a few weeks since this particular company’s interview, I was compulsively refreshing email and making sure my ringer was on. While putting a stack of towels in my bathroom, I heard the phone ring. The caller wasn’t in my address book and it was a local number.

Which means I was like…

When I picked up and the HR person immediately offered me the job, my face was like…

But in my head I was all:

But to the HR person, I was like:

I went downstairs and told Graham. His reaction when I told him:

Someone doesn’t want to give up our after-school hangouts.

But then when I called Andy, he and his coworkers were like:

And ensuing texts and phonecalls with friends and family are basically…

And the rest is history. I start March 7th, which gives me just over a week to get everyone and everything ready for a dual-working household again and properly work up some first-day nerves. Better get busy!

Recovering

Thank you, thank you to those who have reached out following the last post. I sincerely appreciate it. Especially because the messages I received were just… check-ins. Love it. Thank you.

Very conveniently, I got to spend the days following that post with my beloved family having a wonderful weekend.

It started that very Friday when I got to visit Graham’s school for an annual kindergartner parade for the Chinese new year.

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Pictured above [in the red paper hat] is Graham’s teacher. She is so great. Patient and kind and always looking for new ways to help our buddy in class.

This parade thing? This would be something that I typically wouldn’t be able to make if I worked outside the home. But here we are. I got a flyer inviting parents to join, so I did. And do you think it makes a difference?

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You’d better believe it does.

I talk with Graham fairly regularly about how my being available to hang out after school and come to things like this during the day are a temporary thing while I’m on the job hunt. And we then talk about how we are just going to enjoy the heck out of it while it lasts.

I think we’re doing a pretty good job. :)

On to the weekend!

Graham was edgier than usual, but we did have unseasonably warm (and SUNNY!) weather, so we got a chance to take advantage by making a trip to our local zoo.

I’m going to take a moment and say how impressed I am with the Madison zoo. First off, it’s free. You drive up, park and walk in. No one so much as counts heads or anything. Crazy.

Knowing it’s free, I expected something fairly modest. In fact, when we said we were going to go to the zoo, Reid immediately yelled, “I WANT TO SEE THE LIONS!!! :::ROOOAARRRRR:::,” Andy and I were all, “Well, there may not be lions,” and “…there might be some sort of big cat, maybe.”

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But no. There were lions. And a tiger. (No bears!) And giraffes and penguins and chimps.

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We ran into one of my friends from my hometown there and his wife and son. It felt like all young families in Madison were at the zoo Saturday. The day was perfection.

Sunday was pretty great too – to start.

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Despite the big smiles in the zoo pictures, Graham was pretty crabby on Saturday. We attributed it to too many Saturday morning cartoons. After a particularly nasty outburst from him, we stripped him of T.V. rights on Sunday.

Funny that these ‘no T.V.’ days end up being the best days. He and Reid played alllllll morning and were so sweet with each other. Graham was mildly complaining that morning of his tummy feeling icky, but otherwise we had a pretty normal day. Graham and Andy went to the hardware store for some lumber so Andy can build some shelves in my closet. Reid and I ran some other errands that morning too.

Graham had lunch then we played Uno through Reid’s naptime. Take a look at these awesome card holders Graham thought up! I’m sure it’s mommy goggles, but this kid just impresses the pants off me sometimes.

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It wasn’t long after this picture was taken that our day took a turn. Graham went out to the wood shop with Andy to make little card-holders out of wood, but they came back in after 10 or 15 minutes when Graham started feeling super suspect. Not long after, the fireworks started. 😉

Poor kid. It seemed like this thing was going to be fairly run-of-the-mill bug. After a couple of rounds in as many hours, things seemed to be slowing down, but he then made the regrettable error of chugging a bunch of water which made the gastrointestinal gods angry, which then led to him… making sacrifices… every 20 minutes for the next 3 hours. He even woke up moaning a couple of times shortly after he went to bed.

It was bad enough that we were resorting to trying a bit of Dramamine and placing a call to the on-call pediatrician for advice, which we haven’t done for a stomach bug since Graham was a toddler. This one was a doozy!

After a quiet night, we figured Graham would be feeling much improved this morning, but we sort of rushed things too quickly. Soon after he got up, I offered that it might feel good to get in the shower. He agreed, but shortly after getting under the water, he started moaning, “I need my trash can” again.

Thankfully for him it was a false alarm. But – message received. We’re going slowly this morning.

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Project Rehydration is in full effect! I treated him to a couple of Redbox DVDs, fresh sheets and jammies and – per the on-call pediatrician’s advice – taking 2 tsp shots (yep, out of an old college shotglass!) of Gatorade every few minutes. Which means I’ve been writing this post in 5 minute increments.

Suffice it to say, we’re recovering. In more ways than one. Graham’s little smile in the above pic is a ray of hope. He should be feeling much perkier as the day stretches on. Meanwhile, I feel more positive this week. And I feel in my bones that this job hunt is drawing to a close.

In the meantime, I’m needed at home. It’s a good feeling to be where you’re supposed to be.

Still Looking

This job hunt thing, man. It messes with your head. One day I’m fine, but the next I’ve got thought after unwelcome thought popping into my head. My self-esteem has always been fairly intact, I’d have to say. I’ve thankfully never really had moments where – for any length of time at least – I’ve deeply questioned my skills or abilities.

But this job search… it’s made me question it all.

When the merger was announced last summer, I hit the pavement hard. I was sure that my experience in a corporate consumer research field could easily translate elsewhere. I’m good at the corporate basics – communication, presentations, group facilitation, strategizing amidst lack of direction, project management. I just needed to find a place that could use those skills.

I attended every business social networking event I could find. I passed out business cards and followed up with coffee dates. I networked like my life depended on it.

Once I was laid off, I started actually applying for jobs. I sought out jobs that I knew I could do. Jobs that were above me. Jobs that I would have qualified for 5 years ago. I applied online but also flexed my network – finding someone inside the company to route my resume. I wrote passionate cover letters.

For awhile, nothing came back. Frustrating doesn’t begin to describe it, because each job easily takes half a day to apply for. Sometimes more.

I started getting smarter about how resumes are filtered and how to write compelling cover letters. I throttled back a bit on the passion, instead substituting confidence and genuine interest in the position.

I started getting callbacks. A phone interview here. An onsite interview there. Then the “thanks but no thanks” emails started pouring in.

I thought the nonresponses to resumes were bad. I was wrong. It’s connecting with potential employers, feeling a sense of mutual excitement about the position – knowing you’d be a solid contributor if given the chance, then just… being let go. It’s the feeling of having someone look you completely over and then going, “Eh. Pass.”

Pass.

In my work history, I’ve never been the one people were watching rocket to the top, but I was consistently someone people wanted on their teams.

Pass.

My performance review feedback was always solid – glowing at times. Last year was one of those years. I performed top 20% in our business unit.

Pass.

There is literally one other food company in town. One that manufactures chocolate as an ingredient supplier to other companies. They were looking for a food scientist with chocolate experience. I am a food scientist with chocolate experience who used to work at an ingredient company.

Pass.

It’s not fun to admit. But all my life I’ve been told that I’m smart. That I’m fun to be around. That I’m good at the work that I do. Before now, I considered myself a pretty humble person – but I didn’t realize how a lifetime of those comments had all settled into my bones. Became a core belief that I had about myself. With every subsequent non-callback or outright rejection, my core belief system about myself was rattled.

When some outside party looks at you and then… Yeah, I don’t see it.

Sort of like how I used to pity those kids on American Idol. The ones who had been clearly told all their lives they were amazing singers, then they go up against the panel of judges on national TV and everyone snickers that they ever could have believed it. I mean… just listen to yourself.

Then the triage.

You tell yourself that you don’t need outside approval (except… you kind of do, you know, to get a job).

You immerse yourself in the love and acceptance of your family.

You read the pages of your Bible and devotional and know that there is a plan. Or hope so. 

You consider entrepreneurship/owning your own business… but quickly realize you’re too financially risk-averse.

You consider retirement… but fill with dread about how much change that really entails.

Then indignancy and anger settle in, because is a well-spoken, educated, young woman THAT unemployable really?!

Mostly, I just let time pass and the sting subsides.

Eventually I go back to the job listings… but apply less frequently. The “I can do anything and I could do it for you!” pecky confidence I once had is gone. Last year, if I saw experiences I didn’t have on job descriptions, I’d take it like a challenge. “I could so do that!” or “Not a problem!” figuring if I ever got the chance in an interview, I’d be able to instill my future employer with the confidence I had, they’d see it and would give me a shot.

I now look at those same job descriptions and feel like a fraud for even applying when I don’t meet all the criteria.

I used to love interviewing. I loved the banter and thought answering questions on the fly was fun. While I logically understood how people could be nervous before interviews, I never used to be.

Now I’m a wreck before an interview. The fraud feeling is real. The feeling that I’ll be found out as the pretty mediocre employee that I am. Someone that could easily be replaced by someone better. The old “head of the class” feeling is gone.

I hate that the job search process has done this to me. The logical side of my brain wants to drill sergeant this emotional sadsack side into shape. It’s embarrassing, quite frankly, that I’m letting this employment situation get to me like this.

But here we are. This won’t last forever, I know. Eventually I will find a job. Eventually these pieces in self-esteem that I’ve lost will be found, and I’ll begin to knit myself back together.

For now, I appreciate prayers. But not like flippant “Praying!!” and praying hands emojis… like honest-to-goodness on-your-knees prayers. Maybe not for the job situation. Maybe just for me.

 

What I’ve Been Up To: Tidying Up / KonMari

I thought since it’s been awhile since I’ve posted, that I might make a series of posts to keep you up to speed on all the things I’m doing to keep the winter doldrums at bay and basically blast my way through the months of January and February. Mission: Almost Complete!

First up? Throwing all my stuff away. 

Kidding! I’m totally kidding! Sort of. Andy and I (mostly “I” a.k.a. “the one with all the free time” though..) have been making our way through this book:

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It’s basically about keeping the stuff you love and letting the other things go. Seems like we should all have houses full of the stuff we love already right? But not really. Go through your closet. I guarantee there are clothes in there that make you absolutely loathe the way you feel when you wear them. At least that was true for me. So I went through, removed everything except the things I feel incredible in, and donated the rest so that they can find homes with people who appreciate them a little more. :)

Then Andy did it. And I did it with the kids’ clothes too. It’s a pretty incredible effect.

Here’s an example. We keep bins of hand-me-downs for Reid – stuff that Graham has grown out of. To date, I have kept everything that is still in good condition after Graham grows out of it, and then I throw it in a labeled bin. That bin gets added-to periodically when I find random pieces of clothing in Graham’s closet that I missed before or when we get a shipment from Reid’s cousin Charlie. When I eventually pull a bin out it is very much overflowing to the point of not being able to be closed. The contents inside look much like the bin on the right (except the overflowing-ness is not accurately captured.)

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The bin on the left is after I Konmari it. I take every item of clothing and decide if I’d be excited about seeing Reid in it. The rest is donated to a resale shop to be loved by another family. I love this side-by-side photo because it captures how different I feel after doing all this decluttering.

The bin on the right sort of overwhelms me. Makes me feel like work is ahead. Bin on the left makes me feel energized and excited to get these clothes into Reid’s drawers. To start fresh. Work done.

Last thing about the picture above: The bin on the left is very much what our drawers look like now. We fold up pretty much everything. That’s a big difference about storage with this method. We hang only stuff that would be a complete pain to fold up. For the boys (both the big and little boys) only collared shirts, vests, robes, and hooded sweatshirts are hung in the closet. For me, it was jackets, formal dresses, robes and silky shirts.

The end result is a closet that is pretty much always photo ready. Pretty stinkin’ incredible, because I would have easily died before letting anyone see the contents of my closet before. I love going in it now. I also find it easier to remember what I own on those rare occasions when I do shop for clothes – which isn’t often.

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There was a similar effect for Andy. All his hanging clothes now fit into his tiny little closet, where he’d used to take up space in mine.

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The rest are folded and put in drawers like you see above.

Here’s an example of one of my drawers. Sweaters on the left (bulkier sweaters are in boxes in my closet), summer dresses on the right. Long-sleeved cotton tees down the center – apparently I’ve been wearing those a lot this week. :)

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And here’s an example of what Andy’s tees (short and long-sleeved) look like. (Yes, we share a dresser.)

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You’d think folding everything would make it wrinkly or hard to see, but that hasn’t been the case so far. The clothes aren’t folded and stacked like pancakes – everything is folded and stood on its end so instead of lifting up a shirt to see what’s underneath, you more flip through like albums in a music store. Andy and I were both worried about all this folding taking way too long because – quite frankly – laundry time is taking up about all the time we’re willing to give it, but it really hasn’t been bad at all. The author of this book sort of saccharinely said that folding is fun, and I instantly gagged but I begrudgingly admit that I find it sort of satisfying.

Even works for the boys.

Reid’s closet has a single bar that used to be smashed with clothes. To the point where you could remove hangers from shirts and the shirts would stay put. I know you know what I’m talking about. The shirts used to march back into the depths of the closet where you couldn’t see them and there they’d sit until he grew out of them – often never wearing most of what he owned. Now, it’s just his collared shirts and hooded sweatshirts. The dresser is now emptied of everything except extra bedsheets, which I’ll soon move out into our upstairs hallway linen closet. This means we’ll be getting rid of this dresser soon – or finding another use for it elsewhere and probably adding some toy and/or book storage to his closet instead.

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The dresser that stands in Reid’s bedroom keeps all his shirts, pants and jammies, etc. For cold and warm weather. Which we’ve never been able to do before.

Shirts:

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Shorts/Pants:

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Jammies/Socks/Underwear:

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Graham’s is a similar story – here’s what one of his drawers look like:

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Yes, they get a little disheveled now and again, but for the most part, the boys do keep their stuff in order. They also love having their shirts in drawers because it makes it easy for them to pick out their own clothes. Especially true for Reid, whose shirts used to hang way over his head before. Now? It’s that damn orange snowplow shirt every chance he gets.

I’ve made my way through all the clothes in the house, which has meant manymanymany donations to our local thrift store.

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This is a small trip. Every time I get at decluttering, I make sure that once I’ve decided something has to go, that I bag it up and take it to recycle or goodwill. I make it a point to get it out of the house. This not only helps us see the impact of the work, but it also limits temptation to bring stuff back in.

We’ve also been through all our books, our movies and our music. Now I’m in the process of decluttering all our paper, which has me in our unfinished basement, because obviously that’s where our filing cabinet is (? I have no idea why it’s there.)

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I’ll be honest – the clothes made MUCH more of an instant impact in how orderly the house feels than the books/movies/music/paper categories. The non-clothes stuff took up less space and much of it was squirreled away before.

But now that I’m writing this, I realize that the places we housed all these above items can now probably go. I no longer need the dresser in Reid’s closet. I no longer need a massive 5-shelf bookshelf in the basement. I don’t need a DVD/CD cabinet anymore. And I for sure don’t need a 4-drawer filing cabinet. So I guess if I’ve felt like progress since decluttering our clothes has been slow it’s because I haven’t been moving out these large pieces of furniture when we no longer need them.

The book I referenced above is very prescriptive about the order in which you declutter. Once I’ve graduated from organizing my paper, I can move onto things like kitchen items or decorative items – and there again I think palpable changes will be made to how our living space feels.

Final thought: This process has made me keenly aware of how much stuff we have, how much stuff we don’t use and how much stuff that we only really need to get by. We are storing, oh man, so many things that others could make better use of than we are. I’ve felt compelled to get the good, usable stuff into the hands of those very people. Or responsibly dispose of items that can’t be used. The idea of hauling truckloads of our stuff to the landfill doesn’t feel good, so Andy and I have been working hard to really figure out where in the community recycles or reuses the oddball items that no longer function for the purpose which they were created. I promise – that’s not a call to action for you or an attempt to be preachy or holier-than-thou. Merely an introspection that surprised me. :)

Going Analog

If you work in an office environment, there is a pretty solid chance you stare at Microsoft Outlook a decent chunk of your day. If not the majority of your day. For emails, yes. Calendar, definitely. Both of my jobs used Outlook to schedule meetings. Smartypants Superusers like my husband keep their tasks and lord-knows-what-else in Outlook too.

You know how people cleverly tally up the number of hours you spend sleeping or waiting in line or in the bathroom in a lifetime? I’ll venture a guess that if I tallied up the number of hours I spent calendar-jockeying in Outlook these past 10 years, I would be horrified.

In fact, I spent so much time staring at my Outlook calendar, it became second nature to just plop in my personal appointments too – for planning purposes. If Andy and I needed to let each other know about work travel or impending visits from family, we’d just send each other an Outlook invitation that automatically blocks out the time on the other one’s calendar.

I’m saying all of this for you Baby Boomers out there, by the way, because my Gen X and Millennial readers are like “DEBBIE, EVERYONE DOES THIS. BLAHBLAHBLAH GET TO YOUR POINT.”

So here’s my point: I have not yet successfully figured out how to survive effectively without Outlook during this, ahem, employment gap.

I’ve been using Google Calendar and making appointments on my phone using the calendar app. Shortcomings abound. We’ll start with the latter.

The Apple Calendar app is flawed. I personally like looking at a month view so that I can plan ahead… see whose birthday cards I need to buy and when the kids have appointments coming up, etc. Plan the week, you know.

This THIS is how Apple helps me plan ahead:

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Awesome, thanks bro. So no dots tomorrow, then? Sweet.

I’m joking. This is completely unhelpful. A dot indicates that something is happening on that day. It does not indicate what at a glance. Which is what I need.

I have to click on a day to get details, which then looks like this:

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Okay, better. Except now I’ve lost all spatial relationships to appointments. They’re all just… piled on top of one another. If a day doesn’t have an appointment, it simply doesn’t appear.

I’m sure this works for people. Just not for me. Screenshot 2016-01-10 22.27.32

This is what Google Calendar looks like when I log into it from my desktop computer. So nice, huh? (I know you can’t read it, but go with me on this.) Good color-coding going on. Spatially laid out with just a bit of detail. Very nicely done, Google.

Except… the only way I get this beautiful vista is if I walk into my home office, sit down at the Big Computer, and get on my web browser. Reference three posts ago as to why this happens, ohhhh…  basically never.

I’ve been stuck. Trapped in a neverending Pong game – alternating between habitually, obsessively checking my phone and neurotically making mental lists of appointments I need to remember.

Finally, FINALLY, today I took a time machine straight back to 2001, walked into an office supply store and bought a paper calendar and a bunch of colored felt-tip pens.

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BOOM.

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Peace.
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Serenity.

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And a handy location that is at once close to the kitchen, in line of sight when you’re coming and going from the house (Yippees from me!) and also out of plain view from the rest of the house (Hoorays from Andy).

Yes, I still plan on using my phone for making appointments and sharing them with Andy. And any dyed-in-the-wool organizer will tell you this is a death sentence to a new method. Have one location for any given thing and rid yourself of redundancy. It takes up extra time and ultimately either one wins out or they both fall away in lieu of something new. Lots of boring and perhaps obvious reasons for this. Regardless, passing this wall calendar gives me peace. And I’ll take any little bit of that I can get these days.