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.

 

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