The Job of Job Hunting

Note: This week-end I took lovely pictures of flowers and trees, some of which are shown here. Even if you are job hunting, take some time to enjoy what Nature offers.  Walking or sitting among flowers and trees can be very healing. Also, HOPE is the 2010 theme for my blog, and I believe that Spring is Nature’s message of the hope and renewal.

When I moved away from Central PA back to my friend Rhoda’s in upstate New York, she had found me a job with her company’s non-profit division, and for six months I made good money (for me) and began to adjust to being a single mom. The fact that I lived with Rhoda and her youngest son made the transition less painful, although I wrote in a previous posting how we both ranted and raged at our soon-to-be ex-husbands at different times.

After six months, the funds for the non-profit job ended and I spent weeks reading the paper (Craig’s List was not yet on the Net and my ex still had our computer) and sending out resumes. At one point I was turned down three times in one day and went home and pulled the covers over my head.  My daughter was very supportive and that day never repeated itself, thank goodness!

For the next several years in the 90s and early into the 21st century, I held so many jobs that my kids were never quite sure where I was. (This was right before cell phones were commonplace.) Between 1990, when my husband and I separated, and 2003, when I met my second husband moved  to Philadelphia, I held  many jobs: crossing guard, telemarketer, books salesperson, cooking instructor, manager of a non-profit food bank, personal chef, diner cook, editor for a professor, freelance editor, per sitter, and substitute teacher. (I still teach and edit, because the fear of having no money of my own has stayed with me.)

What I can tell you is that looking for a job is a job all its own, with its own guidelines and rules that can sometimes drive you up a wall. When I first separated from my husband, I couldn’t think straight enough even to job hunt. I was still in our house and didn’t have to worry immediately about overhead.  Then, after about six weeks,my friend Rhoda’s offer for the non-profit food bank at her office job gave me the opportunity to leave the area, away from my husband and the constant strain of seeing him with other women and operating our family business which I had left, and start anew.

Here are some tips that I  want to share that may help you make the transition to a new job, if that’s what is needed to start again as a single person.  If you already have a good job and income that you can keep, that’s great. But because we had a family business, and I could no longer tolerate loving/working with my first husband, I had to find other work.

1. Make a list of all your skills, even those that you think may not be marketable by themselves, such as the fact that you are a good organizer or good with people in person or on the phone.

2. Create a new resumé. There are resumé formats in books, on the web, or from companies that specialize in helping you. If you Google Creating a Resume, you can choose from any number of sites, some of which are free.

3. Take stock of your appearance. Buy an “interview outfit,” such as a suit, white blouse, and low heels if you are looking for an office job. If you are looking for a non-traditional job, use your judgment about dressing for the part.  A skirt and blouse with flats, a nice pair of slacks with a blazer, or even well-pressed jeans and an attractive shirt might work, depending on the company. Investigate the company to find out more about them to determine how to dress.

4. Get a good haircut and use makeup that you are comfortable with. In other words, be comfortable in your own skin or you won’t be comfortable at the interview.

5. Bring a list of questions with  a resumé, even if you have already sent a resumé.

6. Eat a good breakfast or lunch before the interview.  Bring water if you want something in your hands to keep them steady.

7. Be enthusiastic without going overboard.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Get a good job description so you know what is expected of you.

8. Look for work that you like.  My son, (who has been smarter than me since the age of three), said that you don’t take a job you don’t want until your back is against the wall. Also, don’t take a job you can’t afford, that is, one that pays so little that you will be in debt in a couple of months.

9. Be positive. This is hard when you are struggling with your divorce, but a prospective employers doesn’t want to hear all your problems, at least not at the interview.

10. Be honest with yourself and your prospective employer. Tell him/her that you are a single mother (or father) and that you will need some flexibility. (I was one of the cooks at a residential home for teens when I lived in New York. I loved the job, but I was away every dinner hour and realized this was not good for me or my daughter. Reluctantly, I had to give notice, but the decision was the right one for me.)

These suggestions are ones that helped me when I was job hunting.  But the road was not easy, and I sometimes look back and wonder how I was able to find so many jobs. I think the clue is to be open minded, but not so broadminded that you forget who you are and what you need to make your life work.  And if you don’t know what you need, which I often didn’t, just spend some time with yourself until you do. Someone told me once that we are human beings, but most of the time we are human doings instead. Learning to be with yourself makes you realize that you are good company if you let go of all the self-criticism and self-doubt.

Fear was a big factor during this period of job-hunting, soul-searching, and generally fall apart and put myself back together, especially when I went to court. I read many self-help books and the one that stands out is Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway by Susan Jeffers, and is still available.

Finally, while going through my divorce, I wrote lots of rhymes to release my feelings of doubt, pain, fear, and whatever emotion made me pick up a pencil and write. Here is one that expresses what I was going through. I wrote it in 1992, when my divorce was not yet finalized and I was always job hunting.

Sole/Soul Searching

finding a job; a tedious chore
a lonely odyssey, myself to explore.

alone in the process, i bare my soul
maintaining my dignity—a major goal.

so many months without a real job;
rejections, rejections! I come home to sob.

wrestling my psyche, searching my soul,
living authentically—that’s my goal!

resistance, resistance seems my single cry;
stop resisting for now; just be, don’t ask why.

7 thoughts on “The Job of Job Hunting

  1. Good advice, beautiful photos, and a special poem! Write a book, Ellen Sue.

  2. Thank you for this Ellen Sue…in the midst of job searching and husband unhappiness it’s a comfort to know I am not alone in my pursuit of happiness.

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