Thursday, February 10, 2011

Musical Interlude: “These Boots Are Made for Walking”

From a February 8, 2009 cover letter. . .

Dear Sir or Madam:

Please accept my attached résumé in response to your search for . . .

Hold it! TWO YEARS???

Seriously, has it really been two years since I began my job search?

In February 2009, when I sent that first cover letter, I could barely breathe from the mental effort it took to hit the “send” button. Yet, it had to be done. It had become clear my much-loved, 12-year job would be eliminated when a new company took over. But, mentally, in looking for other employment, I felt as if I were cheating on the organization I’d given 100 percent loyalty to for so long.

At the time, I was emotionally devastated, feeling “kicked to the curb” like so much useless office debris.





Even, embarrassed as if I was the one doing wrong—which I was not.

But, things are better now.

True, it’s been a long, hard two years. There were times when I wanted to crawl under the bed covers on a rainy morning and just stay there, whining, “I give up. I just can’t do this any more.”

But, I didn’t.

I got up every day. Got out of my PJs. Put on my game face. Refused to watch daytime TV. Faced the world. Made networking calls. Improved myself with healthier eating and weight loss. Worked my contacts. Cleaned out closets. Attended meetings and community events. Did volunteer work. Developed a bare-bones budget. Developed new skills (such as website design and social media marketing). Met for coffee with anybody and everybody who had any connection anywhere no matter how small that connection. Took classes with an outplacement specialist. Reworked my résumé and reworked my résumé and then reworked my résumé. Joined a local job-search support group. Practiced interview questions. Applied for as many jobs as I could find each week. Made cold calls to companies that might have contract work for me.

Still, the economy and job market teamed up to fight me. No matter what I tried, I got . . . nothing.

But each time I got knocked down, I got up again and refined my efforts and intensified my focus.

Yes, I knew intellectually back in February 2009 it might take a long time to find a new job. But, emotionally, I didn’t think this could or would ever happen to me. Throughout high school and college and my work career, I had been the golden girl—the one who got chosen, promoted, praised. Whatever I wanted, somehow I made it happen.

Or, as my mother put it sometimes, “I’ve never seen anybody so good at pulling the rabbit out of the hat at just the right time.”

Truly, I am thankful that two years ago I did not know I’d still be doing the job hunt two years later. I’ve always been practical, but living through two long years like these turns you into a realist.

I did try to be proactive way back in February 2009 before things fell apart. I launched my search seven months before the job actually went away. My plan back then was a seamless, blissfully short transition to a new—better!—position. Why not? My life experience was that better things followed good things. I had no experience with nobody wanting me on any team for any position at any salary.

Yet, two years and hundreds of applications later, I sit in the same chair at the same desk in—thankfully!—the same house still scrolling through job listings for that still elusive full-time job that will pay the bills and offer some security.

Two years is a long time, but some things have changed for the better:

1. I’ve doo-wopped out of my “Nervous” phase. In early 2009, I worked 12+ hour days, freaked out with worry, unable to sleep, and terrified my boss would discover my job search and fire me on the spot. These day, although I haven’t morphed into some Pollyanna with no cares, I’ve made it emotionally intact through this on-the-dole journey so far and feel sure I’ll make it the rest of the way with my self confidence intact.

2. I’ve sock-hopped out of my “Teenager in Love” phase. Early on, I sent out applications and then constructed romantic scenarios in my head: Would I like this job? Were we a good match? Was there a future there? Could I forsake family and friends for a new life in Iowa or Alaska—or even the South Pole? (Yes, I actually applied for a job in Antarctica! I really did.) Today I still apply for jobs—any job, every job and in most states east of the Mississippi (and a few beyond), but I no longer daydream. I do a little research to see what the company does so that I can tailor my application to their needs. I hit the “send” button. No emotional investment. I can analyze possibilities if they call me.

the way... Pictures, Images and Photos
3. I’ve quick-stepped out of my “Wishin’ and Hopin’” phase. In the beginning, I often pinned my hopes and dreams on exciting job opportunities. I’d look at area real estate ads. I’d picture living in the new location. I’d speculate about co-workers. I’d clean out closets in anticipation of a move. I daydreamed about what it would be like not to have to spend every spare moment searching for a job. I fantasized about buying new clothes and going out to dinner. I even dared to dream of replacing that broken-down clothes dryer. But, disappointment is too great when you’re rejected after so much Springfield-esque “wishin’ and hopin’”. In December, after losing out on a job that I really, really, really wanted—like so many other “close calls,” they discarded external finalists and hired from within, saving salary and relocation expenses—I decided  opportunities have to be mentally closeted in the waiting process. The key to not letting a really long job search weigh you down emotionally is to not pin your hopes on any one opportunity.

4. I’ve strolled out of my “Crying, Waiting, Hoping” phase. I’ve learned to wait without fretting. Companies take three to 12 months to make decisions. That is today’s reality. Worry does not make it go faster. Waiting is still not my preference, but tying myself in knots while doing so is nonproductive. These day, I calmly send the application in and then network and follow-up. And, mentally, I move to the next posting the same day the application goes out.

5. I’m now doing the go-go right on into my new “These Boots Are Made for Walking” reality. I’m creating opportunities. I’ve started a business, and I have clients now—yes, real paying clients—not every week, but some weeks. (On those weeks I do work, I am not eligible for the dole check.) I’m still not ready to say too much here about my “real” business just yet, but it’s progressing.

Meanwhile, I’m reaping dollars from all that closet-cleaning effort by launching an eBay business—“Aunt Ariel’s Attic”—in addition to my regular business. I sell my own treasures as well as a few pieces from other people. Apparently this is a great way to make a few extra dollars. Who knew? Well, I didn’t! But this is fun!

Neither business venture is full-time and neither offers those much-needed health benefits right now—something I’m seriously concerned about because my COBRA insurance ends in April—but I’m optimistic. I can keep a roof over my head and food on the table in the meantime.

I never expected to be where I am today. I never could have imagined that after two years of job searching and 16 months of unemployment, I’d still see no end in sight to my on-the-dole journey. The future looks very different than I originally imagined it.

Yes, it’s true that while in job search mode, you can never really shake the “wishin’ and hopin’’” feeling entirely, but, while I’m sending out applications, I’m also keeping “these boots” walking by planning and progressing. And, one day, when I’m employed again—and I will be—my new employer will benefit by getting a far better employee and person than I was two years ago.

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Just for Fun: Enjoy Nancy Sinatra’s performance of “These Boots Are Made for Walking”. And, after you enjoy this fun retro video, click on the links above for a hidden musical surprise.

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Photo Credits:
1950s Magazine:


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