Job hunting IS a job.

My current role is a full-time position that requires attention to detail, multitasking, exceptional communication, and interpersonal skills. I must possess proficiency in PC skills and multiple software systems, integral problem-solving skills, and the ability to adjust in a rapidly changing environment. I am required to work beyond normal business hours, over-time, holidays, and am required to respond to correspondence at all times, even during off time.

The best part? I do not get paid.

My average production is up to ten applications per day. I submit approximately 50 applications and/or resumes per week, depending on the market. That equals about 20 to 25 rejections per week. After all, not every company tells you that you are no longer in the running.

This week I submitted 15 applications and resumes to just one company. That included every position that they had posted in which I met or exceeded the minimum qualifications. I have no doubt that their HR department either loves or loathes me, but nothing in between.

Truth is, when I started working many years ago, we did this thing that is no longer done anymore: We got dressed in our most professional attire, drove around with 10 copies of our resume, walked into companies, and asked for the hiring manager. It worked well as managers got a good impression from the candidate, up front, if they would be a good fit. Now, we express ourselves on paper and cross fingers that our resumes and applications make it past the screening software that flags for keywords.

Years ago, you made changes to a resume when your employment changed, which was not often. Now I change my resume ten times per day, in my pajamas, and hoping one of these hiring managers can notice my work ethic and awesomeness just from how I have formatted my resume and because my cover letter says I rock.

Because I have been unsuccessful for so long, I doubt my advice is sound. However, these are the things I have found in my search engine history of, “what am I doing wrong in my job search?” These are pointers I have found to be incredibly helpful during this process.

1. Network until your fingers are numb and blue.

We have access to so many social media platforms. Seek out others like you. I started with Facebook and LinkedIn.

I was not a big fan of LinkedIn, but now I have about ten people a week looking at my profile and information. I have also used it connect with recruiters, managers, and be contacted by recruiters. I get it now. It works.

Facebook has so many groups. Seek out ones that are in your industry and line of work. I am a Medical Coder, so I typed in Medical Coders in the Facebook group search and asked to be added into the ones with the most people.

Where technology stops, pick up and do it the old-fashioned way. Talk to people in person. Mention what you do. Reach out to people you seem to clique with, even in those social media sites and spark up conversations. If you can, call around to volunteer. For my industry, the hospital is awesome. Not too mention, hospitals deal in many different areas including management and financing. Not everyone who works in a hospital has to know medical terminology and anatomy. Call around to public and private schools, large law firms, and hospitals to find out about volunteer opportunities.

I was recently given a very temporary contract assignment with a company. During that time, I reached out to some of the women in my group through emails, then Facebook and added them on LinkedIn. Come to find out, we have a lot in common and I made some new friends. When you start networking, you start discovering new friends in the industry. It cannot hurt. One, you have found new leads to jobs, and have new friends in the same boat. There are jobs I have come across that I am not qualified for, but I send them the recruiters’ names. Additionally, you have new friends who feel your pain and go through the same crap. As a woman, I need to vent at times. That is the nature of the best.

2. Not getting interviews?

Two questions:

What is wrong with your resume?

Yesterday I sent out 20 resumes. On 21, I realized my daughter had decided to type when I wasn’t looking. Ironically, it was the line that mentioned my high quality of work. It went something like this:

“Time on project extended due to high qu al ofokjnae ty of work.”

Grammatical errors. Spelling errors. Poor formatting. Maintain the same verb tense. Are you really detail-oriented?

If you are not applying for a position that is 100% labor, a lot of employers require attention to detail. What does it say when your resume shows, “Time on project extended due to high qu al ofokjnae ty of work.”

What are you applying for?

People get rejected for being overqualified as much as they are turned down because they are underqualified. Double check that you are what these companies and positions are looking for and make sure you fit in that box.

3. Getting the interview, but not the job?

Practice makes perfect. So what, you messed up in answering a question. So, you try again and practice, practice, practice. Search commonly asked questions during an interview. Practice answering them.

Ask for feedback. Have friends review your resume or pay a company to help you with it. A few recruiters have contacted me back and said my resume looks good. But you have to ask!

If you get turned down for a job after an interview, it is okay to ask why. Most managers may tell you that they had a more qualified candidate or give some generic reason, if they even respond, but maybe one will tell you something that really leads to developing your interviewing skills even more.

4. Ctrl Alt Del 

Take a break!!! Do not let this consume your life. Only spend certain time frames and a specific amount of time applying and hunting for jobs. I created a separate email for job searching and only check the emails after I have had a cup of coffee and before Rays baseball evening games.

After about five rejections I get frustrated and down. I stop for a few days to regroup.

Eventually an interview occurs and the motivation returns, full tidal wave force. But, then as the rejections flood in, I have to stop and regroup after a couple weeks.

5. Keep applying to a company, even after hearing “We are moving forward…without you” 100 times.

After all, what is the worst thing that will happen? Will HR get frustrated with you? Will they call and tell you and tell you that they will never hire you? Well, at least you will know.

One company, I have applied to 31 times. As of now, I still have four open applications with them, and the rest were denied. I bombed one interview with them and have changed my resume five times in my profile.

But it is the type of company I want to work for, because they have great reviews, promote within, possess a solid business model, and believe in their employees. So, I will keep applying until the file a restraining order or I ace an interview. Which may take 100 interviews, but practice makes perfect!

6. Don’t.Give.Up.Ever.

It’s frustrating. It’s exhausting. It’s upsetting. It’s worse than dating in your 20s. But you can do it.

Above all else, BE YOURSELF! Well, be your professional self.

Karma gets the last laugh.

We were kid-less for the weekend. It called for a night at the casino.

The following are the things you need to know:

  1. I only smoked when I drank.
  2. I rarely drank, but when I did, I thought I was a 20-something year old rock star.
  3. I thought I was hot shit when I started drinking.
  4. I was neither a 20-something or hot shit.
  5. I soon realized my arrogance.

The chain of events, that I recall, started with a few Captain and Cokes, the flashing lights of slot machines, some money lost, odd looks from security, and me running out of my “drunk time” cigarettes.

On my thirtieth pee break of the night, I popped a squat. Even drunk, I do not sit on the seat for fear of God knows what. I reached over to grab some toilet paper. Low and behold, on top of the toilet paper dispenser, was a pack of cigarettes! I closed an eye to confirm my double vision was not deceiving me.

The next thought that went through my drunk mind is quite possibly what landed me where I am today.

“Ha. Ha. Some dumb bitch left her cigarettes in the bathroom. Too fucking bad for her ass.”

I snatched those cigarettes up. I smoked them all, laughing to myself as I thought about how she probably went back to the bathroom. She probably had to spend $10 on new cigarettes as the casino machine. I laughed and laughed at how drunk she must have been.

A little while later, I sat down, smoking a cigarette and drinking my drink. I was playing slots and running out of money. A man sat down next to me. A few more spins later, I cashed out. Reaching for my drink, I saw two cups that looked like the same drink. I was too drunk to remember which drink was mine. The guy next to me had sat down after me, put his drink down, and I did not know which was mine. Without asking him, I just grabbed the one with more and walked off. I laughed and laughed.

The next morning, I woke with a headache. I stumbled from the bed and into the bathroom. My bottom lip felt funny. Glancing in the mirror, I saw a red spot on the bottom of my lip. I didn’t know what it was. I had never had that before. I thought maybe I burned myself with a cigarette.

By the time we got home, I had small blisters on my bottom lip and skin. I knew what it was then. Knowing where cold sores come from, I tried to remember my actions for the night. The cigarettes crossed my mind. Then, I remembered the drink that more than likely was not mine.

I wasn’t laughing anymore.

Every few years, something causes it to surface again. Every few years, I am reminded of what a total dick I am when I party like a rock star. Karma got me. She got me good. She also made sure everyone could see it.

Sometimes it’s best to shut it

Standing in lawn and garden of well-known super store, I was seeking a fast and easy way to improve the overall appearance of our rock garden. It is speckled with invading greenery that is not welcome. I am looking at different brands of weed and grass killer, considering prices and effectiveness.

An older woman walking by speaks up to me in a familiar matter-of-fact tone. “You know, those chemicals cause cancer. You’d be better off just pulling them up yourself.”

I acknowledge her statement with a nod and smile, then turn back to these cancer causing chemicals. I, kindly, reply “I’m allergic to fire ant stings. So either I die in ten years from cancer or I die in 15 minutes from anaphylactic shock.”

Silence.

Eventually she huffed and stomped off. I felt a little guilty, like perhaps I was at fault that she did not gather my sarcasm in life’s humor and irony.

Lately, I’ve been provided a lot of unsolicited advice and I’m not sure if there is a sign on my forehead suggesting I am in need of it. But when I reply, people either laugh WITH me or get angry.

Don’t give advice if you aren’t prepared to be informed you are ignorant to all the facts.

Uprising of the Anxiety

“The anxiety is strong with this one.”

I swore I was going to focus more on inspiring others and motivating people to find happiness in the stresses of life. But today was just not a good day. I shouldn’t say that. It was a good day. It was more of a rough day that requires a hot bath in lavender oil and Candy Crush until my mind shuts off.

                Rough days come and go like waves, and sometimes there is a hurricane. Today was when the news weatherman is hyping it up- we think it is going to be a category 5! EVACUATE NOW!

                What caused today’s anxiety overload?

1. Twenty silent arguments

                A silent argument is one that you have over and over in your head with the other person, but you never say aloud because sometimes the battle just is not worth it. Sometimes you just don’t have it in you to fight. Truth is, sometimes it is just better to have the argument in your mind because some people will never truly listen, even after ten years of the same issues.

2. She called it a bureau.

                I decided to give away the furniture we need to get rid of. Two of my three children suffer from ADHD and I am trying to help decrease their symptoms and manage coping through less stuff. We are downsizing so that they are less overwhelmed when it comes to organization.

                So, I post on a sale group to give away a dresser. I posted it as a dresser. The first reply I get is “is the bureau still available?” I am a smart ass, and, naturally wanted to reply “yunz mean da dresser? Ain’t got no bureau here.” But I went with it. I knew it was going to be a headache at “bureau.”

                I am intolerant of folks treating someone else like they are above them. But I need the dresser gone and wanted it to go to someone who needed it. Based on this person’s Facebook profile, employment background, age, and pictures, I bet they could use and would appreciate a free dresser.

                I moved it to the front alone, as my husband had already left for work.

                The foot and side splintered. I sent a picture and the response was “We won’t take it. We have toddlers and I don’t want them getting hurt.” It could have literally been fixed with Gorilla glue. But o’well, poop happens.

                There I stood. Halfway in my yard, sweating, dirty, tired, and with a bureau I had to drag back into the house. No gratitude had been given to me. I was trying to do something nice and received nothing from Bureau except “we have toddlers.” I have three kids, and this was not dangerous at all. But, to keep with the theme, I kept the argument in my head and yanked the dresser back into the house.

3. The Spider

                That is all I need to say. It was some Arachnophobia type shit that hung from the garage door. It was so big that, when my son pointed it out, I screamed “Holy Fuck Shit!” I will leave it at that.

The day has ended with an elevated heart rate, my child learning a new combination of adult words, many silent arguments, and a whole lot of work for nothing.

I keep hearing R.E.M. singing “It’s the end of the world as we know it…”

This is the weatherman warning me the storm is coming. The silent arguments will explode into a whole new war. The dresser will drive me insane because all my projects are back on hold for another week. The spider will crawl through the vents and end up on my face in the middle of the night.

“And I feel fffiiiiiinnnnnnnnnnneeeeeeeee…”

For your listening pleasure…

https://binged.it/2JJeC69

Dear Universe, Make me a writer

I was in fifth grade the first time I won a contest. None of my classmates knew about it. I did not even tell my parents. After an essay on the Civil War, my teacher, Mrs. Jones, quietly approached me and asked me to stay behind before lunch. She said she needed to speak with me about something. I was terrified, until she handed me my graded essay. I had passed with 110%. She then explained that there was a writing contest she wanted me the enter, as she felt I had the potential to do well. I entered and I won third place. She had been my editor. Until now, no one beyond that empty classroom, and the judges, knew about it.

I spent many teenage summers reading book after book. It helped me escape from a hormonal/ post mononucleosis depression I had encountered. I withdrew and found myself reading and writing for hours each day. Perhaps, for a hormonal and depressed teenager, Stephen King and Dean Koontz were not the best books to read, but they lined my bookshelves.

Short stories we wrote for school always landed me in the position of being forced to read them aloud to the class in a “final contest” of whose story was better. I usually came in second, but I spent more time writing about sadness then joy. I have since realized people enjoy happiness over a tear-jerker.

In college, I excelled at essays and research papers. In sociology, my professor asked me if I had ever considered creative writing courses. Assuming she meant I lacked critical skills necessary for college level writing, sociology papers specifically, I felt embarrassed. But she replied that she was highly impressed with an essay I wrote regarding society’s debilitating views on women and how it caused low self-esteem and lack of self-worth. She told me I would make an excellent magazine writer. Honestly, the idea of a magazine writer made me feel slighted. However, I was humbled that, once again, I was considered to be a good writer, at least in that context.

Two semester ago, I worked on a project with two other classmates. One of them contacted me to discuss our approach. She had mentioned that our professor had grouped us together, as we were “the two best writers in the class.” That had been a quote from our professor. A woman with a PhD had stated she felt I was one of the best writers in a class of about 30 people. Again, I felt that familiar blushing and humble satisfaction. Although, the part of me influenced by society’s rash views on women has left me wondering if my group member was merely fibbing to pump me up so we came out with a good grade. After all, people do perform better with positive reinforcement.

Within the last month, I wrote something, sent it to two dear friends, and they both told me it brought tears to their eyes. I cried myself, thinking maybe, just maybe, with a lot of editing, I could write the books I have randomly dart through my mind.

But I am afraid. I am afraid that there is no gift in me. I fear I will try and fail miserably. I fear that I am delusional and would have better chance at success in finding a cure to ADHD. Fear has held me back, as it holds far too many people back.

Dear Universe and God,

Please make me a writer. If I am a writer in hiding, help extinguish my deep fear of failure.

Many thanks,

Marsh

Fear of change is unescapable during sleep

“Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.”
― Søren Kierkegaard

It is early morning, probably four a.m. I am driving. I get the sense that I am headed north. I see nothing but freeway lanes in front of me. Bright city lights line the distance of my rearview, but I do not know which city I am driving away from. I keep thinking Atlanta, but there is nothing definitive to suggest that. I am alone on the road, in the car, and I feel alone. But I do not feel that loneliness at heart. My family is still in my heart and somewhere. Suddenly, I take an exit, the wrong exit. I start to feel a panic arise as I know I am headed in the wrong direction. I try to remember the way I am supposed to go, but I cannot remember where I am headed. The exit twists and turns around many other exits and freeways. I am left driving back and forth, almost in circles, lost and fearful. Then, as I feel the anxiety rise, I remember I really do not have anywhere to be or any definitive direction. Immediately, the road splits and I feel the urge to get in the other lane. The morning sun has emerged, and it is mid-morning. There are cars driving around me, passing me, swerving in and out of the lanes. I cannot merge into the other lane and I miss my exit. I panic again, as I know that once I miss that exit, I can never turn back. I will forever be lost. I want to slow down but fear getting into an accident. I keep trying to stay with the flow of traffic but try so hard to get into the other lane. I must get in that lane, or else I will never get where I am going, although I still do not know where that is.

Then I awake, feeling as if the breath had been yanked from my lungs. I jump up from the bed and have the urge to check on my children. More and more these dreams come. The finale is always unresolved, and I am left with an uneasy awakening and lack of air. I imagine that a bedside spirit has reached into my chest and stolen the air from my lungs.  Although these dreams have significant relevancy of current life decisions, I cannot shake the aching suspicion that I may be developing sleep apnea.

Now that I have cracked my daily joke, analyzation of the above dream is necessary. My family is undergoing some major changes, none of which are negative. I often find, right before major changes occur in my life, whether planned or not, I have lucid and predictive dreams. Many times, I have not understood them, as the change was unplanned.

In my twenties, I dreamt I was in a public restroom. Every stall was disgusting, all the toilets had backed up onto the seats and the floor. Toilet paper was covered in urine and stool. I could not walk or sit or use the toilets, as they were completely unsanitary.

At another time during my twenties, I dreamt that all of my teeth suddenly cracked and crumbled. Every single tooth slowly cracked and fell from my gums in pieces. There was no pain. There were no obvious medical reasons. I had simply opened my mouth to respond to a friend and my teeth crumbled away.

From reading, mostly personal blogs by so-called experts on dream interpretation, these dreams are very common. The Dirty Toilet and the Crumbling Teeth dreams both represent a strong dissatisfaction with one’s current life and/or situation. They represent a strong desire, sometimes subconscious, for change. Looking back, they represented my intuition telling me to sprint away from the possessive and abusive relationships I was in during that time.

The current dream is a representation of the changes my family is currently undergoing. We are considering a bigger house, my husband has been given new opportunities at his work which will alter our lives, and there are many other changes occurring.

Recently, I told a friend, I felt as if my family was on a speeding train that was headed straight for a cliff. I felt as if we would jump from the train right before it caught fire in an explosion, but we were still on that train and going to go over the cliff with it. But it was the train we were meant to be on as it still was where we were meant to go.

Anxiety and fear is not always a bad thing. Getting lost, lacking direction, dirty toilets, crumbling teeth, and exploding trains may not always be a bad omen. Change is scary. But more times than not, it is more than just fear. Fear pushes us beyond our comfort zone. It can cause us to shed our security blanket and move into a life, a better life, we were meant to live. Embrace fear and anxiety. Without, we would not seek change.

“To venture causes anxiety, but not to venture is to lose one’s self…. And to venture in the highest is precisely to be conscious of one’s self.”
― Søren Kierkegaard

Stop defining yourself by your career

Most of my adult life, I have spent seeking definition through a career. My parents pushed for an outstanding work ethic. My interpretation of that lesson was believing a job was the basis of our existence. Careers provide financial stability, security, and take up a vast amount of our time. In my mind, it was so important that I always made it a conversation topic. I introduced friends as “this is Lisa. She is a nurse” or “that is my friend, Kristie. She is a teacher.” My husband is Shaun, a police officer. My mother works at a college. My father fixes lab equipment at major hospitals like NIH and Johns Hopkins. That is how I defined them.

I was once “Lauren. I screen deceased donors for tissue donation.” Then, I became “Lauren, a Medical Biller and Coder.” Now, I am Lauren, “just a stay-at-home mom, taking more classes in computer programming and stressed the fuck out.” Before my third child,  I was working towards my sought-after success in medical coding. Then, daycare costs equaled my income and my children needed me home more. I have been a stay-at-home mom for over two years. What I believed defined and increased my worth has been on hold. Six months into leaving my job, I realized I would have to completely start over from the bottom when I returned. I was embarrassed. I was ashamed. For over a year, I have felt as if my identity had diminished. I have racked my brain on a different career that would provide immediate value.

Last week, during my daily inventory all my failures, I felt a familiar anxious chest pain. My worth was depleted. I was nothing. I would have to start back at the bottom and, at almost 37, I felt like a joke. But then, a little voice in my head screamed above all the noise: “Stop defining yourself by your career. Your definition reaches far beyond a job.“

Well, shit. There was a time in my life that I frequently told this voice to shut up. But this voice did always know her shit. I decided to throw this idea around for a few minutes.

What else could possibly define me?

After years of focusing on my faults, I still felt a little lost. Instead of looking at my strengths, I thought about how I had always defined other people.

1. Lisa, the nurse, was a hard-working, kick ass, compassionate person who sacrificed her time to save and help others. She was not just a nurse. She was an amazing person with a huge heart who worked long, hard hours, and knew her stuff. This is every nurse I have ever met and talked to.

2. Kristie, the teacher, was an amazingly patient and caring woman who spent many, many hours being a role model for her students. She puts in well over 40 hours and is tested daily by kids that aren’t hers. She influences the lives of so many. She believes in what she does. Almost every teacher I have met possesses extreme compassion and love for what they do.

3. My mother is a huge influence on college students and helps shape them into young adults before they enter the working world. She is a guide and there to offer insight into life that they have yet to experience. My mother works so hard and was recently awarded Employee of the Year at the university she works at.

4. My father works so many hours and has spent most of his life building relationships and knowledge on equipment that helps develop cures for major diseases. He is there when those lab techs need him, because they may just be on the verge of a cure for Ebola or cancer.

5. My husband is so much more than a police officer. The lives he tries to change and the security he provides is more than I can comprehend. He sees and hears things that change people. Every shift he risks his life for strangers in his community. He does not have hatred or disgust for the people he has to take to jail. Rather he still sees them as people who are going through a rough time. He sacrifices his physical and mental health because he believes in what he started doing over 13 years ago.

                It became easier to see that the worth of these people are not based on the careers or job titles. It takes an amazing person to go into certain fields, even a receptionist or cashier. Their worth is in who they are and their jobs benefit from that. Their work ethic and character has defined their success in their jobs. They are hard-working, compassionate, caring people that made a difference in the lives of so many, regardless of what their title is. They have my respect because they rock at being people and how they treat other people, even those they are less than fond of.

                So, what defines us?

1. How we treat other people.

                It is simple, really. Either you are a dick, or you are not. If you are dick, then you are defined as a dick. If you treat others with compassion and empathy, then you are a good person.

                An example is taking our heads out of our asses long enough to see other people, be there for someone else, and really give a crap about someone besides ourselves when it is needed. Hold the door for someone. Look someone in the eye when you say “thank you” and “have a good day.” Really give a shit when you ask someone “how are you?” Shut up and listen instead of only thinking about what you can reply with. Really give a shit.

2. How we treat ourselves.

                If you spend most of your time beating yourself up, like I do, then you suck at being good to yourself. You can be caring to others, but if you are nasty to yourself, then you are still a dick. Start focusing on your strengths and build yourself up on those. Make a strong foundation with inventorying your amazing talents and characteristics. Everything else is built up around that.

3. Do we take time to really live.

                Work takes up so much of our lives. Don’t live to work. I know, I know. There is that whole “save for retirement” thing that is embedded at an early age. But truth be told, I have met some amazing folks who worked their whole lives, only to be physically miserable when retirement came knocking. Retirement becomes doctor appointments and hospital stays. Then there are the late 30 something folks who dropped dead during a jog and never made it to retirement. There are people who die from cancer or in car accidents. Work what you need to and spend the rest of your time really living.

                We get one shot at this. We get one life. We are defined by so much more than our careers.

I am Lauren, a super kick-ass stay-at-home mom who loves making a positive difference in the lives of others. I will one day go back to work and be successful, no matter what my job title is. I know this because I fucking rock.

Be amazing at being you. After all, there is only one of you… in this galaxy anyway.