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Category Archives: job search

I’m back!

I’ve been meaning to get back to this – really, I have!  But that whole life thing …

Anyway, here I am.  A lot has happened since my last update.  Long story short – the dream job was a nightmare (and completely misrepresented by the hiring manager).  But it’s all good, because just as I resigned, a new opportunity opened up and I was hired for a great position at a great company.  It’s been just over a year since I started there and every day I thank my lucky stars that everything worked out the way it did!

In other news, #1 is finishing up her sophomore year in college and turns 20 tomorrow.  Twenty!!  I find this quite impossible, if only from a biological standpoint as I am only 32.  Or at least in my head.  My knees are definitely closer to 60.

Also shockingly, #2 is graduating from high school.  He’s 18.  As those back on the British side of the family tree would say, I am gobsmacked.

And if the first two didn’t make me feel old, #3 turned 16 and is DRIVING HERSELF.  EVERYWHERE.
Honestly, where does the time go??  Thank goodness for merlot is all I have to say.

An Eventful Week … and then some!

This post is long.  Sorry.  But I’ll get the most exciting news out there first –

I GOT A JOB!!!  Can I get a woot woot?

And it’s a really fantastic, great fit, once in a lifetime, dream job.  I start next week so more on that to come.  Those of you who were around earlier this summer when I posted about another job offer?  Short story – it fell through.  But that’s ok, because now I have THIS job.  Life’s funny that way, isn’t it?

The other exciting news has to do with the brouhaha caused when I emailed a favorite blogger of mine, Alison Green, at http://www.askamanager.org.  If you haven’t ever seen her blog, check it out.  Chock full of advice on job searching, resume/cover letter writing, managing employees and bosses, etc.  It’s been a fantastic resource for me in my job hunt, and one of the things I learned from her was to make my cover letters personal and interesting as well as customized to each and every job applied to.  As a writer this appealed to me – and I’m embarrassed to say it didn’t occur to me on my own.  I mean, duh!  But I’d been stuck in the rut I learned in college:

Dear _________,

I’m writing to express my interest in __________.  Please consider me for this position.  You will see from my resume, blah, blah, blah…

Stilted, overly formal and boring as hell.  No personality whatsoever, nothing that says anything about ME.  And especially since I’m in the marketing communications field shouldn’t I be showing off the writing skills I’ve been honing for 20+ years?  Seems kinda obvious.

So I started writing as if I were speaking to someone – having a conversation with the hiring manager.  I told them about myself – why I’m interested in the job, what I’ve done that relates, and what makes me tick and makes me that one special candidate.  And I immediately began getting more responses.  I shared a couple of my letters with a friend who is an HR Director and she loved them – as did her boss, who hired me as a contract employee.  Obviously I was on to something.

At the same time I updated my resume to reflect the bajillions of hours I’d put into volunteering with my kids activities.  I’m not just talking bringing the soccer snacks.  I’ve been a hockey team manager for years, and if you haven’t done it you can’t possibly appreciate all the time I put in and how much I learned that completely translates to the business world.  To start: diplomacy (parents & coaches do not always feel the same way about a player’s effort/talent-level); budgeting ($50,000 per season – it’s not chump change); scheduling (not as easy as it sounds); dealing with emergencies (injured kid, ref didn’t show up, missing equipment).  I could go on but I think you get the picture.  I also did tons of fundraising, wrote PR pieces, chaired lots of committees, etc.  Oh, and by the way?  I was also working part-time.  So I know a little something about time management.  My resume gained a section titled “Community Involvement.”  This also proved to be a big hit because people could relate.

While I hadn’t landed a full-time position yet, I was definitely getting a lot more nibbles.  I decided to tweak my cover letters even more.  I brought my kids into it.  I know this is frowned upon, but I’m a put-all-my-cards-on-the-table kind of person.  I have kids.  It was going to be obvious from my resume that I have kids.  My kids are an important part of the person I am.  If you are not going to hire me because I have kids, then I do not want to work for you.  And I realize that this would not work for everyone (duh!) – but I’m not writing cover letters for everyone.  I’m writing them for ME (duh, again).

What happened when my kids entered my cover letters?  Hmmm.  Even more nibbles.  Some really good interviews.  Several awesome interviews.  A job offer.  Another job offer – this one the job of my dreams.

Back to Ask a Manager.  In my joy over the job offer, I thought maybe someone else would find my story useful.  It’s a tough, tough market out there.  It is absolutely demoralizing to spend hours perusing job postings, customizing letters & resumes, thank you/follow-up emails, all for the occasional call.  Worst part?  Having a phone interview – and worse, an in-person interview – and then never hearing back.  So rude!  No response at all.  I figured, this worked for me, so maybe it will help someone else.  I sent my cover letter to Alison and she loved it!  She asked permission to post it and I said sure.  You can see the post (and my letter) here:  http://www.askamanager.org/2011/09/great-cover-letter.html.  I was overwhelmed by the kind and generous things that the vast majority of commenters had to say.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!  While I fully expected some naysayers as well, I really need to address a few of them in particular:

To the guy who said bluntly “don’t mention your kids.”  Really?  It worked.  Maybe not in all situations, but as I said, I don’t want to work for someone that only wants childless employees.  He commented again, “it makes HR managers cringe.”  How do you know?  Are you an HR manager?  If you are, do you automatically toss resumes of people who look like they might have kids?  Kind of missing out on some great candidates aren’t you?  Less narrow-mindedness, please!

To the poster who said, “Huh.  This would be laughed at in my field.”  Wow.  What a completely unnecessarily snarky opening.  I mean really – what is the point of saying that?  Sounds like your field could use a little more personality.  And, do I really need to point out – again – that obviously I’m writing for MY field.  It’s MY cover letter.  Duh.

To the poster who said it was long and went on.  Yeah, it did.  It was the longest cover letter I’d ever written and I had to do a little formatting work to make it one page.  But, I felt it all needed to be said for this particular job.

To the poster who said my closing was cheesy.  Yeah, it was.  But it was also completely honest.  I am at a point in my life where I do want to enjoy my job.  Everything that I said is important to me?  It is.

To the poster who said that mentioning my kids was in poor taste – um, screw you.

But in the end, it was a really enlightening and eye-opening experience.  To all of you that are still looking and are stuck on the job search treadmill, I completely feel and share your pain – and send you my best wishes for finding your own dream job.  What I want you to learn from my cover letter was summed up perfectly by Alison:

“Look, you don’t want to do exactly what Rebecca did in her letter; her letter works because it’s customized to her and the job she was applying for. The point to take away here is that you want to write letters that are warm and engaging, have personality, explain why it’s a strong fit, and add new information to your application rather than just summarizing your resume.”

Please share with me any of your stories.  Were you inspired by this?  Did you change your cover letter style and did it get you more notice?  I want to know!  And good luck – it’s tough out there.  Be kind to each other.  And if you can help someone out?  Do it.  It’s a win-win.

Tattoo You

Told #1 the other day that I had a job interview and that it sounded promising.  Her reply?

“If you get the job, let’s get matching tattoos!”

I said I didn’t want a tattoo – never had wanted one, probably never would.

“Come on, Mom,” she wheedled.  “We’ll get each others names!”

“Really?” says I.  “You’ll get Rebecca on your arm?”

“No, silly!” she squeals.  “I’ll get MOM.”

Guess that should’ve been obvious…

On Cloud Nine

Is there any better call than the one saying you’re our first choice and we’d like to offer you the job?  Probably, but I can’t think of any others right now.

That’s right, I got that call.  It’s a freelance offer to start, but they hastened to reassure me that there will be plenty of work – this is just a way for both of us to become comfortable with each other.  I’m down with that.

I am beyond excited.  It’s my field,  marketing communications, but a completely new arena – law.  Challenging and interesting.  I can’t wait!

Round 3

Ding, ding, ding!  Today is Round 3 of interviews for a job I halfheartedly applied for a couple of weeks ago.  I almost didn’t even bother to read the posting because the job title sounded very junior (Assistant).  I did read it though, and it actually sounded kind of interesting – and not at all junior.  It’s also part-time – 20 hours a week – which would be great in the summer.  Well, it would be great anytime.  I’ve worked part-time and full-time and can honestly say that full-time sucks.  Big time.  I don’t know how people do it!  The only thing I liked about it was the salary.

Which brings me back to being being halfhearted about this opportunity.  Half-time means half-salary.  And, since money hasn’t been discussed yet, I’m afraid their idea of half-salary may be considerably lower than mine.  And even if we’re on the same page, it still won’t be anything to write home about. But it shouldn’t just be about the money, right?  It should be about enjoying your work, personal satisfaction, yadda, yadda, yadda.  Yet with three kids galloping towards college, I feel like I should be trying to earn as much as I possibly can, i.e. suck it up and work full-time.

I probably shouldn’t get ahead of myself – after all, they haven’t made me an offer yet.  Don’t want to jinx anything.  And, if I’m completely honest with myself, I really do only want to work part-time.  During my full-time stint I felt like my home life was falling apart.  I was disconnected from my kids’ activities, and because of a long commute, usually got home after everyone else ate dinner (no, it wasn’t usually possible to wait for me – remember the part about activities?).  Not to mention the housework that piled up or simply didn’t get done.  Ack.  I’m breaking out in hives just thinking back on it.

Right now, part-time is just a better fit for my sanity and my family.  A few more years down the road and full-time will probably sound great – and this sounds like something that could become full-time.  So I’ll put my best foot forward and hope for the best.  The power of positive thinking and all that.  Wish me luck!

I’d love to hear your thoughts.  If money were no object would you work part-time or full-time?  Would you work at all?

They Kill Vampires, Don’t They?

I have always been fortunate in that when I’ve needed a job, something has always worked out.  This year though my luck has run out, and I’ve found myself dedicating many hours a day to THE JOB SEARCH.

It hasn’t been completely fruitless.  I’ve had quite a few interviews, been really close a couple of times, and was a finalist for what would have been my dream job (that one hurt).  Now that the SEARCH has dragged on to the end of the school year, I’m admittedly not pursuing leads quite as hard – it will be kind of nice to have the summer off.  Still looking, but not frantically tweaking cover letters and resumes at the same pace as I was.

It’s not just the nicer weather, though.  I need the mental break.  As anyone in a similar position can attest, it’s so very stressful to be looking for a job.  Everyday I’m thankful that my husband is the primary breadwinner and the loss of my income is not a make it or break it deal.  Not that we don’t miss it, but we’re ok.

But it’s hard hearing the same questions over and over again, and trying not to sound like a robot in answering them. The temptation to make a list of top 5 questions asked and record myself answering them was strong.  Just send it along with your resume and save everyone some time.

It’s hard summoning enthusiasm for each and every phone interview, and each and every in-person interview – even for jobs I’m sincerely and seriously interested in.

It’s hard trying not to be insulted when the hiring manager tells me she doesn’t think I’m up to the demands of this particular job because it’s full-time,  requires a lot of attention to detail and the ability to prioritize and juggle many ongoing, simultaneous projects.  What came out of my mouth was, “I’m sure I’m up to the challenge.”  And I smiled.  What was raging in my head was, “Well, eff you, lady.  If doing the same job previously (although part-time), while running a household with three very busy teenagers – all with different activities and schedules – AND volunteering for said different activities, AND managing my own freelance business doesn’t qualify as able to handle full-time, you can shove it.  Frankly, full-time would be a vacation.”  *sigh*  Cross that one off my list and no thank you/follow-up email for you!

It’s hard trying to stand out when the economy has forced so much competition for every single stinking job posting.

It’s hard not to just scream, “Hire me!  I promise to work hard and reward your faith in me.  Just pick me already!!!”

It’s hard seeing/hearing/answering the same trendy/current terms over and over and over again.  For example, stakeholder.  No, not a new term per se, but sure getting a lot more use than it probably needs.  Recently an interviewer asked me how I would keep company stakeholders updated and informed.  The next several questions also dealt with answering to stakeholders.  After hearing the word stakeholder 10 times in 10 minutes, my brain went poof.  All I could think was, stakeholders?  What do stakeholders have to do with anything?  They kill vampires, don’t they?

And I knew it was probably time to take a little break.