Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Square Peg, Round Hole

Sometimes I completely forget about my old life. Waking up every morning, getting dressed and fighting traffic to get to a job that made me miserable. Answering e-mails and sitting in meetings. Feeling like it was my only option. Desperately wanting to leave, but not knowing how to get out.

Now my life is definitely less structured. Sometimes I even feel a little bit lost. Wandering through each day at my own pace. Teaching yoga some days, writing on other days. Being content in the moment, yet wondering what the long term future will bring.

As I continue to explore my options, I have been working with a career counselor. She is an awesome woman named Suzanne. The first time she met me, after she heard my story, her advice was for me to take the summer off. I was literally the first job search client she ever had that she advised not to start looking for a job!

Now that summer has ended, I am starting to consider options for my future. Last week, I took a bunch of career assessments. I hoped the assessments would point me in a certain direction or set me on a path. Like somehow, after answering 80 questions about my overall personality traits, the computer would be able to tell me "Oh, you are one of these!" You should become a teacher. Or a nurse. Or an architect.

But after taking the assessments, I felt empty inside. As if my entire being had been distilled down into one of four colored boxes. Then I started to re-consider my answers to some of the questions. What if I had said that I make up my mind easily instead of saying I have trouble making decisions. Both statements are true of me, just at different times. What if my answers pushed the test too much in the direction of one aspect of my personality and not enough in the direction of another.

At the end of the assessment, there is a section where you can list different career options that you are considering and walk through the pro's and con's of each option. I chose three options:  Become a writer. Start my own business. Work for a non-profit.

I have definitely been leaning toward one of the first two options. But that same day, I got an e-mail telling me that there was a recruiter coming to town from Non-Profit Personnel Network. And he would be making a presentation at the career counselling office this week. It seemed like a sign from the universe to at least explore the third option on my list.

Yesterday, I went to the office for the presentation. I was teaching a yoga class at lunch, so I had to change at the studio and then hop in the car and drive about 30 minutes from Detroit to Southfield. The recommended attire was business casual. I had no intention of putting on nylons and a dress, so I opted for a pair of black leggings and a long striped sweater. I even put on one of my old work necklaces to make it look more professional. That is about as close to business attire as I want to come right now.

I arrived a little late, so he was already in the midst of his presentation. Instead of a powerpoint, he was writing on one of those big white post-it pads with a blue marker. Just as I was walking in, he started a fresh piece of paper and wrote a huge dollar sign at the top.

"So, my friends. If you want a successful career in the non-profit sector, you are going to need to follow the money," he explained. And then he drew a big circle around the dollar sign for emphasis. That is not quite what I was expecting to hear.

He had noticed me come into the room, so he paused and asked me to introduce myself before he went on. "So tell us your story. Have you worked in the non-profit sector before or are you currently working there?"

"Actually, right now I am a yoga teacher," I explained. "But I am interested in the non-profit sector and that is what brought me here. I worked in the corporate healthcare industry for many years, so I am looking to make a change from that."

He seemed disinterested in my reply. He picked up his blue marker and returned to his speech. Then he went on to highlight the three largest categories of non-profits, writing each category on the giant white paper as he spoke. They were: Hospitals and Healthcare, Higher Education and Human Services.

So in a nutshell, what I learned in the first five minutes of his presentation is that I just gave up a job in the fastest growing component of the non-profit sector. And I had already followed the money, which is what all of these people in the room were hoping to do. I suspected that any of them would have traded credentials with me in a heartbeat.

The presentation went on for about another hour, as he gave us advice about resumes, cover letters and all of the other things non-profit recruiters are looking for. He also told us to research 30-40 companies per week and go on at least two informational interviews a month, in addition to our regular job search interviews.

As I listened to him speak, I felt a wave of calm wash over me. I felt completely connected to myself and who I am as a person. It was almost as if I was floating overhead and looking down on the entire scene. And in that moment, I said to myself: I am not one of these. And I am not going to do any of the things he is talking about.

I have been curious about what it might be like to return to the corporate world, and whether I would even be able to fit in. And as I thought about aggressively researching 30-40 companies a week and seeking out informational interviews with strangers, I realized that there was one thing missing from his job search instruction manual. And the one thing that is missing is the one thing that I have come to rely on for guidance over these past few months. The Universe.

There was a part of me that wanted to raise my hand and ask him what role fate or destiny might play in the job search process. I wanted to ask the other job searchers in the room if desperately researching 30-40 random companies a week was really what they wanted. Did they believe in their hearts that it would lead them to a happier and more fulfilling life?

It seemed like the instructions he was giving them, while completely valid in the corporate world, didn't really fit in my world. Because I am not interested in forcing something into being. I am not interested in creating 15 different versions of my resume to mold myself into whatever these people want me to be.

I want to be my true and authentic self. And in doing so, I will be able to attract whatever it is that is supposed to come to me. It worked with Mark Johnson. And I think it will work with my job search too.

It's funny because when I first got the e-mail invitation to the event, I had this vision of myself walking into the room and charming the pants off this guy. When he asked me about myself, I could have confidently explained that I held a Director-level position in one of the largest non-profit health care organizations in the state.

I could have said all of the right things to have him begging for a copy of my resume to share with his non-profit clients. But when the time came to speak up, I had no desire to do so. I was ok with being just a yoga teacher. In fact, I think I prefer it that way.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Props to you.

Sounds like the presenter needs a new career. He has an out of date approach. He must be doing this too long and has gotten lazy researching the current economy. His "follow the $" is harder these days. An example in health care are the mergers/consolidations of hospitals like Beaumont/Botsford/Oakwood. If one is "following the $" these mergers are done to cut costs...resulting in less "$ to follow". Presenter needs an introduction to the current universe. Plus this idea of researching 30-40 companies a week - must be nationally because after a few weeks, you would run out of companies to research.