If there's anything I've learned about job searches in the past few weeks it's that looking for a job is strangely similar to dating. You walk into these companies hoping that you'll click, and even when that doesn't happen your feelings are still kind of hurt when they don't call. The only difference is that after a bad date you can still pay your car note.
Welcome to the wonderful world of #funemployment.
Although, it stopped being fun a few weeks ago when I realized I was about halfway through my unemployment benefits and the rejection letters started trickling in. The perks of being unemployed? There's way less laundry to do since most days you can find me in leggings and a sweater. I also have the luxury of being bra-free most days. And I've been spending way less money on lunch since I'm not stuck in an office in Center City Philadelphia all day.
But I must admit, some days I go a little stir crazy since taking on my almost two-year-old daughter full time. In between being unable to shake the Doc McStuffins theme song from my head, I have the daily tasks of keeping her from snacking on Crayola's Autumn Collection of colors or playing hide and seek with the dirty diaper she's snatched off and hidden.
Mondays are the hardest. I guess it's because after a weekend of feeling like you're just like everyone else catching a movie, shopping at the mall or having a lazy Sunday. Monday morning comes and quickly reminds you as the cars clear the block and your friends can no longer text you right back that you're unemployed and the only thing you're running late for is an episode of The Real.
Last Monday was particularly upsetting because I woke up to a rejection letter. (By the way, a suggestion to companies: Send rejection letters out on Fridays. I can't take shots of rum on Monday morning. I still have SOME dignity). It wasn't the first rejection letter but it definitely wasn't one I saw coming.
After writing Underpaid and Unappreciated: Why More Millennials Have Less Job Loyalty, a piece in which I vented about recently being laid off, I decided that I had come to a point in my career where I refused to settle for any position in which my passion and creativity couldn't be appreciated.
Still, I narrowed my job search to jobs that descriptions got me excited and that would challenge me, and no one could tell me that I didn't have this one particular position in the bag. I had more than enough experience in the field working with youth and after snagging the first interview I learned that I had collaborated with employees of the organization in the past on projects through my old job. I made it to the interview an ideal 15 mins. early and sailed through the interview with flying colors.
It all made perfect sense. In fact it was all a little too perfect...and predictable. As I sat in the parking lot afterwards I couldn't shake a dread in the pit of my stomach that the position was way too reminiscent of the job I just had...and hated. Although the work excited me I got the familiar vibe of the type of management I resented, right down to the weird resemblance of this company's CEO to the one at my former employer.
Still I figured I'd take the second interview. If I was offered the position, I'd at least be getting a steady paycheck until I got the job I really wanted. The second interview went well enough, but I still didn't feel like I was quite connecting with the culture of the company. I was reminded that job interviews are as much about you evaluating your level of comfort with the company as they are about the interviewer getting a feel for if you're a good fit for the position.
Once again I found myself doubting if my creative ideas and youthful personality would be a good match for the company. When I got that email stating they decided to go in a "different direction" I knew it was a sign saying that I needed to as well. That position was nothing but my old job with a new name. And it wasn't the growth or challenge that I was praying for no matter how qualified I was for it.
That doesn't mean I didn't take a day to cry like K-Ci and Jojo during a Sunday sermon that hits a little too close to home.
These past three months have been a roller-coaster of emotions that have made me question my self-worth, work ethic and educational path daily. One week I'm picking out interview clothes and the next week my biggest decision is whether to clean the bathroom or kitchen first. But before I found myself discounting my progress and breaking down, I was reminded of something Adrienne Bailon co-host on talk show The Real recently revealed on a segment called “What Shaped You?" :
“When you grow up and you have dreams and goals and you tell yourself you're gonna go for them, I went for my dreams and actually made it into a girl group called 3LW. I don't know if people remember 3LW. Loved that group…ummm…but at some point that started falling apart for us. And I remember having to go back home. I had like been on TRL and done things before and I was really proud of that success. But I remember when I thought it was over and I remember just feeling like, 'Well then I guess I'll just go home.' Right, like, but feeling a little embarrassed and like a failure. Like it had been a failure. But that moment in my life taught me so much. Going back home and even though other opportunities came years later, at that point you don't see that. You just think it's over. That like, this is it. This is the end of my career. I won't go anywhere else with it. And the crazy thing about learning to go home, is that I'm OK with going home."
Bailon went on to explain that as much as she appreciates the opportunities she's been blessed with, she learned her career wasn't everything and that there was a whole life outside her work as a musician that held just as much merit including the love of her family and friends. What hit home for me was how she emphasized that success often resembles a roller coaster more than it does a straight staircase:
“I've been poor. I've been rich. I've been poor again."
Rough patches have a tendency to make us think that out present day misery will somehow set the tone for our entire lives.
What I learned from Adrienne's experience was that I am so much more than my success just like I am more than my failures. A rejection letter is not a rejection of who I am as a person, but simply a career opportunity that wasn't the best fit for me. Don't get me wrong, rejection is never easy, but you can't allow one person's opinion or one experience to define your whole identity as a person.
Most importantly rejection teaches you that the thing you once thought was the worst thing in the world that you didn't think you'd ever get through…You'll live through it. More than that, you can thrive in spite of it. When I first got laid off, my imagination did the most. All I could picture was the mid-sized sedan I had worked so hard for to get on my own on a towing bed because I couldn't make the payments. I thought my credit score would plummet faster than the neckline on Jennifer Lopez's Grammy gown and everything I had worked so hard for was a waste.
Luckily, with the help of a good support system and six months of unemployment benefits, I've been spared for a little while. But even if those things were to happen, I'd still be OK. Because I am so much more than my credit score, a mid-sized sedan or a fancy title on a business card.
[Tweet "The hardest moments of your life will teach you about what you are made of"]
Although your hardest moments in life may seem more painful than anything, those are the times that will teach you about what you are made of more than anything else. I'm excited about whatever career opportunities may await in my future, but for now I'm appreciating the time I get to spend with my daughter, my husband and even my readers. I know that first job layoff may not even be my last, but the difference is that next time I know I'll get through it and those of us that are lucky enough can always go home, which I'm learning isn't the worst place to be.
See Adrienne Bailon reveal what shaped her below: