Looking Back on 2017: What I Learned on My Job Search and How I Plan to Rock 2018

2017…what a year. I can’t say I’m sorry to see it go! When my husband and I were both laid off over the summer, I had no idea how we were going to bounce back. Luckily, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. We both found new opportunities within a couple months, which I’m very thankful for. 2017 will go down as the year I took the biggest risk in my career yet, and I’m still not quite sure how it will turn out. I guess I’ll find out in 2018.

Here’s what I learned during the great job hunt of 2017:

  • When they say the pay is “competitive”, sometimes they mean it’s competitive on Mars.
  • I got comfortable with saying “no”. Sometimes it even resulted in a better offer.
  • I started asking the questions I used to be too afraid to ask, such as how do you handle conflict as a manager? Regardless of the response, I got the answers I needed to make the best decision possible.
  • Sometimes they ask for a unicorn, but they’ll settle for a pony.
  • It’s okay if they don’t like what they see in me—having to be someone I’m not at work is way too stressful.
  • Being a comedian is probably not in my future, but I still love to make people laugh.
  • I need to work on listening to my instincts. There were a few times I ignored them this year (because I wanted them to be wrong) and ended up having a negative experience. Denial has never gotten me what I wanted in life.
  • If an employer is treating me poorly during the hiring process or they make commitments they don’t keep, I can walk away.
  • Sometimes what seems like a dream job is far from it. And sometimes a “boring” sounding job can be so much more than expected. I can’t judge an opportunity too soon.
  • I need to work for a cause I believe in—that’s when my best stories come out of me.
  • My cover letter and resume can always be better—even when I think I’ve nailed it this time.
  • Some employers will give you feedback when you ask how you can better present yourself (whether it’s your resume, portfolio, or interview skills). I asked for the first time this year—and the answer was almost never what I expected.
  • When describing my accomplishments, I embraced the importance of data and statistics and dropped the pointless adjectives.
  • Being a woman in a male-dominated profession (video production, in my case) is still an uphill battle. But it’s not one I intend to give up.
  • Being a woman with ADHD is a challenge. It’s also a gift—my imagination has no bounds, people.
  • Rejection still sucks—it will always suck—but the faster I move on, the faster I get over it. There will always be other opportunities.
  • I found myself disappointed a lot this year. Maybe I need to re-adjust my expectations or maybe I need to fight harder for change. More than likely, it’s a little of both.
  • Taking two part-time opportunities with two very different organizations isn’t exactly conventional, but the conventional route hasn’t taken me where I want to go so far. So, why not?

As I said above, I’m taking the unconventional route, splitting my time between two very different organizations—a start up and a large non profit—and writing for the awesome folks at TalentWorks. But I plan to go into 2018 with an open mind. I’m excited about all the possibilities. What stories will I dream up? What will I learn about these new industries I’m in? How many new people will I get to know and work with this year?

So, how do I plan to rock 2018? 

  • I’m going to keep asking questions. Why are we doing things this way? Can we do it better or more efficiently?
  • Being an introvert, it can be hard for me to develop new working relationships. But in 2017 I learned just how important those working relationships can be. I plan to make an extra effort to get to know my colleagues this year.
  • I’m going to push back when I need to, even when it’s intimidating.
  • I’m going to make it a point to learn something new.
  • I need to practice better self-care and set boundaries. In particular, this means not checking work email or thinking about work issues when I’m off the clock and making exercise, wholesome meals, and proper sleep a priority. I’m more productive at work and at home when I have “me” time.
  • No matter how well things are going, I know I can lose my job tomorrow. It’s time for me to start taking “saving for a rainy day” seriously.
  • If I find myself needing to hunt for a job, I’m going to be more selective about the roles I apply for. Unless I need a survival job, I’d rather wait to find the right job than take a role that’s wrong for me.

What about you? What did you learn this year in your job search that you’ll apply in 2018?

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All I Want for Christmas Is My Dream Job

With one rough year coming to a close and a new year ahead, a seemingly blank canvas, I’ve been doing a lot of dreaming. A lot of assessing where I am, how I got here, and what I want for my future. But I’ll leave that assessment for my next post.

Right now I want to dream with a mug of hot cocoa next to me. Care to join me in a little self-indulgence?

Most of us have to work for a living—there’s no escaping that. And, let’s face it, there are a lot of crappy jobs out there. But what if you could hop on a computer and design your dream job? What would it look like? What would you be doing? Sometimes, when we allow ourselves to dream, no holds barred, we realize what we think we want and what we actually want are very different.

My “dream” job looks different this year than it did last year. I’d been managing creative departments for a few years, and I was hoping to finally land my coveted role—Creative Director. Things didn’t go as planned. And you know what? It changed me. In fact, it changed my entire outlook on what I thought I wanted.

So, what does my dream job look like now?

  • I’m be doing what I love most in life—inspiring and being inspired. I’m a storyteller at heart, but I’m a restless storyteller. It’s not enough for me to just type words on a page. I want to create entire visual experiences. My dream job would involve telling stories through design, video, music, and photography.
  • No more 60-hour weeks. I want work-life balance, even if it means a salary cut or taking a less glamorous job title. A title is just that—a title. Being able to experience life on my terms, with those I love most, is more important than anything else.
  • I’m working for an important cause—anything involving animal rescue is a big passion of mine. But I’m also passionate about helping and inspiring others with disabilities and promoting youth literacy. I want more kids to read and I want them to dream big. If I can help make that happen, I will.
  • I have time to keep writing books for kids and young adults. The letters I get from young adults who’ve been helped in some way by my books inspire me to keep growing and keep dreaming. There are so many stories inside of me left to tell.
  • The people I work with don’t have to be perfect. We all get grumpy. We all disagree—life would be boring if we agreed all the time. But I like my team to be passionate about what they do, creative, and open to new ideas and perspectives. I thrive best in open communication environments where we are free to speak our minds and share our best ideas. We can laugh at ourselves and we aren’t afraid to be goofy just for the hell of it. Where people say – what can we do to make this better instead of this is just how things are. Change is possible if you want it badly enough.
  • A guacamole bar would be nice. Just sayin’.
  • A flexible work environment that lets me work where I’m most productive. Sometimes that’s having a brainstorming session with my team (in person), sometimes it’s at home, and sometimes it’s on top of a mountain. As long as the work gets done and we’re successful, does it really matter?
  • A manager or leader who has faith in me and my strengths. They give me autonomy and creative freedom in my area of expertise until I give them a reason not to.
  • Hiking meetings. Who says we can’t have a meeting, enjoy nature, and get some great exercise at the same time? Talk about efficiency.
  • Lastly, I’d like to bring my beloved cat (and best coworker ever) to my place of work.

Your turn! Tell us what your dream job would look like?

 

 

 

 

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2 Interviews I Totally Biffed and What I Learned from Those Moments

We all have those interviews we look back on and think—if only. If only I’d taken ten minutes to review the company website. I might’ve said something better than “um” when they asked me what I knew about them. If only I didn’t forget my portfolio. If only I’d sold my skills more. We all make mistakes, just like we burp at the most inopportune times. But, in my book, mistakes make us more interesting. I grow a lot more as a human being when I make them.

Here are 2 of my not so glamorous interview moments and what I’ve learned from each experience.

Interview 1: When I showed up with my shirt inside out.

Yes, I actually showed up to an interview with my shirt inside out. Granted, it was one of those dress shirts, where the “inside” isn’t immediately distinguishable from the “outside”. I mean, it’s something you’d notice if you weren’t running fifteen minutes late and didn’t grab the first thing out of your hamper.

But I was running late, because… Okay, I didn’t have a good reason. I simply got distracted and lost track of time. So, I showed up at 8:59am (the interview was at 9), short of breath, because it was one of those maze-like office buildings and the suite was the last door I came to. You know, just like when you’re late for a plane, your gate is pretty much guaranteed to be at the end of the terminal. I discovered my shirt was on inside out, tag hanging out and all, right before the interviewer appeared to greet me.

Can you imagine how I came off when we shook hands? I watched their lips move, but all I could think was—oh my god. My shirt is on inside out. Have they noticed? Just how bad does this look? Should I ask to use the restroom or will that make everything worse? It’s probably rude to ask that now and make them wait. I was so inside my own head, I didn’t even realize the interviewer had asked me a question. Now they were looking at me expectantly.

Me: I’m sorry – what was that?

Interviewer (looks at me like I grew an extra head): Did you find us okay?

Me: Oh, yeah!

As you can imagine, the interview didn’t go as well as I’d hoped. I was so distracted by my shirt that my normally cool and confident demeanor was replaced by nervous rambling.

What did I learn from this experience?

The importance of preparation, for one thing. These days, I make sure to pick out my interview outfit the night before and have it ready to go. I also put every interview on my Google calendar and have notifications turned on (I set mine to remind me thirty minutes before I have to leave). That way, when I get caught up in a project for a client, the latest book I’m working on, or even just a text conversation with a friend, I get a reminder to stop whatever I’m doing and start preparing to leave. So, if you’re easily distracted or have ADHD like me, you may want to consider setting reminders for yourself, even if it seems tedious or unnecessary.

When I come to an interview prepared, my mind is clearer and I just feel more confident.

Interview 2: When I let myself get rattled.

Sometimes interviewers don’t ask you the questions you expect. They throw things out at you to see how you respond. It first happened to me early in my career. We were having a standard interview until…

Interviewer: How many gas stations do you think there are in the city of Seattle?

Me: Um… I don’t know?

Interviewer: Take a guess.

Me: A hundred?

Interviewer: (smirks) Do you know the population of Seattle?

Me: Six hundred thousand or so?

Interviewer: So, you think there are a hundred gas stations in a city of six hundred thousand?

Me: I…honestly don’t know.

Interviewer: Well, how did you come up with that answer?

Me: The fact that I can never find a gas station when I need one?

Interviewer: (laughs) No, seriously. How’d you come up with that?

Me: Uh… (mind goes blank)

In that moment, I felt foolish. My answer must have been completely off the mark—why else would the interviewer look so amused, I thought. I didn’t realize that it wasn’t about the answer—it was about my thought process. But I’d let myself get rattled to the point of being speechless. For the rest of the interview, all I could focus on was how that one answer had completely did me in. Not surprisingly, I didn’t get a call back for a second interview.

Look, I don’t agree with that particular style of interviewing, even though I can see its purpose. I think it’s demeaning and not a great predictor of future performance or how well the candidate will fit into the role. I feel the same way about assessments. Not everyone tests well or fits into a neat little box. But some companies (and hiring managers) believe in them, so we, as candidates, either need to deal with them or refuse to move forward with companies that require them. Unfortunately, the latter isn’t an option for a lot of us.

What did I learn from this experience?

I realized that any interview I go on can have a curveball (or five) thrown at me, and I needed to learn how to take the unexpected in stride. It’s not about how fast I can answer a question. If I need time to answer a question, I ask for it. The world isn’t going to end if I don’t have the right answer. Like in the above example, it’s not even always about having the correct answer. It’s about how you handle the situation. Staying calm and having confidence in myself has made a huge difference in how frequently I get called back for second interviews.

How do I stay confident? I remind myself of my strengths. I also do my research on the many types of questions employers can ask and prepare myself for them. For example, when I schedule an interview with a company, I look them up on Glassdoor. Sometimes, under the Interviews tab, there are quite a few “reviews” from other candidates about their interview experience with the company, including what questions the hiring manager asked. This can often give me a clue about what to expect.

I’m always going to make mistakes. Some interviews just aren’t going to go well, no matter how much I prepare or how much experience I have under my belt. Maybe I didn’t sleep well the night before or I don’t mesh at all with the interviewer. Beating myself up over it isn’t going to do me any good. The only thing I can do is get back up, have a good laugh at myself, and move on to the next opportunity. After all, I want to find the right one for me.

Now it’s your turn. What interviews have you totally biffed and what did you learn from the experience?

 

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10 Signs That Say–You Probably Don’t Want to Work Here

We’ve all been on interviews that don’t feel right. Maybe we can’t quite put our finger on it. Maybe the hiring manager had glowing red eyes, but your rent is overdue and you stuck it out. No job is perfect. So, how do you know if you should proceed with caution or run away screaming?

Well, only you can decide what you’re willing to put up with—we all have different boundaries. But there are signs that should make you think long and hard before taking that job. In fact, you may be better off having the manager with the glowing red eyes.

1. They only give you one day and time to interview. If you can’t make it, too bad.

I’ve had employers call and invite me for an interview that day. Well, “invite” is too polite of a word. It was more like—here’s when we can meet with you. Take it or leave it. If an employer refuses to work with you to find a good interview time, especially if you’re currently employed, that may be the first of many unreasonable demands. Do they want to interview you or are they just going down a list? In my experience, employers who were truly excited about talking to me asked when I was available and did their best to find a time that worked for both of us.

2. Your potential hiring manager and/or coworkers are rude or seem indifferent to you.

I once had an “interview” where the hiring manager looked me up and down (from head to toe), gave me a terse greeting, and then sat me in front of a computer and told me to take a test. Only the directions were contradictory and confusing. When I asked for clarification, the hiring manager snapped at me. I walked out and didn’t look back.

If they’re looking at their phone while you’re talking, being demeaning, asking inappropriate personal questions, or making you feel uncomfortable, don’t be afraid to say—see ya! As candidates, we’re expected to bring our A-game to every interview. Why should it be any different for an employer wanting to attract the best candidates?

3. They keep mentioning how many other candidates they have over and over…

We get it. A gazillion other people applied for this job, and you have your pick. Yay you! If a hiring manager sifts through a stack of resumes in front of you, mentions how many interviews they have today, tomorrow, and next week, and generally can’t stop talking about how many GRRREAT candidates they have, you have to question the motivation behind it. It’s not like we don’t know we are competing against other candidates. I don’t know anyone who has gone into an interview thinking—I must be the only one they’re talking to. I’m just THAT fabulous.

So, why would any good employer need to constantly remind you how many options they have? If they’re a great place to work, it’s generally assumed they get a lot of applicants.

4. They put down other candidates or former employees

I’ve heard it all in interviews. We got 200 applicants, but half their resumes went in the trash. Another candidate did this or said that. One time a hiring manager even said—the person who used to be in this role could be a total b***! But you seem chill.

This is just straight up unprofessional behavior. And you know what they say. If they’re doing it to others….

5. They try to sell you on the benefits of working in a closet…with the copier and 4 other people.

Ah, lack of space in the office. That’s right up there with IT being overwhelmed and really bad coffee. Does playing musical cubicles sound familiar? It’s common to feel the squeeze, especially if you’re working with start-ups or smaller businesses.

But this is also a place where we have to spend 8-10 hours of our day…5 days a week. It matters. We can’t all expect the corner office with an ocean view, but you should have a space that is comfortable, sanitary, and your own. It should be a space you can be productive in, even if it’s not ideal. If they can’t provide you with that, ask if you can work remotely. If they say no, well…how badly do you want the job?

 6. Everyone acts like they’re stuck at a timeshare presentation.

An interview is a great time to scope out the culture and environment. You can actually tell a lot about a place in a short amount of time, if you’re paying attention. Are people talking to each other and laughing or are they all at their desks staring at their computers with zombie eyes? Do they look at your hiring manager in fear? Do they smile at you or stare at you with suspicion?

One question I always ask is—what do you love about working here? If they fumble with the answer or the best thing they can come up with is “I like the challenge of getting a lot done with little to no resources”, I know I’m probably looking at a not so great environment. You can tell when people love where they work. Their passion and energy is infectious and obvious.

7. They leave you waiting for fifteen minutes or more, and they don’t apologize.

Shit happens. Sometimes your dog eats your thumb drive, which has the only copy of the presentation you need to give in an hour. Sometimes your client’s website has crashed, and it’s all your fault. You knew you shouldn’t have installed that plugin.

But a candidate’s time is valuable too. We have places to be—like back at our current jobs. If a hiring manager leaves you waiting and doesn’t apologize or acknowledge the wait, don’t ignore that behavior. It might not be deal breaker the first time, but it’s concerning if it happens more than once.

8. They have bad reviews that point out the same issues. 

Isn’t it great that employers and toasters have reviews these days? Pay a visit to Glassdoor, Indeed, or other employer review sites before going on your interview. If you see multiple bad reviews that all point out similar or the same issues, take heed and ask questions that hit on some of those issues. For example, if people are complaining about micromanagement, ask the hiring manager what their management style is like or how projects get approved. If you don’t like their answers, that makes your decision pretty easy!

9. This role has been restructured.

I hate it when this happens. You think you’re interviewing for your dream job, and they sheepishly giggle and say – well, the role has shifted. You’ll actually be doing (something not even close to the original job). At best, they didn’t think the role through well enough. At worst, they have no clue who they need or what direction they want to go in next. Either way, they’ve wasted your time and that’s really not cool.

10. They pressure you into accepting the job offer immediately.

If an employer doesn’t want to give you time to think an offer over, which is in their best interest as well, consider that a huge red flag. Asking for a couple days is perfectly reasonable, especially if you have other offers to consider. You have to do what’s best for you, and if an employer doesn’t understand that, is that really someone you want to work for?

Remember: Interviews are a two-way street. They should be selling you on the job and company as much as you’re selling them on your skills. Listen to your gut, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

 

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