My Job Hunt…an adventure in humility and patience

I am currently looking for a new job – something not for the faint of heart. I intend to find a nonprofit executive leadership position – a special job what will be the awesome “capstone” position of my nonprofit, service-oriented career. A place to work that capitalizes on my “skills, experience and entrepreneurial spirit,” as my resume says. A place where I can make a Can Do kind of difference.

NOTE I have edited this blog post because, as life tends to happen, the situation changed a bit within 24 hours of hitting “publish.” The feedback I have received from several sources has been extremely eye-opening and reflected in the changes I have made.

The process entails constantly being  “be out there” in a way that invites people to judge shutterstock_2224385me, not just for my experience and qualifications, but against a very competitive field of other applicants, some of whom are just as qualified as I am. I have started to refocus and think through new ways I can distinguish myself my competition for any given position. It is a two-edged sword.

I keep being reminded that I am no spring chicken. Rather, I say “I am a seasoned nonprofit professional,” which means I have extensive experience, perspective and depth – and gray hair! Many employers want someone younger and probably cheaper, but with all of those other qualities, too. I am tempted to put a P.S. at the bottom of my cover letters that says “remember, you get what you pay for!”  But, I don’t.

Because I have been very public about having had some significant health issues, my guess is that some employers get into the “what if’s” and say, “she could get sick again.” So, perhaps I could add a P.P.S. on the cover letter that reads: “So could any of the people that you hire. Part of what I have learned it to value my health and I take better care of myself better than the vast majority of the world.”  Alas, again, I don’t.

shutterstock_117069988 (1)Then, there is the silence…oh, the silence. I actually have a category on my job search spreadsheet labeled Radio Silence.  When I write a (brilliant!) cover letter and submit my resume for positions and it never even gets an email acknowledgement of the application, let alone an invitation to the dance. Hey, they could at least use “auto-reply”!  Some postings so say that only those deemed worthy will be contacted, but still…

The gatekeepers for many of the senior positions in the nonprofit sector are the executive career consultants and head hunters. They can be very supportive and helpful – or not!  One was very gracious and thoughtful in her recent note that dismissed me from the search after the first round. Another was very generous in her feedback on why “one got away!” and gave me great input on what needs tweaking on my resume.

On the other side of the coin, one “candidate advocate” at a professional search firm emailed me to say I had been moved forward in an interview process (I was ecstatic!) before her boss decided that I was not being moved forward. But no one told me until I texted the boss 10 days later saying “I am confused.” No apologies, just a very defensive response that I had not been moved forward, and how there are many moving pieces in the organic process of making “these high level hires.” (I was the opposite of ecstatic.)

One of my challenges is to remember that while it feels this way, my job hunt not just about me! Even though the feedback from that head hunter was not delivered in a very professional way, it taught me a valuable lesson that keeps getting reinforced the more conversations I have. The job search process is competitive, involves many moving parts, and each person involved brings his or her own perception of need and qualifications to the table. Each application gives me a new opportunity to put my best foot forward.  How cool is that?

CCoridan writing 2The adventure continues…

Now, I need to get back to writing that “cover letter that will change my life…”  It is what I Can Do!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another chapter begins…

I am finally beginning to feel it.  It’s a subtle shift inside.  On the outside not much changes for me, but everything is different.

My husband Ned, whose job was eliminated on November 1, begins a new chapter in his work life on Monday. And I, happily, cease being the sole wage earner in the family.

cover.finalThere were some changes – not so much in “what I did,” but “how I did” – that I deliberately made when we knew that Ned was going to be out of work.  We learned of his job loss two weeks after I published The Can Do Chronicles, and I was just coming to terms with being an author, and seriously thinking and planning and trying to figure out what I wanted to do with the whole Can Do “thing.”

I quickly put that planning on hold to pay full attention to my grant writing and development consulting work.  My Can Do decision was to “pull myself in” and keep an intense focus on my work and on my health. I was afraid of getting sick, very afraid as colleagues, friends and neighbors coughed and blew their noses all through the holidays. Because I am a contractor, I only get paid when I am working. Getting sick was just NOT an option!  Neither was allowing the little black cloud of depression to creep back in.  So, when I had breaks from my work, I gave myself permission to relax (well, sort of!) and watch HGTV, movies and TED Talks rather than write blogs and begin making the revisions to the book and calling publishers. (I CAN DO those things now – and I will!)

Last night on my plane ride home from Dallas, I reflected for a bit about how different it feels to be in a position to do what I want to do rather than what I need to do, even when they might be the very same thing.  The journey of last few months felt like I was shutterstock_113245282driving when I was very tired or when it was raining REALLY hard – actually like driving when I was tired and it was raining hard.  Focus is paramount and the amount of effort and attention needed and stress levels increase as each mile passes, with little relief about any progress made. The only question that kept going through my head is the one we all asked incessantly as children, “are we there yet?”

In the coming weeks, I have several major projects due for both of my clients, so my workload will not change.  But my approach to it will.  While it won’t be like a drive in the country on a bright summer day with the top down, I will be more relaxed at the wheel, able to listen to the music, take in some of the scenery, and think about where I am and where I want to go.

McKA final note.  While this “ride” was a tough one for me, it was tougher on Ned.  He was the one who lost his job, the one looking for work and being disappointed when he heard “sorry, not you,” or sometimes heard nothing at all after extensive interviews.  His new job as Director of Development at the Father McKenna Center in downtown DC is a phenomenal opportunity that brings him full circle in many ways, combining his strong fundraising skills with his ministry background in service to those most in need.  Congratulations, dude!

During the 90 days of job search (him) and job intensive (me), our Can Do held together – and held us together.  We took very good care of each other in getting to this new chapter though the miles and miles of rain and fatigue. This journey has shown me once again that Gratitude + Hope are a powerful, strong and enduring combination.

The Can Do Chronicles Continue….stay tuned!

2013 – A Year In Between

2013

What a year it has been!

It started with great hope and anticipation as I completed my chemo on January 5th.  I was totally unprepared for how lousy I felt all of January and February… it was the cumulative effects of six months of chemo, but it flattened my fantasy of chemo’s end and new life’s beginning.  You know what they say about assumptions…

All frustration faded in early March when Ned and I went on an awesome, wonderful 10 day cruise in the Caribbean.  With earbuds channeling my favorite tunes, I walked around and around the deck soaking the healing light of the sun’s rays into my blood.  Josh Groban, Susan Boyle, Peter Paul and Mary, Mozart, Beethoven, Simon and Garfunkel, Billy Joel, Andrea Bocelli, Mary Chapin Carpenter serenaded my blood and my brain back to health. The scenery was breathtaking – the Caribbean’Vacation 2013 066???????????????????????????????s forty shades of blue easily match Ireland’s forty shades of green.  I took hundreds of pictures on St. Kitts, St. Maarten, Antigua and Tortola – not so much in Martinique, with the beautiful name and so-so scenery.  I had read an article about the healing powers of swimming in salt water, so we went to two beaches so I could swim and bob about in the clear blue water.  We met and made new friends from California and Scotland.  It gets the rating of BEST CRUISE EVER!

Reality returned quickly – the furnace died and so did my work computer… followed by a leak in the water line.  Net: over $12K in under 90 days.  So much for getting ahead! SIGH!

By late April I was feeling great and began to look for full time work.  “Writing grants” is great, and I am very good at it.  But, now that I was feeling good, I was getting a little bit bored.  Working alone from home, while a comfort when I felt lousy, was making me stir-crazy.  I collage1spent some time pulling my thoughts about what was most important to me in my work and life, and developed an advocacy focus and business blog, but it was still not ticking all of my boxes. I applied for several senior development and CEO positions; a couple of them had interesting back stories, too! Most were for nonprofits with strong child-focused missions; one was not! Then I realized, I enjoy my contractor/consultant role and am fortunate and grateful create my own business – and it has the potential to grow and change with time.  I don’t have to stay at home and be bored – that is a state of mind that is easily changed as I make plans to get out and meet new people and research what I want my business to become. As I write this, the challenges and stresses of the work-a-day fade, and I realize how blessed I am to have good clients, interesting work and a whole world of opportunity ahead of me. I pause to let it sink in – and smile!

Through the summer and fall I wrote and edited, and re-edited!, and then finally published The cover.finalCan Do Chronicles, my little e-book that narrates the journey of the last four years.  The launch on October 4th was a frenzy of making sure the book got loaded correctly and on time onto the amazon.com site, marketing e-mails to friends and colleagues and just about everyone I had ever met, constant updating of the book’s very own Facebook page, and writing for the Can Do Blog, the book’s very own blog!  I had an awesome radio interview in the WOO (Worcester, MA) on Sunday the 20th, and pages of ideas for marketing. I started to believe I really was an author!

As a bizarre twist in a parallel universe to the story I tell in the book, on October 21st, Ned called to tell me that his job had been eliminated.  Fortunately, this time I am healthy and working full time, so we are not staring over the cliff into the black abyss like we were on June 18, 2010 when he called with similar news.  But, it has been a frustrating and challenging way to end the year. My attention immediately shifted from spending 6-10 hours a week marketing the book and developing the Can Do side of my business and life, to totally focusing on managing my stress level, getting my work done and staying healthy. As a contractor, I have no “paid time off,” and, while I am healthy again, I literally cannot afford a cold or the flu.  Ned’s attention is fully focused on getting a new job… his qualifications are fabulous, but his age is a challenge in the current job market.

Both of us continue to count our blessings.  Can Do remains at our core.  We discovered (again!) that Can Do is not always shiny and bright.  Sometimes, Can Do is about keeping on keeping on, even when you want to be doing ANYTHING else but what you are doing – for me, writing one more grant proposal instead of taking a day off; for Ned, not working!  I smiling-hearthave not written as many blogs as I had hoped, nor have I updated the book in preparation for hard copy publication.  I.have.not.had.the.energy.  But it is okay!  Every single day, I have done the best I could with what I have.  And, I have kept my smile – well, most of the time!

While frustrated in some minutes (or hours – or days!), we are not discouraged!  We thank God we have each other and our friends and family that are so close and caring on this interesting journey of life. Our life is simpler – when the debit card says stop, we do! Our Christmas gifts were modest. Our celebrations now center on spaghetti or chicken at our dining room table or at a friend’s table – not routine dinners out at nice restaurants.  And, going to a nice restaurant is a bigger treat and more appreciated!  As the t-shirts say: Life is Good!

images (6)When I woke up this morning, I knew I was ready to do some of “my writing” again as a way to reflect and renew and prepare for the days ahead.  I close 2013 with both a smile and a song in my heart. I am ready for 2014 and its journey of joys and challenges and new vistas.

God Bless Us Everyone!

Over the Shock and Hard at Work!

It has been almost two weeks since my husband, Ned, was told his job was eliminated. That first week was a rough one… worse for him than for me, but still, no fun for me at all. I was frustrated and unsettled for a whole host of reasons: after several years of financial uncertainty, I had started to make plans – for a vacation with friends next fall, to pay off some bills and purchase a new chair for my office. I was working hard on the next round of marketing for The Can Do Chronicles, and seriously considering publishing it in hard copy. But first I Poofwanted to take a few days off because I had been working so many hours for weeks, between projects for my clients and the launch of the book!  POOF – all of those things disappeared in an instant!  Mostly, I just felt so badly for Ned that this had happened to him AGAIN. That he was not treated fairly or well when he had been so loyal to his employer. And, that his reality for the next months will be the ups and downs of looking for a job. YUCK!

At the end of last week, I was feeling more than a little depressed – those pesky black clouds started crowding in, and I could not blow them away. I know that “living the CAN DO life” does not make it a walk in the park to get through life’s crises, but it does give me tools. So, on Sunday afternoon I intentionally asked the first CAN DO Question: What Can I Do? I made lists of things I want to get done before Christmas, cleaned my office, went to the Home Goods store opening in my area and entered to win a $1,000 shopping spree (which, sadly, I did not win!), called some friends and got out of my own way.

And, I am happy to report the CAN DO strategy worked. I got past feeling shaky and blue, and I feel solid and whole again. With a clearer head, I was able to figure out my plan for what I CAN DO to support Ned and myself through the next few months. The first and Aerobicsmost important, with only my income, I need to stay in great mental and physical shape so that I can do my work well, without feeling pushed, anxious or pressured. I remind myself that I only started working full time again in July and I need to be careful not to get run down and/or sick. So, I will keep going to aerobics two or three times a week – it feels so good (when I stop!) and I know how much stronger I am since I started in July.

And, I will have to put some of the plans for marketing The Can Do Chronicles on hold -not an easy decision to be sure.  I will continue write in this blog at least twice a week and have a couple of holiday shopping specials that I will advertise on Facebook and Linked In, but I will not be able to invest the energy to write the magazine article and guest blog posts or push for media attention that was in the plan, and the hard copy of the book will be delayed. I will do those things next year – and, anyway, look how much more “CAN DO” experience I am getting in the meantime.