Last week, I lost my part-time job. It was actually a contract job at a local university, on a project that I built from scratch and developed for over a year, with excellent results.
This summer, they decided to turn it into an office position. Naturally, I applied. Naturally, I thought I would AT LEAST get an interview. Naturally, I forgot about unions, incompetent HR people and lazy department heads. They hired an internal candidate who is largely unqualified, because the job ad was misleading in the first place-a mainly technical position presented as creative work. I didn’t even get the courtesy of an interview, even though I was the current occupant of the job. I wouldn’t get so worked up over it, but I really loved that job and I put many volunteer hours in it.
Now they’re asking me to help with the “transition”, “for a while” (read: hired candidate has no idea how to do this job), and I invoice the crap out of them. There’s still some money to be made from this over the next few weeks, so I guess things could be worse.
Just a short summary of the current situation. Whining is not the point of this entry, and, I like to think, not the point of this blog, at all. What I want to talk about is the inferno of job searching, because I’m curious to see if other people feel the same as I do.
I’m good at making resumes and job applications. For other people. A few months ago, I helped a friend re-vamp her resume, and she got 11 calls back in one month, almost half the positions she had applied for. I felt proud and happy that I could help her, because I knew she was a smart girl and an excellent worker (we used to work together), but her old resume wasn’t making her qualities shine at all.
I found it very easy to bring her assets to light; the information flowed, her tasks and great results aligned themselves perfectly, and I had fun rephrasing the descriptions to make them sound important and professional.
Now. When I have to do my own resume and cover letters, it’s a whoooooole other thing! The breezy tune changes to a depressing whimper, and the application process makes me physically ill. Really, it makes me dizzy and nauseous, it’s embarrassing!
I look at the job ad, and the thoughts that come to my mind are something like: “I can’t do this”, “I can’t believe I’ve ever managed to get any job”, “I will work minimum wage gigs for the rest of my life”, “I’m stupid”, “Why did I ever come to Canada?”, “I should have married Guy X with lots of money”, “I should really start playing the lottery”. Even if I meet many of the job requirements, and I know that I work hard and learn fast, I still feel like I’m not good enough for anything above mopping floors and cleaning toilets.
On top of that, I’m scared that my weight will affect my chances, even if I do get a call back and make it to the interview. I’m currently a size 18, which should be irrelevant for the type of jobs I’m good at (sitting on my ass in front of a monitor), not to mention that I can have a pretty vivacious and energetic presence when I want to. Statistics say that my fears are not at all unfounded and that being overweight can indeed affect one’s professional chances. I am dieting and trying to lose weight, but I have decided that fear will NOT be a reason for it, no fucking way. So, until I reach my desired state of health, I just need to get over my complexes and make the best of what I’ve got. Because I need a job next month, when rent is due, not when my thighs stop touching.
I’ve heard and read about the impostor syndrome that makes people (predominantly women) feel inadequate about their job success and unable to enjoy their achievements because they feel like frauds, despite significant evidence to the contrary. Psychologists talk about the emotional damage inflicted by this syndrome, and I can believe that it’s a constant source of stress. Still, I think that, even without suffering from the impostor syndrome, enjoying success calls for a fine balance between rightfully patting yourself on the back, giving credit to the people who’ve helped you, and acknowledging your privileges (race, gender, class, looks, etc).
However, this syndrome is mentioned in relation to people who are already successful. But what happens when you suffer from it a priori, or when you find yourself in a low point, despite having had success in the past? The insecurity can be paralyzing and it can ruin your chances to get ahead. You feel like all your previous achievements were a fraud, or dumb luck, and like you’ll never be successful again, because you just don’t have what it takes. And that feeling keeps you from applying to jobs that could be a good fit, or makes you send only half-assed applications, because you’re sure you won’t get a call back anyway. Is it just me? Please, tell me it’s not just me!
The things is, I believe in myself, in theory, so it’s not like I revel in putting myself down. I think I have some good assets to offer, and I’ve done a few interesting things so far. It’s only when I’m confronted with the actual job ads that I get wimpy and paranoid.
It must be nice living the reverse of this syndrome though, the Dunning-Kruger effect. I heard that there are people who will apply to a job if they meet even as little as 20% of the requirements. Maybe they are very confident, or just playing numbers, who knows. Others get discouraged if their skills are not at least an 80% match. A friend once told me that, as long as he gets to the interview, he can convince any employer that he can do the job, even if he’s not qualified for it. I really envy his moxie.
I gave this a lot of thought, because, while I believe that acknowledging our fears and insecurities is healthy, in the end, we have to pull ourselves together and find ways to work around our issues. I came up with a job search system that works for me, and maybe it can help others, too. By “works” I mean it helps me send decent applications and approach job ads without feeling like I want to throw up. Otherwise, I’ve just started my search, so we’ll have to wait and see if it actually works.
In a next article, I will detail my job search system. No claims as to its originality – it’s very simple, so I’m sure others have thought of it before.
How do you feel when you have to search for a new job? Do you get that stomach-churning feeling too? Do you feel like you’re unfit to do anything remotely exciting because you’re just not good enough? Please share!