Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Temp Jobs, Car-sickness, Teenagers, and Paradigm Shifts

While looking for a job I have been lucky to have friends in high enough places that I've been able to do some temp work. One such job was working as a receptionist for a few hours a day at an engineering firm. Most of the employees would pass by the reception desk one or more times a day and I would say hi and do my best to learn their names. There was one man that whenever I greeted him would merely look at me and give me the head nod. You know the one. The cool kids in junior high and high school always excelled at it. It's a slightly tilted small head jerk accompanied by an eyebrow raise that said, "I acknowledge your existence....you are excused." I could never get this man to crack a smile, until one day he said to me, "So are you a temp, or a new employee?" I explained that I was a temp, and was looking for a job. He asked me if my background was in reception work (I'm sorry, every time I think of that I giggle...no offense to those who "receive.") Anyway, I gave him a very brief work history and told him which fields I was pursuing. He asked if I had a college degree and was visibly shocked to learn I had two. It was clear that he thought my capabilities were limited to answering the phone and attempting to transfer calls without hanging up on anyone. After this brief conversation he became very friendly and would give me more than a head nod when I said hello. Of course, it could all be in my head, he may have just been shy, or too preoccupied to have noticed me before this - but it didn't feel like that, which made me think of Pioneer Trek. (Go with me...it will all make sense.)

This past summer I had the opportunity to go with the youth from our church on a pioneer trek. The very large group was divided into families and I was fortunate enough to be an Aunt in one such family. (Lisa - you'll be happy to hear they all called me Auntie "M.") One evening, after a particularly long 10 mile day, I was telling the kids some amusing stories from my teenage years. One story, which may be more disgusting than amusing, led to an interesting discussion. First, the story. When I was 16 or 17, the wards (parishes) around Eugene decided to plan a day trip to the coast for all of the 16 - 18 year old youth. I was one of the people on the planning committee, which meant that after our last activity, a dance at a church building along the coast, I had to clean up. By the time I was done all of the people I knew had left and the only car left was a van full of guys from another ward and their leader. They were kind enough to give me a ride home. Sitting behind me was a guy who was feeling very talkative. He was nice, but I was exhausted and really just wanted to sleep. In addition, I had a brutal head and neck ache and kept trying to loosen up the muscles in my neck in the hopes that the pain would go away. He noticed me rubbing me neck and offered to give me a shoulder rub. "Oh, that's okay. I'm fine. Thanks, though." I responded. He, however, would not take no for an answer and the next thing I knew, this stranger starts rubbing my neck and shoulders. This was very awkward for me. How do I nicely get this guy to stop rubbing my shoulders? While trying to come up with a nice way out of the situation, the boy burped and then threw up in my hair and down my neck. Keep in mind that this was the 80s. I had long, huge, naturally curly hair that was particularly adept at catching all of his vomit. It was disgusting...to say the least. We pulled over to the side of the road. We had some paper towels, but no water and I ended up riding the last 45 minutes reeking like you wouldn't believe. We were all on the verge of being sick from the smell. As we finally pulled up to my house and I was scrambling out of the van, the boy said, "I don't suppose I could have your number?" I thought, are you kidding me?! You threw up in my hair! "Um, no." was all I said. Now, here is where the kids I was telling the story to shocked me. The girls were all moaning over how awful it would be to try and wash throw up out of your hair (6 washings - the last with tomato sauce), when 2 of the boys said, "That poor guy! He probably lost all confidence to ask any other girls for their phone number." In the many years since the incident, I never once thought of how mortified he must have been. The kids and I ended up having a great chat about seeing both sides of a situation. Which led me to ponder teenagers....

I get to work with the youth in our ward and absolutely LOVE it. I have done this many times over my adult life, since I seem to lack the maturity to be with the other grown ups. In my years of working with the young women I have noticed a common theme.  Almost all of them go through difficult times where they feel alone, different, misunderstood, and forgotten. They can't imagine that anyone else feels like they do since the other girls all appear to have loads of friends, amazingly together families, and can handle life in general. The irony, of course, is that most (maybe all) of the girls feel the same way inside. I wish there were some way to have an open dialogue so they would realize they are not alone, and that even the most seemingly together girl has moments (or more) of insecurity, doubt, and confusion. I know they would be shocked to learn the number of people who are having the same thoughts and worries they plague themselves with every day - and some of them are adults.

So, maybe I was a little hard on the man I mentioned in my last post...the one who interviewed me for position of wife. While not for me, he clearly was nervous and lost common sense for a few hours one afternoon, something I do on an almost daily basis. Just for a minute today attempt your own paradigm shift. If someone has wronged you, consider what could lead them to act that way....even if you have to wash your hair 6 times.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Triple Threat Girl

Watch out world, triple threat girl is on the loose! Over 40, divorced AND unemployed? It's shocking there isn't a line of suitors at my doorstep. Since the last several years seem to be an experiment in better living through rejection, I thought I would fill you in on the joys that can be found in looking for a job.

Thus far, according to my collection of nicely worded rejection emails, the employed world is evenly split - I am both over and under-qualified for most job openings along the Wasatch front. Somewhere in the vast corporate universe is a small gray cubicle with a tiny little desk that I will actually be QUALIFIED to sit at...I just haven't found it yet. (I don't know why it would be small, tiny and little. I now have this vision of myself attempting to sit at preschool sized furniture while sorting through stacks of paperwork and looking terribly important.)

Searching for a job is actually very similar to online dating. For about 5 months this spring I jumped back in to the pit of hope and despair, otherwise known as match.com. (And LDSplanet - because it's important to have several sources for both hope and despair.) Like a cover letter and resume, you do your best to catch the attention of someone you find attractive...both on screen and in person. It's like screaming "Pick me! Pick me!" in times new roman font. How do you adequately explain how fantastic they are supposed to think you are, all while doing your best to sound humble and approachable? It's a difficult task and one that I hope you get to avoid.

In writing your cover letter, the goal is to be unique enough to stand out amongst the hundreds of other applicants, without coming off as irreverent or dull, overly meticulous or unprofessional. For one cover letter I actually composed a top ten list of why they should hire me. I received a lovely rejection -  they weren't interested, but they thoroughly enjoyed the letter. Not exactly the result I was hoping for. I always feel that if I could just speak to them in person they would actually be interested in what I have to offer as an employee.  I'm almost ready to show up at their office and wait to be seen - even though the ads always state to apply online. Now, if an online suitor just showed up at your doorstep, unannounced, I believe the words creepy, stalker, and police would come to mind. In this area searching for a job has the potential to be different. You could be considered to be a go-getter, confident....or a creepy stalker...please call the police.

Maybe I should add photos to my resume. When I operated a business I received many unique cover letters and resumes. One of the more unusual included two 8x10 glossies of his "guns." I don't mean weapons....I mean his arms - fully flexed and rippled. There was also a photo of him in his speedo, greased-up and spray-tanned for a body building competition. Clearly he didn't understand what we did at The Little Gym - but even to this day I remember him! (Although not in the way he hoped.)
There are many men online that would like a series of full body shots, with the woman sporting a bikini, surgical enhancements, and a tan. I do not have the confidence, nor the "assets" to pull off such a display. Quite frankly, it took all of my courage to simply get back "out there."

Now if you are lucky enough to have a profile that sparks someone's interest you may get an email. This is your foot in the door for a potential friendship - or more. This begins a series of email correspondence that you can conveniently tweak to fit your own agenda. What I mean is, you have no idea the tone of voice, or intention behind what they write - and so you inadvertently create who you want them to be. Some men come across incredibly well in written form - but in person....it's a completely different experience. For example, one gentleman that I exchanged emails and texts with finally wanted to meet. I am confident in most arenas - but dating is NOT one of them. I was very nervous driving to our meeting point. It turns out he was, too.

I sat down at the table where he was waiting and watched him fiddling nervously with the buttons on his shirt. (I truly believe it was a nerve issue - I don't think he was ready to disrobe.) This actually helped me feel more at ease, knowing that he was also nervous. One thing I can do, is get people to relax and start talking...which is exactly what I did. (If you are the interview-ER, for a job - this is very helpful...you wouldn't believe what interviewees ended up telling me!) It was like opening the floodgates. He talked without stopping once for 45 minutes. I didn't even have a chance to interject an "uh-huh or "really?" or "tell me more." At the end of the 45 minutes, he took a long drink and then began the interview portion of the date. "Are you a good cook? I need someone who can cook. I travel a lot and I like a home cooked meal when I'm in town. How about cleaning? I was in the military and I need a really tidy house. It doesn't have to be perfect. I mean, do you leave your clothes on the floor? My last wife left so many clothes on the floor you had to carve a path to the bed."

I never had to answer because he never gave me the chance. Apparently his Diet Coke was extra caffeinated and he couldn't slow down the verbal onslaught I was enjoying. When I told my cousin about this date she said, "Why didn't you leave?" I didn't leave because it was fascinating. It was like watching a train wreck. There's nothing you can do to stop it - and you just can't get yourself to look away. I also discovered, while sitting there with my chin in my hand, what felt like a small whisker. (This confession alone may prevent me from ever dating again.) I became obsessed with wondering if this whisker could be seen...would I get more...was it black...am I turning into a haggard old woman? It kept me entertained while he went on and on about his two, (I didn't know there were two) yes, two ex-wives. At the end of the date he told me how great it was getting to know me. Keep in mind, I had hardly uttered more than a few sentences, so unless he gleaned something from my newly discovered whisker, I'm not sure he knew me any better than before we met. I got in the car, checked out the whisker - it was blonde - whew! Still disturbing, but whew - and drove away. Three minutes after pulling out of the parking lot he called me...just to let me know how fun it was and that he swore he wouldn't stalk me.

I would only be so lucky to have a job interview along these lines. Just imagine if I could get them talking so much that they decided I was fabulously suited for the job and made me an offer then and there. In the mean time, I will continue to enjoy the variety of ways people can turn me down and pray for the day someone is brave enough to see my skills in action. Maybe it will give me just enough confidence to attempt dating again.

P.S. I have also met many nice and normal men....but who wants to hear about that? ;)