Digging Deep

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I’m a pretty decent person to take along during a crisis.  There are many scenarios when I am less confident in my skills, but crisis management isn’t my weakness.  I adore that moment when time expands and my focus narrows to only one thing — managing through the event and minimizing the wreckage.

Perhaps I enjoy the feeling of single mindedness when emergencies strike — all competing priorities fall by the wayside.  My focus improves, and the tiny voices in my head join together to solve the problem.

Perhaps I am an adrenaline addict.  I’ve certainly made peace with the idea that I’m an endorphin addict, which is a close association with adrenaline’s cousin.  I’ve encountered countless near-disasters while cycling, and I suspect rolling on the razor’s edge of harm is one reason for my cycling fascination.

Perhaps it’d that my native decisiveness and opinionated nature are usually assets when in crisis.  I enjoy digging deeper, thinking faster, making quick decisions while not being paralyzed by the situation.  In a crisis, I have permission to be authoritarian.

I’ve developed a new habit of staging an internally-focused crisis situation, to bring about that focus, adrenaline, and authoritarianism into my daily life.  It’s certainly made my days more interesting  and fast-paced.  It keeps me from being unfocused, or from feeling shiftless.

Recently, digging deeper has become a way of life.

 

Down the Rabbit Hole

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And then there are those moments that are truly surreal in my job search….

The job search matching challenge seems to be made more complex when involving recruiters.  Often, these executive recruiters are paid on contingency basis (they only get paid if I get hired) and they’re non-exclusive in their relationship with the hiring company.  So, they compete with other recruiters for “sourcing” candidates to particular roles.  However, it’s also important that they “own” the relationship with the candidate so that the hiring company can’t circumnavigate their relationship.

It’s like a double blind drug test – neither interviewer nor interviewee is permitted to know much about one another.  People speak in generalities — about the candidate’s background, about the hiring company, about the role.  Recruiters share the industry but not the company name, the general business concept but not the software brand, the compensation but not the team structure.  And thus begins an exercise in assembling the actual opportunity and evaluating how it fits my interests.

This week, I was contacted by four recruiters for what I believe are two discrete jobs.  However, it might be a single posting.  It’ll be interesting to see where we go from here.

Welcome to my life, viewed from outside the rabbit hole.  So far, the journey has been intriguing….

Blind Turn

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Almost forty years on this planet have taught me many things, but the lesson that keeps getting hammered into my brain is that there are few certainties in life.  We often sprint full-out down the road in front of us, only to hit a blind turn.  Sometimes the blind turn falls behind us as we blithely keep running.  And sometimes the unexpected happens.

Yes, it’s certainly a measure of our character when that unexpected event occurs.  If we use our minds, our hearts, and our ethics we can often rescue the situation from disaster.  However, sometimes we have less control then we would like.  And sometimes we fall short of what we’re actually capable of achieving in the moment.

One abiding lesson I’ve learned from these moments is to be kind to yourself, if things don’t go the way you expected.  I also strive to be kind to others who might have had similar experiences of falling short.  We race pell-mell into these blind turns all the time — and almost always we navigate successfully. It’s truly a shame that our reputation is based on the times we didn’t navigate perfectly, rather than all the times we did the right thing.

Seeking Happy

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Life can’t always focus on lists and structure.  About three weeks into my job search process. I realized that I wasn’t having a damn bit of fun.  Every day, there was always another phone call to make, another resume to send, another website to hit…I was driving myself nuts with follow up and tasks.  While I do fundamentally believe that selling oneself is like selling a product — it’s all about the sales funnel — there’s more to life than turning yourself into a product.

I added “Find Happy” to my daily task list during week four.

The Find Happy task was an invitation to take structure out of my life, and was just as high in importance as the “Job Search” task.  I wasn’t programmatic about what Find Happy meant — some days it’s watching a Netflix episode and being a couch potato, other days it’s taking a bike ride.  However, it’s important Happy happens too.

Today, I plan to go sit on the beach and read a book.  There’s been a lot of job search activity this week, and I need my brain to unwind.  Pretty soon I’ll be tied up with a J-O-B and won’t be able to take afternoons at the beach…I want to enjoy them while I can.

Find Happy.  It’s important, too.

List Master

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Those who know me, know I’m organized and I’m a bit obsessed with imposing order on life’s chaos.  I’m a huge fan of lists.  I make lists for work and for play, and I get great satisfaction from ticking off completed tasks.  I hate paper, so I create lists and then append them to my calendar.  I recently invested in some liquid chalk pens so that I can make lists on my office mirror.  Technology at its finest!

Did I mention that I love lists?

When I recently became a “lady of leisure” I started making new lists.  I created a list of all the house projects I wanted to complete.  I created a list of companies I wanted to investigate.  I created a list of professional and personal aspirations.  And, finally, I created a list of books I wanted to read.

I’ve spent the past six weeks working my way through all these lists, and I’ve gotten to cross a surprising number of items off it….which might explain why I fall into bed every night more exhausted than when I was working.  I guess I’m still working — now I’m just accountable to myself, and I’m a pretty tough taskmaster.  The result of all this list-making is an improved house, rapidly enhanced fitness, busy interview calendar, and happy reading time.

There are items that are harder to accomplish using lists — long-range plans and more ethereal goals are often difficult to quantify.  However, I accept the challenge by breaking down the large and in-concrete into discrete components.  How else can we manage our accountability?

 

 

Story Spinner

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The longer I live, the more it’s become apparent that stories have such a tremendous influence on my life.  My market value is a measurable reflection of my ability to spin tales — both the ones I recite internally to keep me motivated, and the ones I share externally to inspire others.

We no longer sit around the campfire and share mythological lore, but the thirst for stories still drives our brains and our passions.  Stories of the Olympics inspire us.  Tales of fantastic work success impress us.  News of presidential candidate faux pas influence our resolve to vote and for whom. Our life experiences, values, and attitudes combine to develop stories that create our brand in the minds of our friends and associates.

We can select the most inspiring and positive stories about ourselves to create a halo around our brand, or even to alter it over time.  This process is natural – we all know our stories as living and evolving entities which gain life even outside our own.  We also know that there are negative stories we can share about ourselves — selectively, with the people we trust most…or late at night inside our own dreams.

We are always the hero in our own stories, although sometimes we can be the comic villain or the misunderstood icon.  When sharing your story with others, it’s the delivery that counts.

 

Emotions High

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There’s an impatience brewing in many of my female friends.  In me.  I don’t know if it’s borne of being 40-something and mid-career and mid-life when we’re sick of all the rules.  Perhaps it’s because there’s finally a credible female candidate for President — not vice-President, or assistant anything.  President.  Or perhaps it’s just cool to be a feminist once again…maybe we’re only a couple of steps away from bringing back bra burning and sit-ins.

Even if I can’t diagnose the cause, I can observe the symptoms.  I see so many articles and posts by women who are questioning the status quo.  One article I read today proclaimed:  ‘”Girls can do anything!” got translated somewhere along the line into “Women must do everything.”’ I see so many women railing against this proclamation.

It appears to be a time of conscious dissonance, when women are pushing back against expectations and the status quo.  I find myself doing it too, although I reject the term “feminist.”  I love men too.  I merely want an equal seat at the table, and I’m confounded by the nuances of our everyday life that keep me from realizing my equality.

I choose not to be angry; I choose to change the status quo.  I also wear pantsuits and cherish the quiet strength of a job well-done and relationships nurtured.  I am impatient but not impractical.  And I’m with her.

A Little Love, a Little Less Go-Go

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I’ve been driving myself pretty hard…kind of like a track car that doesn’t know how to operate outside the redline.  All my handling feels sloppy at a slower pace, and I miss the adrenaline.  I realized yesterday afternoon that I really hadn’t broken my racing patterns — I was pursuing social engagements and job search with the same reckless focus as I’d devoted to my work.

I’ve resolved to slow down a little, and to allow more space without social or professional commitments over the next couple of weeks.  I need time without people and without the demands of interaction to relax, to heal myself from the frenetic pace of life, and to hear my very quiet inner voices.  I also need time to love myself and my partner — I’m pretty sure driving us at this pace hasn’t been positive for either of us.

So, for now, I’m seeking a little love and a little less go-go.

 

First Dates

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There’s always weirdness on the first date, whether it’s a literal first romantic date or (in my case) a professional one.  Some traditionalists call the “professional first date” an interview, but I think that verbiage fails to adequately reflect the chemistry and interpersonal magic that’s so crucial to a successful experience.

You plan for all the controllable stuff…you research the role, the company, LinkedIn, and reach out to shared connections.  You map your skills to the role requirements, and you isolate 3-5 stories that you plan to tell during the date.  You put on eyeliner (something I didn’t bother to do for many romantic dates) but you wear the neutral lipstick.  You wear the bra that makes your figure look awesome, and then you wear a modest shirt.

During all the preparations, you know there’s a mountain of things you can’t control during the professional date.  You understand that the first five minutes are crucial, and that you’ll receive your first buy (or rejection) sign in less than 90 seconds — and that it’s terribly difficult to reverse that first impression.

If it’s going well, you know you can relax.  Your laughs become more genuine.  You can spin out your stories with confidence, and the follow-on questions will be mostly friendly.  The research and the preparations have paid off…even the eyeliner was worth it.

If it’s going poorly, you start to rack your brain for the perfect thing to say to get the discussion on track.  Maybe this other story actually showcases your drive better….maybe if you speak more slowly, or use smaller words.  Start smiling.  Stop squinting.  Remove that damn plastic smile.  Don’t fidget.  Realize that this one might not end well, sigh internally, and resolve to try again.

Professional dating is very similar to the romantic kind.  Attitude matters, as does resilience….and sometimes, you just need to wrap up and move on.

 

 

All You Need Is Love

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Fair warning:  I’m going to get sappy here for a minute.  Skip this post if you dislike gushing posts about the power of friendship and the gift of gal pals.

In my early 20’s I really didn’t have many female friends.  I found that most women were overly competitive, critical, emotional, and difficult to please.  Perhaps I was also all of these things — but I felt like I was a simple girl who just wanted to tell the truth to her girlfriends without it coming back to haunt her.  Because I found very few of those women (with notable exceptions like my friend Shannon), I eschewed the company of women and spent most of my free time with male friends.

Fast forward to my near 40’s (gasp!) and my experience is completely different. I still have some amazing male friends, but my girl friends are spectacular and a complete blessing.  They listen, they tune in and help, they give great advice, and they’re drama free.  I don’t know what happened in the past 20 years to make us all grow up so much, but I’m so very happy it happened.

I notice the mission critical role of my female friends especially now, when I’m looking for my next role and seeking lots of career advice.  Not only is the advice I’m getting very useful, it’s also constructive and supportive.  I’m surrounded by so many strong, educated, successful and positive women — and I hope all of that passion and talent is rubbing off on me in the right way.

Those female friends are such a huge part of my life (you know who you are!) and they’re mentors, confidantes, playmates, fellow instigators, and (most importantly) friends.

The world would be a darker, less stylish, more rigid, colder, stodgier, and all around suckier place without those gals.  Thank you for being my friend, and for inspiring your families, co-workers, organizations…and me.

Peace out.