Thursday, December 30, 2010

I'm a Stress-aholic...

There are people who do something too much. There are those who drink, the ones who gamble, others who shop, but me, I stress. I remember in the 9th grade on the first day of school they said we were going to have finals, yeah those things at the end of the school year, I was sick for the next two days. When I finally returned to school I was even more stressed out because I missed assigning seats, getting books, and two days of work, all because at the end of the year I was going to have to take tests.
My parents recognized I had a problem and forced me to take a class to learn how to deal with my anxiety. I was there with middle aged adults whom I assume had chosen to be there. With my normal teenage angst I half listened, half blamed my parents, and hoped they didn’t spend money on the class because it basically was the instructor reading us the packet. Did it help? Sure it did! I then channeled my stress from migraines to stomach issues. When someone would point out that it was stress I just seemed to channel my stress to something new, my latest trick is itching, which I seriously need to focus back to the tummy so I lose a few pounds to fit in my pants thank you very much yummy holiday foods and candies.
I wish I knew how my stress worked, or why I can never relax. I always have something to blame for my new stress. I did work in the extremely fast paced world of cars. I did play sports growing up, and tried as hard as I could in school. I went back to college as an adult so had the stress of school and planning a wedding. Then I had the stress of being unemployed with constant interviews and the judgments. Now I’m employed, at a wonderful place where my boss will freely drop anything to answer even the smallest question I may have, and yet I am still stressed out.
It then occurred to me tonight as I was washing my face. I looked up into the mirror as the water dripped off my face as it does in commercials, and realized I am a Stress-aholic. Anyone who knows me well is reading this they aren’t surprised, they are probably shocked I ever figured it out. Most people don’t realize on their own they have a problem. My husband will say to me as I am yelling the rules of the road to some person that can’t hear me because, well I’m in my car and they are driving away, “they can’t hear you, what good is that going to do,” and reminds me that it’s not healthy what I am doing. But I would argue it’s better “out” than leaving it in, using the example of a rollercoaster and how if you scream when you get off you don’t have to throw up…yeah it’s totally the same.
So as I looked in the mirror stressing out about my new job beginning and trying to figure out in my head when I get my first holiday for a break, it hit me. There is nothing difficult about my new job. I had gone in for 7 days and I can confidently say that I am more than 90% with all of the computer aspects of the daily job. Yes new things will come up, but I’m smart! Why am I trying to freak myself out?! Then I began to think about how nice everyone is, calm the environment is, and how willing my boss is to include me in every aspect of the organization so I can learn! So why am I still stressed out as I am writing this? Because I am a Stress-aholic, and I don’t know how to live and function without stress in my life.
People say that my blog has helped them, and I want you to know, it helps me more. Because of the blog I literally have to evaluate myself, like I am conducting this great social science experiment. Without blogging I have felt lost, and honestly it has caused me stress-I know shocking! But the blog has relieved my stress in so many more ways. So, I’m not saying everyone should blog, because not everyone wants people to know the torrid details of their interviews, or driving habits, but I suggest a journal. Chart what you are doing to help with your job search, or if you have a job, or you are a stay at home parent and you feel stressed, write. When I was 19 I would go for runs at 1 am if the stress became too much, most people can’t do that, myself included or my pants would fit. So I have found writing to be a great relief. It doesn’t have to be for you, but do what is, because stress holds us back, and well since it’s time for resolutions why not make one this year…I will make a conscious decision to try and live as stress free a life as I can by not adding unnecessary stress to my daily life. Hold me to it and make a resolution for yourself!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Getting schooled

It’s been a while since I have posted anything. I’m on a part time basis through the holidays because I need to get so much done, and I am lucky they are being flexible with me. The last week I have already learned so much. Mostly it isn’t just the responsibilities I have, but that my boss will include me in every meeting so that I can learn everything there is to know, because he knows I want to.
But I said there was so much more I wanted to tell you all before this blog had to change or alter since I am no longer going to be unemployed! I wanted to talk about education and why it is something that you should think about. When I decided to go back to school the economy was pretty stable, or so most of us thought. Housing prices were through the roof, and then BAM one month in, the economy collapsed and I breathed a sigh of relief knowing that in two years when I graduated, “things would be better.”
When May came and went, and I realized that the job front was not looking so good, I looked back at what I did and began to wonder if I made a mistake. Was going to school a bad decision on my part? Or was closing my eyes and taking for granted that everything would be better my mistake?  Either way as I struggled with my choice of major, my choice of school, and my choice to leave my job during school, I sat on the couch and began to wonder what I had done to my life.
Now, this all sounds like I would scream “DON’T do it! School is bad!” But that is not the case at all. Because without school I never would be on my way to doing something that I’m actually excited to see where it goes. Sure I loved working in the car business, but ironically I felt stuck. I felt like if I “only had my golden ticket (that’s what I called a college degree) then I would be anything I wanted.” I had been approached to apply for corporate jobs twice by reps of brands I had worked for, and when I said I didn’t have a degree, I was automatically not qualified anymore. All of a sudden I wouldn’t do, when just 15 minutes ago you were telling me how perfect I would be?!
You are never too old, too broke, too smart, or too “out of practice,” to go back to school. If you are thinking about it, check it out. Think of it as another job you are applying for, you don’t HAVE to take it if you don’t want to. Think of it as fulfilling a dream. Don’t assume you will have time later when you do have time today. My plan if I hadn’t gotten a job for the spring semester was going to be to audit a class or two. If you don’t know what that means, it’s when you go to class for a small fee, and get to sit there and learn. You don’t have to take the test or write the papers if you don’t want to, you don’t get credits towards a degree for it. But if you are considering school, why not do a baby step? I just love to learn, so my thought was, take classes I hadn’t taken while in my undergraduate because I hadn’t had the time.
If you are reading this and thinking, “school, ugh, I’m so over school!” Then don’t worry about it. BUT, if you are thinking, “it’s always been in the back of my mind,” then don’t think, check it out. Unemployed, employed, here is the thing, if you don’t go and try, then you will never know. At 28 I stopped my course of my career, asked my future husband to support my decision, went back to school and fulfilled a dream of mine. I had no direction, my plan because to me, “Graduate” seemed like enough. During school I made Dean’s List every semester as a sign to him of how much I appreciated his supporting me, but also to show how serious I was about this.
Last night as we planned our new budget with a “working Joanna again in the house,” we stared at the debt and for the first time got excited to see it could go away in our spreadsheet of “how to pay the debt down,” as we tried to decide who to pay what amount first. You don’t have to go to one of the most expensive schools in the country to create debt. But you can never give up on yourself and if that means getting a Bachelors degree, your Masters, maybe a certification, then do what you need to do to not only show yourself you can do it, but to say, “hey I will never stop learning,” because you can teach this old dog a few new tricks, and for me I feel my BA did just that. I’m a college graduate, I have an entry level job, and if it wasn’t for taking a chance, I never would have made it here to be writing this to you. So think of it this way, what do you want? No one is going to hand you a degree, you do have to work for it, and those of you who are reading this and are back in school, congrats on doing the hardest part and good luck on finals!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Blog #46

In the last almost 3 months now, many of you have been reading about my interviews, revelations, and struggles dealing with being unemployed and searching for employment status. Part of me wondered if I would be writing this blog forever at the rate I was going! If being unemployed was just going to be something that happened and continued until finally one day I just didn’t apply for jobs anymore and went for plan B…whatever plan B was I’m not sure, I haven’t gotten that far.
I got a job offer. I was offered a job to work with a national nonprofit at their headquarters. As I had mentioned earlier I had been interviewing there for almost 2 months! And even though I didn’t get the original position, they offered me the opportunity to interview for another position. It is a true, “get your foot in the door position,” the kind that most people don’t stay in for too long because it gives you the basic tools to move out in the world, or up in the organization.
Of course I accepted, and it’s been a pretty great day. I made many phone calls and sent out texts, it took all of my will power to not post something on facebook because I wanted to “save” my joy for the blog.  Part of me is really excited, I did it! I got a job! Part of me is scared, it’s been 2 years since I’ve last worked, and about 7 months since I graduated from college. This is something I have never done, this is one of those opportunity jobs that people turn down because they don’t like the pay, or they believe they deserve better than to start out on the bottom…lucky for me, I’m not one of those people. I’m the kind of people who goes back to college when they are 28 and has to sit next to 18 year olds in intro to Sociology class.
Part of me knew the day would come where I was going to be part of the “employed” again, but honestly part of me didn’t want to be. I enjoy writing this blog. I enjoy all of the strangers who read it and get hope because they know they aren’t alone. Maybe they don’t all agree with everything I’m saying, maybe they think I’m full of “it” read once and never come back. But writing this blog gave me something to look forward to every other day, and to all of you who read because you wanted to know how my journey would end, thank you.
I look at it like this. Everything I wrote here was something I experienced, and there is so much more I would love to say. I will still be technically unemployed until January 2011, so I would love to continue to write and inspire those of you are still looking or those of you who are close with someone who is struggling through unemployment. If people follow my blog and want me to continue, I will. I feel a deep amount of empathy and although I will not be able to relate as I had in the past, that doesn’t mean I will ever forget. Of course I will need to change the name to my blog, but as I said that depends on you, the reader.
Shows get canceled after they “jump the shark” but somehow Friends stayed on for many years after Rachel and Ross got together, then broke up, then got back together…well you get my point did I reach my peak? I hope getting a job isn’t my “jumping the shark” moment of blogging, and I can continue to write. But I leave that in your hands. At least be prepared for about 3 more weeks of advice, inspiration, and things that you might not have thought about or considered for your future, because just like a senior who has finished their finals and knows they are graduating in 2 weeks, they haven’t graduated yet, and I’m taking advantage of the time I have left.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Never say never

For the last two months I have been interviewing for a position at a nonprofit organization. About two weeks ago I was told I did not get the position. Was I upset, sure, after all this was something I really wanted. Lucky for me there was a “but” with that “no,” something that I’m not used to. The “but” was that they had another opening as well.
For most of my interviewing it has been me against at least 6 people for each job. I can’t tell you how many times I have been told “we had an overwhelming response,” in the last 10 months. I always smile and shake my head in agreement because I know that there are plenty of people looking for a job. You can see in the interviewer’s eyes this excitement because they know they can have the best, and you better bring it. Now with those pesky “overqualified” people applying for jobs that 5 years ago they wouldn’t have dreamt of applying for because after all, everyone needs to get their foot in the door, the competition isn’t just 6 people like me, its 6 people ranging from like me to amazing.
So it was no surprise that I didn’t get the position, the surprise was when they asked if I would consider interviewing for a non-management position. Here is how I looked at it. Yes I would be sitting 15 feet from the person who got the first job I had interviewed for, but wait if I actually get this job I would be sitting at a desk in the room I wanted to be in!
Two steps back for a moment, they asked me from the interviews I had already had with them, if I wanted to interview for a different position. There is a lesson to be learned here! Yes in the end there was someone more qualified for the original position, but they saw potential enough in me from my personality and my dedication to the field that they thought to ask me to keep going.
When you are interviewing for a position you never know. We assume if we don’t get that job then we are forgotten. But that really isn’t the case at all. Sure I would say that most of the time we are forgotten as soon as we leave, but this was the second time I was told, “we had to go with this other person,” and there was another position brought up. This was the first time though, that the other position happens to currently be open, not in 6 months.
I think it has something to do with the fact that when I interview, I’m not just interviewing for the job. I feel like I am interviewing for the organization. I try to see where I will fit in. I do a lot of research on organization, if people have ever posted bad reviews about working there, and I try to get a feel for the people who are interviewing me. Sure, you do need to know the job and you should be as qualified for the position as possible, but most places are not going to hire you if your personality doesn’t match with the office dynamic. 
So there I was, sitting in yet another interview with the same organization, sitting with the people that I could prospectively be working with, all because my pride didn’t turn the opportunity to interview down. I have read many blogs where people talk about how they weren’t offered enough money, or a “decent title” so they would pass on the offer. WOW, an offer and you pass? Why not take the job, prove yourself and move up within the company? Before I decided to move forward with the process of interviewing for the new position, we talked about the potential for my future. If they had said to me, “this is the job,” I would have had to think hard about it. But, they said, “we don’t see you in this position for more than a year or two.” See that sounds frightening to most, but to me it sounded like growth. Maybe it won’t be there, but they offered me building blocks for a career in the nonprofit sector. So of course I interviewed again, to be continued…

Friday, December 3, 2010

People matter

If there is something that you must learn about being unemployed, it’s that being bitter about it is not going to get you further. Sure it may motivate you to push harder with your search, but ultimately learning to accept unemployment as something that is happening to you, instead of what you are, is important to staying centered. It doesn’t hurt to surround yourself with supportive people.
When I began my job search, I was crushed, to the point of not moving off the couch for days, because I didn’t get “the” job. I felt like this was why I went to college. This was the job I wanted when I began school. It had to be the one! I blamed myself and couldn’t understand what I did wrong. Did they not like me? Did I fail the test they make all prospective employees take? I was crushed as most young people are when their first love rejects them, (spoiler alert: do NOT read this next part if you still believe in the Easter Bunny) or they find out that there is no bunny that jumps around leaving baskets of candy for every boy and girl (I told you not to read that part, if you are upset it’s your own fault, also consult your parents).
It was probably a week later that one of my friends was talking about how they were going to “sell out” and take a job for a company that didn’t stand for what they believed, but it paid well. She was going back and forth, not knowing if she should stop the job as she had originally planned, since she was hired as a temp, or continue through the summer to possibly a permanent position because the money was good, and after all she was lucky to have a job when so many people (such as this girl right here) were struggling to find work. I could see that she was just as tormented as me.
She then said something to the effect of how she hoped I didn’t sell out and followed my heart to do what I wanted, which was to help others. It was then I stopped mourning the loss of the corporate job that I had thought I wanted, and decided it was time to focus on what I really wanted. Here I was looking at her like she was so lucky to be in a situation of deciding to stay or go, doing something she did not want to do, but was good at it, and she was looking at me like, “go get your dream don’t sell out!”
I always say I have the best friends. I’m lucky. They aren’t the friends that say they want to help but never do. They are the friends that saw job listings and sent them to me. They are the friends that never leave me out of anything. They are the friends that want to create traditions. The friends that came to my graduation, bridal shower, bachelorette party, and wedding, stopping in the room before the ceremony to give me a drink and a hug.
You will have days when you feel alone even with the best of friends by your side. You will feel like they have no idea what you are going through, and chances are they don’t. Why would you want them to know the struggle and pain of unemployment?! But, they are the friends that when you say you don’t have the money to spend say, “let’s all meet at my house and do potluck.” People always say how optimistic I am about my “situation” and to them I say this, it’s all about the company you keep and perspective you keep on life. I have friends who believe in me more than I believe in myself. I also have my best friend of a husband who won’t let me give up even if I wanted too! I’m very lucky. I know there are a lot of people out there who get a lot of negative feedback because people assume you did this to yourself. Tune it out. You will beat the odds, I believe in you.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Christmas is coming

That’s right, it’s December 1st, and in a few short weeks Christmas will be here! This year it’s pretty exciting, because last year we didn’t have a Christmas. I know there are so many families that this year they will be having the year that we had last, when they will do without and try to make sure they take care of those with what gifts they can give, because they feel they must for fear of letting them down.
We knew there was no money for presents. Money was really tight so we forewent the awkwardness and promised not to do much of anything for each other so we could take care of who we really wanted to. To make matters worse, we didn’t even decorate. The house looked just like any other day, which probably helped us not feel as though we missed out on as much. It’s hard because my husband and I began dating just after Thanksgiving time, so for us, last year was even harder because of all the celebrations we couldn’t have. That meant, a sad anniversary, a more depressing birthday for my husband who already has it tough enough being born just days before Christmas, and then a quiet day on the 25th.
I felt terrible. It was depressing, and sad, but I just couldn’t wait for Christmas to be over. We did it to ourselves, stressing about the expenses and not enjoying the spirit of the season without the worry of the bill. The only saving grace was that we did a secret Santa with our family and when I was asked what he wanted I got to tell them to get him what I would have wanted to if I could have. So when he got to open his present I felt happy to know he got something he really wanted.
The same went for me. I actually had tears in my eyes, because I knew if my then fiancĂ© could have given me that gift he would have. I felt so lucky to have family that would do that for us, even if they didn’t know they were. I’m sure no one knew how much we were struggling at the time, and that we didn’t do anything for Christmas on our own. We have this way of just going with things and trying to make the best of it. I always say when it gets really rough, “these are the times we will look back at and remember as the best, our closest times.”
So this year as we are decorating our little apartment, getting gifts for all of our friends and family, it feels like a relief. Are we in that much of a better place than last year? Well, not exactly, obviously as the blog is titled, I am still unemployed! The student loan bills are rolling and they aren’t too pretty. But this year we aren’t saving for a wedding, and we need a Christmas in this house, so if that means we pay the minimums, so be it! Isn’t that the American way, buy now and get the bill next month?! Of course I’m a bargain hunter, and I have become obsessed with trying to get things people actually want or need. If you are going to spend your money on something, don’t be wasteful, right?! Except for my sister, I refuse to buy her things she actually needs, because she is like me, she needs splurge items and who better to get them than me?
So if you are one of my friends or my family and you are reading this, know I took a lot of time and effort in everything I bought. If you don’t like it, tell me, I want to get you something better. Seriously! And if you are one of the many unemployed who isn’t celebrating a holiday this year because of the expense know this, it’s not all about the gifts. I believe that we had a rough holiday last year because we let ourselves be upset by it. We loved the time we spent together, but we should have decorated, not tried to get “over” the holiday. I wish I had bought us a nice dinner to celebrate, or just one special gift that said, “it’s our “hard” year but things will get better,” so when we looked at it we knew that we survived a rough patch.
This year there will be a tree, and under it presents, and most will leave as they end up in the arms of my nieces and nephew, friends, parents, and our siblings. But this year some will stay. And when it’s Christmas morning I get to see the look on his face when he opens my gifts, from me…sure he ultimately paid for it, but like I said, baby steps. Next year it will be all from me, and I know just what I’m going to get him then!