Life is a roller coaster: Just when I thought the tide was changing…

Been a bit quiet on this space again, I know.  Life is a roller coaster.  My job search needed to be a priority.  I had hoped with dogged focus and an unexpected burst of energy (propelled by desperation, really), I’d be out the door from my current situation and into a new job by November.  Well, that was a fairy tale.

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A few weeks ago, out of the blue, an executive recruiter sent me an e-mail with a new opening within my industry. I wasn’t interested. If you know my struggles over the past year and a half, seen my occasional disturbing tweets, you know why.  However, although I hadn’t heard from this recruiter in quite some time, she was actually one of the few I liked over the years, so I replied.  Over a series of back and forth messages, a call was arranged for the next day.

We talked. And we talked. I was in the middle of a full day conference and I missed over an hour of a session.  I made it clear:  I was only interested in looking at a new position outside my industry — still in a marketing and communications role, but not dealing with the types of people I had had to deal with for the past 13-plus years.  I was over that. I was tired. Not just physically, but emotionally.

In 21st century girl speak, I want my “happy” back.

She persuaded me to give the position one more serious thought overnight.  In her words, she said this opening was a rare opportunity since many people working there ended up staying for years.  They had very little turn-over.  This was a place where she proclaimed I would thrive.   They were eager to meet me.  (Huh?  Had she shared my resume with them?  No. But, she’d sold me to them, read off my credentials, talked to them about all I had done and my industry association volunteer efforts.)  I would be challenged, she said, and if I was ultimately hired, it could be a great springboard to even better opportunities.

The next 24 hours, my head was heavy.  I was off Twitter.  I needed to avoid noise.  I needed to think.  Do I pursue this?  I hate (yes, hate) the situation I was currently in.  My job had turned me into someone I didn’t like.  This pint sizer, born in the Age of Aquarius, was dying inside and maybe this was God’s way of helping me to save myself.  He was giving me a lifeline.  Should I take it?  In my heart, how did I feel?

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I rang her up the following afternoon during a very late lunch hour.  Our 35-minute discussion began with my decision which was “thanks but no thanks” and ended with “okay, if you address two issues (yes, I had issues), I’ll have a conversation with them”.  It was a strong “maybe”.

After another phone call the following day, the pendulum swung to a “yes”.  I agreed to an interview.  Two days later, I was in the middle of 65-minute phone interrogation.  I felt it went well.  But, as I told the recruiter when we had our post-interview conversation, I never truly know about these things.  When you think you do well, it may be all in your own head.

Three days later, I was sitting in a shiny conference room with one of the heads of marketing who would be the ultimate decision-maker about who would be offered the position.  Obviously, the phone interview had gone well.  Now I needed to pass interrogation number two.

In another post-interview discussion with the recruiter, I said these words:

“If we don’t hear from them by Friday, then I’ll know they’re not interested.”

Although the department head appeared to like me, appreciated my candor and could see what I had on paper was backed up by substance coming from my mouth, I felt disappointment was lurking.  The recruiter disagreed.  I needed to remain positive, she said, and do away with the silly Friday deadline.

Friday came and went and then into another week we came.  Still, no call.  Monday. Tuesday. Wednesday.

At 8:31 a.m. last week Thursday, I received a voice mail from the recruiter.  The company made an offer to the other candidate.  I was in competition with one other individual who, it seems, had less experience and who was more in harmony with their salary expectations.

I was this close.  It was over.  I was faced with the reality — again — that I would have to suffer through another holiday season in the place I wanted so desperately to escape.  I was going to experience another Times Square ball drop knowing after the hoopla of January 1st, I would be back in the office on January 2nd, 2014.

Just when I thought the tide was changing…

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You want to know what I’m really feeling and thinking?  I should have never bent.  I should have never listened to her.  How many phone calls did we go through?  Six?  Eight?  She’d sung me the song of, “They want you so badly…”.  I was wooed hard.  I got sucked in.

I knew this was going to happen.

I had been down this road so many times in the past.  I’m feeling all kinds of raw right now.  I’ve stifled my feelings since Thursday, but I’m hurt.  I put myself out there and I’m sitting on my couch typing a blog post wishing instead that I was typing a resignation letter.  I would be nervous about starting over in a new place, meeting new people and proving myself to a new set of powers-that-be, but I would be ready — excited at a new experience that lay ahead.

So much for that.

How many times do I comfort myself with, “Everything happens for a reason”?

I’m over it.

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4 hours, 9 minutes and 59 seconds later…Okay, not what I’d expected.

Something transpired on Friday evening.  I won’t bog this post down with the woes of my Monday to Friday grind (simply do a search under my Work & Career tag and you’ll easily find enough rants and heartache).  No.  I have far more important things I’d like to share about an incredible phone call.

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Okay, the backstory…

About two weeks ago, I was sitting in a restaurant having lunch with a senior-level industry professional.  Over the past few months, we’d met, began working together as volunteers on behalf of an organization and started to develop a really good rapport. So far, so good. The trust thing is a real challenge, and up to this point, I’d been a bit guarded.  She’s quite a bit older — been “in the business” for a long time and seen many things. Nothing I’ve told her thus far about the behaviors of the executives I work with are shocking.  We decided to keep in touch beyond our volunteer duties, including exchanging resumes.  Perhaps she could assess whether I’d be a good candidate for a consulting firm?  After all, it falls under the “professional services” umbrella, so why not? I have to think about all my options.  Here’s the thing: Like me, she, too, is on a job hunt. There’s one big difference between the two of us, however.  She’s unemployed having lost  her job a few months ago, which means, there’s an urgency for her.  What’s the saying? You think you have it bad…there’s always someone who has it worse?  A few days after our lunch just before leaving on vacation, she’d already introduced me to three of her contacts at consulting firms via LinkedIn and proposed that we each meet for lunch, dinner or drinks.  This from a woman who has her own problems.

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Fast forward to last Friday…

We’d agreed to speak at 7:00 p.m.  She would provide feedback about my resume.  I’d initiate the call.

4 hours, 9 minutes and 59 seconds later…Okay, not what I’d expected.  (Wish I could figure out how to show you the screen shot of the time clock history on my phone.)

We never did speak about the specific changes she would suggest for the resume.  Instead, we talked about our work on behalf of our association, traded stories about our lives working in a predominantly male, professional services environment, but most of all, we talked about job hunting and working with recruiters.  (Attention Recruiters: Your reputation…um…not good…I’ve spoken to too many people searching for new jobs that have had some unflattering things to say about experiences working with recruiters — and not just for those making junior-level placements, executive recruiters, many of whom work on retainer.)

Even for someone who has wayyyyy more years of experience and is so high up on the food chain versus me, mid-level, career professional, you would think things would be rosy. Not so.  She said all the things you’ve probably heard before, and yes, she still has to remind herself of these:

  • Know thyself — and have a backbone.  Without these, you open yourself up to be taken advantage of by those who cross your path.  Self-respect goes a long way.  This is not a male-bashing comment, but we (women) still find ourselves dealing with situations (some more serious than others) in the workplace. Some of us leave in tears. Some leave with restraining orders.  Some don’t go quietly and you know what that means?  The evening news, a lawyer and a PR agent gets in on the action.
  • Always know your worth.  How do you do this?  Simple. Research. Company research, skills research (is what you know transferable and to what?), salary research. Whatever kind of research you need to do to get to the bottom of your worth, do it.  One of the recruiters she visited suggested she should consider a position that was paying 38% less than her previous position.  That didn’t go over well.
  • Don’t work with recruiters who don’t realize they also work for you as much as they work for the clients who hire them.  The companies who hire them are only one half of the puzzle. Recruiters are getting a percentage of a salary or an agreed upon fee for any candidate that makes it to the “you’re hired” stage. Sometimes they forget they need you.  And a gender comment:  If you’re female, don’t bring the same habits you may have in the workplace with you when you work with recruiters. Ask questions that should be asked, challenge the nonsense respectfully.  The “nice girl”, nurturer, “I don’t want to rock the boat” attitude just doesn’t work.
  • Leverage your connections.  Who do you know?  Who do they know?  Get out there — wherever “there” is, and that includes going beyond the computer screen. Get over your insecurities or embarrassment, or whatever, about talking to people about your situation. You say nothing, don’t ask for help, you’ll get exactly what you’d expect: Nothing.  Even as a senior-level professional, she’s talking to recruiters, people on and below her level (like me) and friends of friends.  She’s even enlisted the help of a coach.  Forget about pride and ego.  They don’t pay the bills.

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We’ve planned to meet in person again within the next two weeks to go over the finer points of my resume — what we should have done during our phone call (!).  She’s also willing to go through interview simulations, and is willing to help me craft “stories” — those that will make a positive impression and resonate with recruiters and hiring managers. Supposedly, I’m too close to the mundane activities of my job, I’m “not seeing things.”  I’ve got stories to tell and she’s going to pull them out of me. 

I’m completely blown away by her generosity, but I’m still guarded. Only time will tell.

Stay tuned…