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Here's a Heaping Dose of Humble Pie

pickle-loo
I can tell you all the flavor of Humble Pie: acidy-vomit, shit, and a touch of honey-roasted hope.

I said this to Mike today: "I knew that I was going to be starting from the bottom all over again, but I'm pretty much as low as you can go. It's like I'm in the butt hole of this industry."

I've been trying for weeks to do this job hunt 'my way', but the shittastic economy, and the fact that I have very little relevant experience have left me with absolutely nothing. Shadow Zero. The only job offers I've had are obvious scams, and they make me all that more pissed off after I have that fleeting moment of excitement when there is a response in my inbox. So, I've signed up with a temp agency that specializes in clerical workers.
If you were to tell me that this was my future when I was in college, I would have laughed at you and then told you to fuck off. Oh, naive, silly girl. But this is what it comes to for those of us who diverge from what we did in college in this stupid, rotten job market. The employers can make whatever demands they wish, and there is probably someone out there with the qualifications and the willingness at whatever price they choose to pay. After all, people gotta get paid, son. And so does Sumi.
Anyhow, so I'm signed up with this temp agency, and, of course, they look at my job history and are baffled. Doesn't anyone change careers anymore? Why does everyone have to be so damned thrown when someone doesn't want to do the same ca-ca job that they've been doing? Seriously -- if I were a seasoned secretary, would I be coming to a temp agency to help me find my way around? Unlikely. And the other thing -- they keep telling me that they don't do staffing for accounting stuff much, and I'm probably not what they'd be looking for, and I keep telling them that I just need a job that is not veterinary work or retail. Over and over. That aside, they were all very nice, even with my 'weird' background and I was simply happy to feel like I had an advocate of some sort, though I'm not sure this will work out to be that way, as I have yet to really 'start' as a temp.

The Good: as I said just now, friendly help. And I'm getting solid evaluation on some of my computer skills. Case in point: I'm apparently a solid 50-WPM typist, I can do data entry very fast, and I'm good with MS Office and QuickBooks. All good things to know and have somewhat quantified. (Though I'm not looking forward to the Excel test... that program uses some arcane language for the math equations...)

The Bad (Or at least, the Suck): This is where my Pie meals have come from. Told essentially these following things: Your resume sucks; You will be hard to place; You lack experience (NO SHIT.); Your previous work experiences are mostly irrelevant; Your college education is worthless, and even a negative for some employers; Your personality is difficult to place.

The Take-home: I have to remind myself that my way of doing things has NOT been working, and therefore, I need help. And I need to graciously take whatever help I can get, and if that means taking all of these little ego-deflators and conform to their advice, so be it. And this is where that tiny bit of hope comes out of all this -- the opportunity for experience if I can jump through some hoops, and the ability to put my objections aside and be open to learning. I can't afford to be uppity.

I hope this gets me somewhere, because I'm feeling pretty awful after all of this -- emotionally bruised, mentally drained, and on the edge of giving up. I guess I finally understand how some people end up unemployed for so long; it takes a lot of fortitude to keep hunting and pushing and getting knocked back.

In Between Dreams

pickle-loo
I've been back at UC Davis this week, helping out with registration at the Experimental College where a friend is the manager. I don't know if this happens to everyone (doubtful), but being back here has been a strange mix of happy nostalgia and a lot of disappointment in.

I'm going on six years out of college. I know this is all about preconceived notions about what life is supposed to be like that I'm sure are a bunch of crap, but I feel like I have nothing to show for myself since I left, and a lot of regret about squandering those years I spent there. For example, I never even took a class at the EC, nor a crafts class, never partied at the Grad, never went on some random outdoor adventure. I just went to DCF (big mistake), and did my classes as well as I could muster so I could graduate on time and go to VET SCHOOL (another huge mistake).
Every time I look at the students here, I just keep thinking about how each of them is in this portion of life that is nothing but potential and aspiritions, and somewhere in my depressed little heart, I believe that they are all going to come out of this better than I did. It also doesn't help that some of the students I've been working with keep trying to get me to see the 'bright side' of being unemployed and generally lost in my career path -- and I just can't help but think: "You guys probably won't have this problem, ever..."

Gloom gloom gloom...

I've decided this all comes from being in between dreams. Once, when I was a happy, bright-eyed little college student I had that cohesive dream of doing something very specific with my life and not letting anything get in the way of that. Unfortunately, the reality that was waiting for me was a hard-learned lesson that I was not going to be happy if I forced that old dream into happening. (Good for me that those vet school interview people know when someone's not completely into it.) And now I've been flopping around like a fish trying to find a new pond to swim in, trying not to let my disappointment in not achieving my old dream keep me down... but it's been hard. I won't lie though, if Mike were some sugar-daddy rich guy, I'd be content to stay home and be a housewife -- at least until I got bored of that. I'm sure this sentiment just comes from the part of me that just wants to not have to face the problems that come with starting over and the frustrations that I've found with the route I've taken (Screw you, people who want BA or 5 years experience only!).

Maybe once I have a job and can start focusing on learning a new trade these feelings of inadequacy will pass. I hope so. I've never felt so stupid and useless in my life, especially since those years at my old job. It's like I left college and my brain decided it didn't like thinking anymore... just another reason being back at the college makes me feel old and obsolete. I see engineers and chem majors, and I'm so envious -- I've always wished that I had the brain to be an engineer. So smart and creative...

Anyway, I'm trying to appreciate this frictional in-between time, but by it's very nature it's hard to stomach. I'm hoping I'll find some direction (and some regular money) soon. I dislike not having a plan.

Not a resolution...

pickle-loo
I know that I say this every two years or so, but I'd really like to start writing on this more. Things really fell off with the whole Facebook phenomenon, but even though one-line blurbs can be expressive, they don't really allow me the mental stretching of some writing practice. I suppose as I have left the world of academia, I've felt my mad wordsmithing skillz atrophy as I've been working mostly in dry numbers or being told nonverbally that I'm an idiot so much that I've begun to believe it.

So...

Once a week. And if I can do once a week, maybe I'll move up to twice a week. Such lofty goals. I mean, I don't have a job to distract me away from it, so I don't have much of an excuse.
pickle-loo
The first time I heard the term "Personal Branding" my mind immediately jumped to thinking of how my husband refers to the particular pungency of his gasseous emissions as his "brand." Probably not the best place to start out for me to take the term seriously. New and catchy buzzwords and other abuses of the english language are always something that make me want to cover my ears and shout 'LALALALA!' as I try to tune them out as best I can. Therefore, it had no chance with me, references to farts or not.

My first encounter with the term was actually on Penelope Trunk's blog, which I began reading during my flailings to try and figure out how to break into a new career path early last year (still have not broken in, by the way). I don't recall at this point how elaborate my introduction to the concept was, but after that I began to see it all over the place, officially crowned the buzziest of the buzzwords in the career building and networking world. I've generally tried to pretend the term didn't exist since then, as mentioned above, I find it as obnoxious as using the term 'green' when one means 'environmentally friendly', or the prevailance of all new companies and products trying to sound cool by gluing a lowercase 'e' or 'i' to the front of another word.

"So just why are you writing about this if you find this sort of stuff so odious?" you may ask.

I won't lie, I was approached by a fellow at Brazen Careerist to have the opportunity to be a 'featured blog', (likely picked at random, but the paranoid section of my brain tells me that it was out of pity for the fact that I don't have a lot going for myself in the career department, or for being almost thirty.) Either way, I was also given the prompt to write about Personal Branding. This felt oddly academic to me, but the prospect of having some impetus to write for once, and the fact that someone might actually read what I wrote was too much of a carrot for me to not bite at.

And now that I have dispensed with the longest preamble on the internet, what about this 'branding' business?

The gist I'm getting from most people bandying the term about is that 'Personal Branding' refers to defining one's career persona in a very distinct matter. When I think of a brand, I tend to think of a box of Kraft Macaroni and cheese (it is the cheesiest). If I make the jump to picturing 'personal branding' I somehow see the name "MIKE L." emblazoned across the blue box in happy yellow letters and the smiling face of the aforementioned Mike L., thumbs up, with the motto 'he's the cheesiest'... you get the picture. The Personal Branding philosophy is exactly that -- to have one's face and name elicit the same reactions in people that a successfully marketed brand does. We know the blue box, we know what is inside, how to cook it, and what it will taste like. We know that 'it's the cheesiest.'

The philosophy encompasses making strong definitions of what are your personal 'product definitions' in regards to your career -- your work ethic, your best modalities of working, your beliefs about your field. Like a good resume, strong, simple, short. You market yourself based on these points, and emphasize your reliability to deliver what's expected. No one picks up a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese expecting variation -- the brand is there and established to give you exactly what is known and expected of it.

I highly doubt that this is a new concept -- few things are. I doubt macaroni and cheese was a new concept before Kraft marketed it to housewives strapped for time with kids who had cravings for simple-flavored cheese pasta. The idea of purposefully taking the time to define yourself to better be able to sell yourself to an employer has likely been part of all sorts of career advice over the years, and I know that I've seen similar things in books on resume writing. Repackaging an old idea to make it seem fresh is common, and though you all know how much I hate 'new hot terms', for many people, a new way of saying something is the difference between an idea being considered and an idea being thrown away. I'm an adult -- I can appreciate something for it's merits even if I don't like it.

One thing that I have been pondering on since I've set myself down this little mental rabbit-hole -- is it really possible for someone who lacks experience or self-knowledge to successfully 'brand' themselves? I had two situations in mind:

The first is myself. The embarrassing details: I am on the down-slope of my twenties, I am just finishing my AA in accounting in hopes of kick-starting a career in said field, but I completely lack experience and background in this area (not for a lack of trying -- my daring change coincided with the general financial meltdown of 2008, so there's been no jobs down at the job factory for poor people like me). I know quite a bit about myself and who I am as a person, but to try and define my career persona? It's not much beyond: "Will work in accounting. Desperate, not picky. Promise to work hard and not disappoint." I'm the brand equivalent of a Sunny Select can of undefined mixed veggies down on the bottom shelf over at the local Safeway -- cheap, but not what you want or where you're looking.

I may not be trying hard enough (always possible), but I don't have much to sell beyond some theory and what little translates over from my old work, which isn't much (I was a vet tech). Can I brand myself successfully lacking the knowledge of my field?

The other situation: I was snooping briefly around the internets about Personal Branding and happened upon a very fine looking blog where the author of which was going on like a cheerleader about the subject, giving advice, etc. Upon further reading I discovered that this person isn't even out of college yet (gasp!) I know I'm getting old when I chide the youthful exuberance of those not yet out of college -- who knows, this girl could be some sort of blossoming career advice wizard -- but the whips and scorns of life over the past five years since I emerged from the safe little cocoon of college have taught me some very valuable lessons in the school of Knowing Thyself.

So here I posit, can the average neophyte successfully brand themselves if they don't even know if they are Mac 'n Cheese, or Hamburger Helper, or Preparation H?

Do I have all these answers? Heck no. But these are interesting questions.

Either way, I think any of us who are trying to get out there and fight our way in can take home this message from picking apart the idea of Personal Branding: be prepared, be sharp, know what you want, and know who you are. These are all great goals that anyone can stick to, from grizzled old almost-thirtiers like me to the wide-eyed and tenderfooted college grad and then some.

Anyhow, kudos to the five people who made it to the end without exclaiming TLDNR and going back to seeing who updated their facebook in the last three minutes. I'm hungry now -- where's that last box of the Cheesiest?

-SL

Notice

pickle-loo
The next post was prompted by a random request by one of the admins on a career networking site called Brazen Careerist. It's not my normal complain complain post. But I have been inspired to possibly write more often, though I don't know about what, which means I'll still lack legitimacy to my blog. Meh.

Musings on Forgiveness...

pickle-loo
Last night I had one of those dreams.

By that, I mean one of those dreams where you're plunged into the mire of old emotions and relationships that are as real as they day they first came to live with you.  A lot of mine come from feelings of inadequacy, rejection, and disconnection from my younger years that I've never quite sorted out and are thus tumbling around in the back of my brain and pop out on occasion.
Long-ish introspective musing with religious overtones. You've been warned.Collapse )

Sep. 4th, 2009

pickle-loo
Today's Tweets...


  • 21:48 Giant loaf pan: a success! Home-made bread sandwiches for the husband. But no home made luncheon meat. That's just gross. #

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Aug. 24th, 2009

pickle-loo
Today's Tweets...


  • 13:10 I finally found a loaf pan big enough to make sandwich-sized loafs@ Huzzah! #

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Aug. 18th, 2009

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Today's Tweets...


  • 17:24 I'm alive, just in case someone cares. #

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Jun. 15th, 2009

pickle-loo
Today's Tweets...


  • 09:05 Oh school... you suck. #

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