Friday, April 30, 2010

Mercury Madness and May Mojo

I must admit, I’m pretty excited about the arrival of May and the return of Mercury into its proper orbit. You see, the planet will be in retrograde until May 11 and I have been secretly blaming job search communication breakdowns on this fact. Take today, for example. It took me 4 grand tries to successfully submit a very long application for a recruiting agency. And yesterday, my husband and I took a test with the U.S. Census bureau for potential temporary work, and his test just mysteriously disappeared at the end. The administrator couldn’t find it anywhere and had to assume that someone must have swiped it (hopefully by accident.) It has been a job communications slowdown, my friends, and I am here to tell you that we’re not to blame!

Weeks like this past one remind me of times in my life when I’ve just kept trying to move forward in the same direction no matter what the situation. Sometimes we get blocked for a reason, I believe. Maybe we’re going in a wrong direction, or new opportunities are waiting on the outskirts of our previous expectations. Maybe we just need to slow down for a while, or learn to be patient, or find new ways to dismantle the walls in our life and build ourselves new.

So, May 1st begins tomorrow and I am giving this shout out into the universe: Here I come, job! I’m tearing down those employment walls, sending good communication vibes into the cosmos and planning for success very soon now. You just try to stop me this time;)

Monday, April 26, 2010

75 shout-outs. Just 1 call.

Last week I hit my big 75 mark. 75 applications for 75 different jobs! And so, we baked a cake. Sure, it was officially for my husband, Mark's birthday. However, I held a little piece of it for myself to celebrate these 75 hopeful endeavors. Although I also affectionately call them my little ego shakers, they are still my optimistic testimony to a simple belief...that my next calling is coming soon.

Last week I woke up in the middle of the night with that nagging call feeling again. "Go and look for jobs right now," a little inner voice said. And so, I listened. I went straight to my computer and spent the next 2 hours searching and applying to different international development positions at CARE, Catholic Relief Services and World Vision. And then I saw it...and I mean IT. A Senior Policy Advisor for Humanitarian Response in Haiti position at Oxfam America. "Yes!" I almost shouted out loud. This felt like what I had been looking for. I have been encountering Haiti everywhere I go: doing a little consulting for Haitian Americans and Volunteer Efforts, volunteering with the National Organization for the Advancement of Haitians and now coordinating my church's Haiti Response Team. I felt like this position made so much sense to me...it could use my French, my program management skills, my passion for advocacy, desire to liaise with development efforts on the ground and heartbreak over Haiti's recovery efforts. And so, I worked hard for the next 4 hours on that application and said a little extra prayer over it as I hit the send button.
Haitians know about ego shaking...figuratively and literally. Imagine losing your entire home, your capitol and remaining infrastructure, your confidence in the future. Job searching is not even an option. Where are the jobs? No one has jobs to offer, products to sell or money with which to buy them. Life becomes a race for survival in which no one cares if you have secret gifts just waiting to be discovered. And yet, isn’t there still hope for Haiti? 

The truth of the matter is that life is hard sometimes…and especially hard for some. The challenge to survive, much less thrive, is a reality that affects each person and culture at some point in their life. I believe it was Nelson Mandela who said that it is difficult to truly understand the suffering of another. Just keeping this knowledge close to our hearts, though…that we have all struggled to find our calling and survive in the global jungle, is a way to build ourselves up strong again. And keeping our hearts open to the suffering of others…of those who have nothing close to the same amount of opportunities that we do, can inspire us with new courage and compassion. It can also help us find that one true calling…that crossroads where our greatest gifts and desires finally meet the world’s greatest needs.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Business Cards, Websites and Dove Dark Chocolate

So, I've been sending my website around to potential employers and have been getting good feedback. And I had 1 1/2 interviews last week! (One in person and one on the phone...which I guess counts as a half;) Another potential employer said to me, "Wow, is this website what you have to do nowadays to get a job???!! If so, I might never leave my position!" We both laughed...me in a "ha, ha, that's really funny, but I'm pouring my soul out here and need moolah now" type of way.

It's wonderful to hear that you have great skills and are doing all of the right things on your job search. It's not so great to hear that they still gave the job to someone else. It's even worse to hear that they'd totally give you the job, but their funding just ran out. It's a bit of an emotional rollercoaster ride...psyching yourself up for supreme greatness and then consoling yourself after the rejection with Dove chocolate and friends that say, "they're a fool for not hiring you!"

So, this past week of job searching has led me to think a lot about identity. I am currently labeling myself as a "Consultant." As in, "Hello, I am Elise Young and I am an International Development Consultant. Here's my card as proof!" And although this is an important step, and for some, a very important career path, it doesn't feel quite right. I miss belonging to something organized that is greater than myself...a church, Bread for the World, Graduate School, a campaign to cut world hunger in half. Yet, the biggest adventures in life so often start with a jump out into the unknown, label-less void. 

This is the hardest, longest search that I've ever had to find and claim my work identity. Perhaps this means that the end result will be even larger and more meaningful than I could have first imagined. Until that point, though, I'm holding on tight to my Consultant business cards, secret stash of Dove Dark Chocolate and supportive group of friends.

And to all those of you who are searching for your own work identity, please remember this: who you truly are is never defined by what you do, but by how you share yourself with the world.
Peace and work blessings.

Into the Blog Mystic - April 13, 2010

Today, I begin my journey into the blog mystic. It took months of unemployment and a humility-inducing job search to prompt me. As I sit in the Java Green CafĂ© at 19th and K NW, glaring at my wifi-less computer and racking my brain as to what to do next, I realize that perhaps what I really need to do is share my experience with others. Joblessness is an ego shaker…an energy hoover, sucking the life force right out of all these great skills and experiences that we’ve accumulated over the years. It rattles the bones and plucks my courage from its high perch. Yet, I know that there is still hope.

I have worked for 10 years as an anti-poverty advocate, development practitioner and community organizer. I have fought for the underdog in low-income urban areas, rural Africa and the halls of Capitol Hill. Yet, I was never one of them. Perhaps these hard wandering times come to us so that we can know true compassion, true solidarity with our brothers and sisters who battle for their livelihoods. And yet, even this notion is a farce. After all, I do have a Masters and two Bachelors degrees. I have job references and previous colleagues who will advocate for me. I have friends and family members who will rally for me if it gets too hard. I have never known homelessness or hunger. I have never felt completely hopeless or alone in the world. What about the Orphan in Mozambique who begs for food? What about the Welfare Mom in West Baltimore who prays for a living wage job? How much more difficult their search must be.

I believe that it's definitely important to acknowledge our challenges, ask for help and give ourselves some grace in this current crazy job recession. Finding solidarity with unexpected people can be a first step in the right direction. Yet, if we hold too tightly to the, “Why me, Lord?” mentality, then we miss the boat entirely. No matter how difficult our situation, someone in the world is suffering more. So, how can we use our own employment crisis to help others,  while still nurturing our own bruised hearts and egos? Perhaps we can share our story and be gentler with one another, more generous to those with less and more willing to go the mile with others. And, we can embrace the hidden blessings…like more time with our families, a chance to go slower and reflect, time to breathe and pray.

Speaking of which, I send this prayer of encouragement out into the universe as a step towards those goals. God of love and second chances, help us job seekers to follow the wise words of the prophet, Isaiah. He told us that even the strong will grow weary. And the young will fall down exhausted from time to time. Yet, those who actively wait for God…or love…or hope…will rise up on wings like Eagles. May it be so.