Cheating The Heartless Job Search

by: Joanne Meehl

I have fantastic helpers at Face2Face, my Minneapolis-based job search networking group for the public. These helpers do a majority of the setup, the take-down, and even keep their ears open for feedback I don't hear, not to mention offering some great ideas that we've put into place. And the helpers are in job search themselves.

One of these is Kathy, who earlier this week lost her golden retriever to cancer. This, on top of the fact that Kathy's mother is ill and Kathy traveled to take time out of her job search to care for her. And between Kathy's gigs doing contract work, she is in job search. Today I could see that she was preoccupied and trying her best to be the usually cheerful greeter that she always is. I could tell it was tough.

The networking cluster part of our program began so I took over at the registration table so that Kathy could participate. It was then that a client and member of the group, Carol, came in, late from another meeting. She looked harried. "I guess I'm preoccupied with the news that we just learned that our golden retriever has cancer and has only 2-3 months to live. We are devastated." I was stunned by the similarity to Kathy's situation so I told her about it. "You may want to talk with one another", I offered, and she said she would, gladly.

Job search is an unforgiving time and it seems that only bad things happen. Another group member had his bank account hacked and had to notify every vendor and every account of his new account number, etc. Some payments then bounced, causing more aggravation. This took him about three days, full-time, to straighten out, time that would be far better spent on his job search.

Then there are the new tires you have to get, or the house A/C system quits, or a storm takes off your roof and your insurance deductible is so big that a repair decimates your savings. It always seems to happen only during your job search, adding insult to injury.

But if the job search were a person, s/he would say, "So? You want me to put life on hold for you? I don't think so."

You can't put everything on hold, so you forge on, taking all the interviews you can, despite your heart aching about your dog and will you be there if she dies today, or wondering how you're going to pay for those tires, and is your child's fever getting so high that you'll need to take her to the doctor. Smile, shake hands, make it happen.

The job search is heartless that way. It's very "me first". It is a demanding master: Let up for a week on your networking, and you'll have two to three weeks of other numbers lower than they need to be. Become preoccupied with your sick mother or dying dog, and your interviews suffer. So you force yourself to buck up. Because unless you take care of your search, you'll have an even longer one.

I told Kathy about Carol and the two met, hugging instead of shaking hands. For the next several minutes, they were inseparable, helping each other get through a tough time.

Later, Carol told me "I have to believe I was meant to have this time off to be with my sweet dog...".

So sometimes you can cheat the heartless job search out of its cruelty. Meaning, it can bring together people in positive ways you don't count on, helping one another in ways you never expected. It's like the storm that wrecks part of a city, but which prompts the outpouring of volunteers: You see how the goodness of people can overcome anything.

Even a cruel job search.


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