A few years ago, I went with a teaching mission to Scotland (the beloved). On the day we visited Holyrood Castle visibility was so bad you could only see people standing toe to toe with you . Sometimes the job search is a lot like walking in the haar fog. Nothing is clear no matter what you do.
The prevailing wisdom on job hunting says that you must “be clear about what you want”. Incidentally, this is bad news for a certain personality type whose interests cross several fields. It reminds me of a character on one episode of “Star Trek” (The old series) who had the equivalent of doctorates in several disciplines. They are called, among other terms, “renaissance people” or, serial reinventors. It’s not adult ADD. They are 21st century DeVinci’s. The prevailing job search wisdom will never sit well with these rare birds.
On the other hand, those of us who tend toward having one main specialization are told to be able to name some place to land at the end of the job search– a destination; a target. This landing place is what goes in the “position sought”, ” job you’re looking for” space on the resume. A person who is confused about what that landing place ought to be is usually told by well-meaning advisers , “find your passion”. In trying to find that passion early in the job search I took interest assessments, personality assessments, work style assessments, color codes and tarot readings. In the end I looked at it all and loathed what I found out about me.
The more tests I took the clearer the picture of a life of heartbreaking hard work got. My “passion”, that “one thing” I do best of all, turns out to be something that either has extremely proscribed market value where I live or is a kind of work that does not naturally generate much money. My “dream job” is a logistical nightmare: I am a creative writer.
Reworking and reconfiguring the test results, I tried again and again to come up with something viable; profitable; acceptable; normal. Job title after job title flared up, but proved to be nothing more than a flash. Every week I thought I got a destination, then, before my eyes, it vanished– mirage. This went on for weeks…and months…and years of a lifetime. Many tears. Much bed time. Many therapy sessions. Nagging frustration. Then, one day, I accepted who I am.
Suppose you are like me? Suppose you really are a poet? or a painter? or a storyteller? Some of the “prevailing job search wisdom” just does not apply to you either. It’s that way for many creatives and entrepreneurs. Why am I so dead sure about this? It takes one to know one. This is from somebody who has made peace with who she is, slapped her head up against the “normal” ways of finding work and got wisdom knocked into her. Here’s what I did when I finally came to terms with who I am:
I searched for my tribe.
I Googled the profession that hinted at the kind of people I wanted to work around, located groups and went there. I found out that if I hung around, listened to the conversation I would find out whether or not it sounded like my “native tongue”–whether or not they were talking about something I could enjoy joining in the conversation on. Some kindred spirits I found on meetup.com. Some I found by listening to my networking partners and chasing leads I heard about.
It is understandable that after having spent so much time not doing what you were born to do that “true north” is harder to find. Under such conditions the real voice is harder to hear. The journey to self acceptance was the scariest and hardest part of my job search, but I discovered that it must be done before I could “boldly go” anywhere. It’s just hard to be patient when it seems that your targets keep shifting “Slip Sliding Away”.
Take heart. You will hear the real voice. Keep listening. The fog will clear. Believe me, the view is breathtaking. Have courage. The one thing you can be sure of is that things change. Meanwhile–have this little gift by one of my favorite artists. This is one of Paul Simon’s many versions of that song I quoted earlier– “Slip Sliding Away”.