Not really a go-getter but need to go get a job
March 1, 2011 1:51 PM   Subscribe

Please help me overcome my fear of job hunting and the self-limiting belief system that causes it.

For almost two years, I worked in a government organization on temporary assignment. I got laid off in August, along with the entire department, and moved a few months later to a new city with a better job market. I worked for four different supervisors on this job, and they all deemed me an excellent employee. I wore several hats and apparently wore them well.

Prior to this, I worked on a grant-funded project for a nonprofit for about six months. Again, I was lauded for my performance.

These jobs payed a little under $20 per hour, and I was pretty comfortable living on this amount.

Before all this, I was a self-employed writer for several years, working on a variety of projects on a contract basis. Unfortunately, I don't think I have enough experience in writing where the real money is to get a good writing job.

I have about a year of skilled trade curriculum writing experience from four years ago, which qualifies as technical writing, but has nothing to do with IT, which is where all the demand in tech writing seems to be.

I have no grant writing experience, though I'm sure that, given a template and access to enough relevant information, I could write a readable and persuasive grant proposal.

I have a minor amount of PR experience, but as an introvert, I find the schmoozing aspect of a PR job to be wearying, and if I were to write PR for something I didn't care about, I doubt I'd be able to force myself to do a stellar job.

I do have extensive experience in journalism -- both writing and editing. However, the pay is low, and content mills have pretty much ruined that job market. I've written for one of those mills, and it made me feel like slitting my wrists.

Prior to my journalism jobs, I was in grad school for an English degree. I never finished, but I acquired a lot of teaching and tutoring experience. However, I did not enjoy teaching groups of students at all and hate the thought of returning to that.

I have a vexed relationship with work. Part of me wants professional success. However, I've always put more energy into cultivating good relationships, self-knowledge, and creativity than into worldly success.

I think the reason I've been like that is partly due to some episodic depression and anxiety that it took an intense focus on to overcome. Often, I'd find that I had to prioritize therapy, journaling, and other forms of self-care just to make it to the next day. Being in grad school and being self-employed helped facilitate that. I've always feared that the kind of dedication and energy that employers seem to want might drain me and prevent me from the self-care my particular temperament seems to need. (I'm INFP on the Myers-Briggs and a 4 on the Enneagram, if that helps).

My introversion is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it makes me capable of working alone. On the other hand, it can lead me to too much living in my head and being isolated. I actually prefer to work with other people.

I'm single and over 35, and I really don't have the luxury of continuing to just get by whilst I indulge my dreaminess.

I've even considered some sort of employment rehabilitation program, but they seem more geared for people with fewer skills and advantages than I have. I can go get a $10/hour telemarketing job (which I absolutely do not want) on my own without a government-funded counselor helping me. I want a professional position, but one that does not enervate me too much to do a good job at it.

And, I need the confidence to bother to apply. When I see a job posting, my first reaction is, "they're not going to want me anyway," and then I don't apply at all.

I'm not pessimistic like that in any other areas of my life. I wish I could translate the confidence and competence I feel in my relationships, creativity, and integrity into practical, quantifiable accomplishments.

I can't be the only person like me out there in MeFi-land. What has worked for others?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (6 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
This blog entry was posted earlier today and makes a good read:

An interesting take-away is the part where the author watched a guy who didn't speak english get a job in 30 minutes.

Maybe this method will work for you, too.
posted by devbrain at 2:21 PM on March 1, 2011 [6 favorites]

I worked for four different supervisors on this job, and they all deemed me an excellent employee. Prior to this, I worked on a grant-funded project for a nonprofit for about six months. Again, I was lauded for my performance.

Jobhunting is a rather ugly beast that does sinister things to our logic. Something along the lines of going back in time to arrange for said logic to be delivered to the wrong address. What you have to do is fight back with some solid facts, such as the ones I've selected here. This helps when you start along the path of "they're not going to want me anyway," and then I don't apply at all. People did want you to work for them in the past, and people will want you to work for them now.

One thing that has worked for me is a rewards system for the whole johunting shebang. I send an application, I get 10 points. Interview: 100 points. You get the idea. While it's quite a juvenile way of going about the process, it helps by getting you to do all those little actions that lead to getting a job. It takes emotion out of the equation too. If you have some doubts about whether you would get interviewed, you can still get those 10 points for the application. (Depending on your individual situation, you can award yourself your prizes along the way, or after you get your new job.)

Which brings me to my last tip: even if you're not sure about whether you have a hope of even getting past the application stage, apply anyway. Here again, absent logic will mean you look at a job advert, score yourself as 2/3 on the requirements, and give up. Heck, poker players wouldn't give up in that situation. Recruiters may ask for the moon on a stick, but that doesn't mean they're gonna get it.

It's the same deal with this: Unfortunately, I don't think I have enough experience in writing where the real money is to get a good writing job. Unless you can back this feeling up with hard facts, why rule it out? Have you been told this by the people that hand out the real money? And if you haven't, why haven't you gone after that real money yet?
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 4:11 PM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

I have had similar problems (not ADD, but a hearing disability, and periods of sub-employment and freelancing). I find that the negative self-talk boils down to "Why am I not a different person, less _____, more _____?"

Such self-talk blames yourself and is extremely unhelpful to you. If there is something concrete that you can learn to do, go ahead, but perhaps the people who are getting ahead just have more self-confidence because they don't engage in negative self-talk.

The rewards system sounds like a good idea too.
posted by bad grammar at 5:38 PM on March 1, 2011

Your AskMe question really resonates with me. I was laid off a little over a year ago, and I managed to line up a lot of contracting work which is now finishing. I have enough saved up to last until June 1st rent cheque. It's frustrating to have to continue the job/contract hunt, but there we are.

I'm also a writer. I'm actually developing a reputation as a business/non-profit proposal writer. It's not hellaciously tough work (although it is time-consuming).

The key is to understand the funding mechanism - what is required, what they can pay for, what they want recipients to do to get the money, and then determine if your client, the recipient org can actually meet the requirements. There is a degree of fudging on both sides, but ultimately it has to be a good fit, and ultimately you need to give whoever is reading the proposal the ammunition to approve it and send it up the food chain.

The tough part is finding people who will pay you to write proposals for them. If you're focusing on non-profit grant writing, you need to form relationships with these orgs. You can do this by volunteering (proposal writing) or just meeting people.

You've got to get out and have face to face meetings with people. It's the only way.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:04 PM on March 1, 2011

You're far from alone. (Actually, I'm grateful you asked this improbably resonant question, and eagerly await further responses.)

Two thoughts.

1) You could forget about trying to catch up with the bump and hustle of jobbing as a wordsmith in 2011. As you know, after writing and related professions, counselling is the most recommended kind of work for INFPs. Those people get paid to commit to basic experience.

2) Instructional design, knowledge transfer and the like strike me as a less awkward fit for you than the other possibilities you mentioned. I gather demand will exist for the foreseeable, in both academia and the private sector. (Sample search here.) Consider taking one or two refresher courses to boost your confidence, if you feel you need it (or even a post-grad certificate). You might be able to make a few contacts that way as well, or at least get on the university jobs mailing list.

Good luck.

(You sound fab.)
posted by nelljie at 2:59 PM on March 6, 2011

Wow. I kind of can't believe what I wrote in 1) above. I'm sorry. Please ignore my terrible advice, which it appears (to me now) was self-directed, escapist, wishful thinking. And probably the last thing you need to hear.

I'd like to retract that bit, and emphasize my other point. If you feel de-skilled (as I do, and have), it might also be worth investing in short, one-off workshops in grant-writing until you feel you've got a reasonable grip on conventions. I've seen these classes offered by universities, charities, and local government agencies. Maybe with a bit of that kind of guided support, you'll feel better able to talk up your considerable experience on your CV, and recoup some of the heart required to hustle.

I think what I was trying to get at before was that while it's hard not to fixate on forecasting employers' expectations, the market, etc., I think you should have faith in your natural talents and honour the kind of creature you are. While teaching/tutoring might drain you, it seems you've got a pedagogical inclination that might find happy expression in curriculum design/e-learning. Which, on the face of it, seems like more thoughtful (and restful) work than, e.g., PR.

Again, I'm sorry for being dickishly careless.
posted by nelljie at 9:01 PM on March 7, 2011

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