Since starting my new life, I’m still occasionally struck with a moment of sheer panic—I haven’t applied to any jobs lately! As soon as it hits me, I roll my eyes and go about my day, but a week or even just a couple days later, it’ll hit me again. My brain has been so conditioned into looking for the “the next big thing” that it feels weird—wrong, even—to not be constantly scouring job sites for potential positions.
I updated my resumé last week to make it current: Added in The HSUS, took out a role I’d only had for a short time, condensed some things (more on resumés later), got it all nice and sitting pretty on one page, and then realized—I had nowhere to send it. Of course, you can find it on my website, but no one’s going to see that baby for at least a few years.
Breaking habits is hard to do. When your life is consumed by job-hunting, even when you’re employed, even when you’re employed and doing what you love, it’s difficult to quench that thirst for finding that perfect something, something located where you’ve always wanted to work, or frankly, just something that would pay better.
I won’t be the one to tell you to stop that search—ever. If you’re unhappy, and I mean genuinely, feel-it-in-the-pit-of-your-stomach, not-sure-you’ll-ever-feel-better unhappy (more on that later too), fight like hell. Reach for the goddamn stars and never give up. Easier said than done, of course, but you’ll have no one to blame but yourself if you don’t at least try to climb out of that hole.
No, I’m here to tell you what you should do when you finally reach a point where you can stop searching. You can let yourself feel happy, relieved even. And the catharsis that comes when you embrace that moment is pure bliss.
Yesterday, it took a shockingly short period of time to completely disassemble my “JOB HUNT” folder. That annoying little manila icon sitting in the bottom left corner of my desktop for years has finally been cleaned out and hidden. I kept the essentials—Word doc and PDF of my updated resumé, my cover letter template, my recommendation letters and reference sheet. I tore apart the list of jobs I’d set up and turned it into a template for when the day finally comes that I might need it again. When I got to my “Application” folder (within a folder, within a folder), I took a moment to read some of the cover letters I’d sent out in recent months, wondering, naturally, why they didn’t get me into more interviews, why those painstaking hours of coming up with the perfect words didn’t get me out of my crappy job situation and into a better one so much faster. (I don’t recommend torturing yourself like this.)
The list was overwhelming. I’d kept almost all of them. And I’ll continue to keep most of them. Cover letters are a bitch, but you should keep a few handy for reference—I’ll do a whole post on cover letter tips eventually.
ASPCA (sorry, HSUS), BarkPost, Bustle, CafeMedia, Disney Cruise Line, DuJour Media, Glamour.com, Greatist, Hollywood.com, iHeart Media, New York Film Academy, New York Magazine, New York Post, Refinery29, Slate, Thrillist, Vanity Fair, Vogue, Vulture, Well + Good … all of these and more were in that application folder, some with multiple variations for different open positions. (You’ll notice most, if not all, of those are located in New York City. When my heart can finally handle it, I’ll write all about that as well.)
This is what I’m getting at—keep your eyes on the path in front of you. Keep yourself sane and focused by not dwelling on what life might’ve been if you hadn’t lost an entire year to working retail at the mall because you let yourself get discouraged, if you had demanded fair freelance wages from your stingy editor, if you hadn’t gotten overwhelmed on your first deadline day in a busy newsroom, and if your nerves hadn’t totally botched that Entertainment Weekly interview.*
A dear friend of mine told me throughout our entire childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood that everything happens for a reason. We’re meant to be right where we are at any given moment because that moment is preparing us for the next one. Every time she says it, I tell her she sounds like a fortune cookie. But if you take a look at some of the fortune cookies I’ve opened over the past six years, they do indeed make it sound like I’ve been heading straight for this moment. My moment. And I saved them so I could remind myself of that.
So keep your eyes on the prize! (Now who sounds like a fortune cookie?) Decide what you want and go for it. Work for it, because finding work in the first place can be the hardest work there is—but there is no better payoff than when you finally ace every step of the process and find yourself feeling, finally, like you just might be allowed to be happy.
*Told you I had my fair share of (sometimes quite painful) stories. Stay tuned.