Friday, May 9, 2014

Where I got my Skillz

It has been months since I last posted... I have no excuses. I was lazy. In Newfoundland winter survival mode, actually. Eating frozen gluten-free Daiya pizzas by myself on the couch watching Netflix. This was only interrupted by the necessary but horrific trudges to work through two feet of slick snow and ice, the wind whipping pellets of freezing rain in my face. I had to close my eyes while I walked to prevent eyeball lacerations, no exaggeration.

Anyways. All that has changed because I am in Victoria now, being funemployed (ie writing blog posts when I should be updating my resume for the umpteenth time). I am procrastinating because I feel like no one will hire me with green hair (it's actually grey/blue, with green, pink and coppery highlights. Interesting, but doesn't scream "HIRE ME").

Why, yes. That is a multi-coloured mushroom cut I am sporting. Marvin likes it.  

I have been looking through job postings ad nauseum. And I have encountered a problem. Out of financial necessity, (I had to support myself while attending university) my resume is all over the map. I have been a lifeguard, caterer, personal assistant, swim instructor, housekeeper, support worker, program coordinator, nanny, server and line cook.

 I feel like I have done a pretty darn good job in each of those positions. This is largely because I like people, I like to learn things, I like to try hard, I can tell time, and I have fair to excellent personal hygiene.

But all this experience and drive to do well don't add up to squat. Because I am overqualified for menial jobs, and underqualified for even entry-level non-menial positions.

I wasn't one of those people who knew what they wanted to be right out of high school. I went to university because I had some vague idea that was what I was supposed to do when I graduated, and I had some scholarships that couldn't be deferred. I took English, and Philosophy, and Creative Writing courses. Because I liked them. Sometime during my second year of university, I looked at my transcript and said "Oh. I've taken lots of English. I like books and reading and stuff... I hate math. I'm an English major". Actually I think my internal conversation was even shorter than that.

I enjoyed university. I played intramural sports, I stayed out til four am, I spent my student loans on shoes. In short, I had fun, and did mildly irresponsible young adult type things in a fairly well-supervised environment.

 But I was horrifically shy outside of my immediate group of friends. I had imposter syndrome big time. I thought everyone was smarter than me, and was terrified of opening my mouth and confirming their suspicions. So I cruised through my four years without speaking in class unless absolutely necessary, without ever seeing an academic advisor (after making one appointment that the advisor never showed up to), without volunteering for all of the possible activities I might have used to pad my resume, without attending a single job fair, without making any particular impression on anyone I could later ask for a reference. I did decently well grades-wise, but didn't study anywhere near as much as I should have, and ended up with a B+ average. Okay, but nothing stellar, and not an accurate reflection of my capabilities.

And what I didn't do in university was figure out how I could turn my degree into a job. Because I was seventeen years old when I started university. And socializing and exercising were my priorities. I was twenty one when I graduated, and still had no idea how the actual world functioned. And decided to sit back and wait for the job offers to roll in. Embarrassingly, I legitimately thought that's how it would work. No one told me otherwise.

I was sure that hiring managers would look at my well-composed but skimpy resume and just know that I would try my hardest and do a good job. And they'd be busting down my door to hire me for some cool public relations or communications job. And I'd do my best and get promoted and pay off my student loans and get a dog and buy a new car for my parents by the time I was twenty four.

Five years later, I am no closer to a "real" career, and no closer to paying off those student loans (my allowance from Lisa doesn't stretch that far).

To the untrained eye, my scattered resume might look an awful lot like failure.

Today, though, as I do laundry while coordinating a family outing on the phone while typing a blog post while making soup while working on a resume while texting my fiancee while wiping goop out of Marvin's eyeball, I think that maybe I'm doing okay.

Because as a housekeeper, I learned to fold a load of laundry in two minutes. As a support worker, I learned to care for others (animals included) with endless patience. As a personal assistant, I learned to talk on the phone and type seventy words a minute simultaneously. As a program coordinator, I learned to organize and delegate. As a line cook I learned to feed hordes of people impossibly quickly. And all of these skills are infinitely useful and practical. I am grateful for my experiences, even if they're not highly marketable.

So I have decided to stop beating myself up. The right job will present itself, and I know I will find an interesting and rewarding position when the time (and hiring manager) is right. Over the past handful of years, my personal tool box has expanded in a way that it wouldn't have if I had found a "real" job right out of university, and I feel better prepared for what that "real" job might entail.

I know there are many other university educated twenty and thirty somethings out there with schizophrenic-seeming resumes like mine. I think it time that we acknowledge our efforts to survive in a hostile job market, and recognize and value the important skills we have acquired. We are doing our best, and our best is totally acceptable (that nugget of wisdom I learned in kindergarten).

As I multi-task on this sunny West Coast afternoon, I'm going to give myself a big ol' pat on the back. Those hiring managers don't know what they're missing.

(I bring cookies to work)

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