I feel like the job hunt has been a constant part of my life since graduating from college, oh, almost 13 years ago. I can’t think of an extended period of my life, employed or not, when I wasn’t stalking a job board (today’s Indeed was yesterday’s Monsterjobs or Hotjobs), hoping to find the next big thing. Scoff all you want, but I once hit a home run with Hotjobs.com, landing my first gig in media at The New Yorker via their website. My uncle, who closely resembled Kelsey Grammer’s Dr. Frasier Crane in looks and manner, would never let me live that down. He’d boast incessantly to his elite New York pals, “My niece got a job at THE New Yorker via HOTJOBS! Can you believe it?!”
Like a dear old, pesky friend you can’t break up with, the job hunt would creep up on me just when I thought I was done with it. As good as I may have had it, I couldn’t kick that nagging voice telling me there was probably something out there way cooler and exciting than what I was doing at that moment. A typical case of the grass is always greener, maybe, or my OCI, obsessive compulsive indecisiveness.
Today the job hunt is as all-consuming as ever. Since we moved, I decided to shut down my pet care business Rascals & Roses a) because I didn’t want to deal with the commute from our new home, but really because b) I was unhappy and severely unfulfilled with the brainless tedium of walking dogs and picking up their poop all day.
So now what? We can’t live on one paycheck in our household forever. Well, we could, but we’d be limiting our social activities so much we’d be lonely and depressed. I want to contribute. Hell, I’d love being the primary breadwinner, but I cannot figure out what it is that’s going to get me/us there. Some friends lament being the only single girls at the campfire. I assess my peers and I lament I’m the only (childless) person who doesn’t have their s*** together, working full-time in some kick-ass job.
In a dream world, my children’s book would live on bookstore shelves and I’d be on my way to becoming the next Beatrix Potter, and living a life much like Sandra Boynton described in her work space piece in The New York Times. Looking back at my first query e-mails, it’s been two years since I completed it — oooph! — and besides the occasional “so charming” or “heartwarming but…,” a letter of interest has yet to come. Yesterday I started exploring the possibility of self-publishing. More on that another time.
I often come across job opportunities online I feel I’d be well-suited for, mainly in the digital realm I left behind in New York City, and I send the resume/cover letter package, selling myself as a passionate innovator of online storytelling. I’ve had a few interviews, sent a couple thank you notes — hoping to score some brownie points with this anachronistic courtesy — but nothing pans out. One interviewer asked me the other day, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” I almost blurted, “Living on a farm, with rugrats, above my antique store!” before I stopped myself. This isn’t a hard question for me. In fact, an ex asked me this same question 10 years ago on our first date and my quick-fire answer shocked him then: “Living happily somewhere with a family.” But this woman looking to hire a manager didn’t want to hear that. She wanted to hear I dreamed of being president of her company. So I stumbled trying to come up with a convincing lie that hid the truth.
Maybe this is part of my problem. In the rush to get back to work, I’m settling for career choices that won’t get me to that happy place, five or 10 years down the road, of perma-fulfillment. The last go-around I grew impatient with career introspection and figured I could make a quick buck walking dogs. We all know how this ended up.
I drove to Las Vegas last weekend to meet up with a friend from my ABC days and caught NPR’s TED Radio Hour. To my excitement, the topic was success. Alain de Botton (author of Status Anxiety) addresses our 21st century identities being wrapped up in what we do. It’s one of the first questions you ask somebody you meet, right? God forbid you give the wrong, unimpressive answer or you’ll be left at the bar with the peanuts. For two years I dreaded this question. How could I avoid admitting I was a dog walker? By saying “small business owner” instead? What de Botton encourages is for us to come up with our own definitions of success, not some celebrity’s, not your neighbor’s, not even your parent’s. If success to you is being outside all day and working for yourself, then embrace that (though I believe it’s easier said than done).
So here we go: success to me will be supporting a family, without worrying about living paycheck to paycheck, being around this family (and not cooped up in an office somewhere, out of sight and mind for 12 hours a day), buying a house, going on adventures and being able to enjoy a fancy dinner from time to time with my handsome husband. Is this too much to ask? Can we truly have it all? I hope — wherever we land, whatever I do next — whether I create something or work for a company that inspires me, that once and for all I can put away the resume, let it age a bit, and be satisfied in knowing THIS is what I want to be doing in five years. And nothing else.