How to Continue Your Job Search When You Feel Like Giving Up

I don’t envy those who are currently job hunting, unlike myself. A year ago, I was seeing a therapist twice a week to manage the crippling depression of (a) having no idea what I wanted to do with my life and (b) (and even worse) having nobody take me seriously when I tried to explain that I wanted to switch to something “more creative”. When you send in 80+ job applications, get 8 or so responses (all negative), and three interviews, you do start to wonder if you’re even worth being taken seriously, unfortunately.

A few months later, I had it figured out that I wanted to be a writer, author, artist, and all-around creative powerhouse (can we say: occasional singer? ;)). Yay! But when I approached a recruiter to try and help me find a stepping stone job as an HR person, they told me that selling me, an accounting person, to an HR department as a to-be HR person would be “more trouble than it was worth”. Hell, I was staying within the “corporate” arena and I was being told that I didn’t have a chance there. Needless to say, I felt ~*totally awesome and motivated*~. What a thing to hear, after all.

Indeed, I was winning some and losing quite a few more. That was until I landed my current gig as a catalog editor and silently told my LinkedIn naysayers to kindly eat their words.

Still, until I got that one chance, I thought I was never, ever, ever going to find a job that fit me ever again. I’m not exaggerating. I clearly remember calling my mom one day and declaring that I was “NEVER going to be a self-actualized and gainfully employed human being!!!!!!!” (God, I wish I were joking). But something tiny dwelled within me and kept pushing me, even during my lowest points. I still haven’t figured out what it was yet, but here were some things I told myself to prevent me from abandoning the civilized world altogether and retiring to a sub-freeway colony:

“If someone doesn’t want you, you wouldn’t want to work there anyways.”

I’m starting with a cliche, yes, but only because this is so freaking true it’s crazy. I faked the crap out of my personality to get one of my prior jobs and even though I got the job, it was truly the most abysmal environment possible for me. Conversely, I earned my current job by being myself and owning the fact that I’m a human being with needs and not some stolid robot who lives solely for a career. I’m not saying you should bare every possible facet of your personality in an interview (ahem…competitive farters), but do be upfront and honest about what kind of environment you’re looking for. If you get rejected, it’s likely because they weren’t a good fit for you.

“You need to try a little harder.”

Harsh, but true. I was sending in a whole lot of non-tailored resumes and stock language cover letters to nameless recipients, which almost always yielded no response in return. On the other hand, I got a lot more response (negative and positive, but let’s focus on the positive!) when I actively sought out the name of the hiring manager and sent a customized resume and cover letter to them. Now, about cover letters: I, like most of you, hate them with the burning passion of a ghost pepper in love. But they don’t have to be terrible. Human Workplace founder Liz Ryan recommends the “Pain Letter” as an alternative and I think it’s brilliant. You can read about those here.

On an even more detailed level, I realized that I was also prone to submitting e-mails, resumes, and cover letters with stupid little formatting errors, misspellings, and even omissions that would have painted me in a more positive, creative light. If I had just spent a few extra minutes on these items, this wouldn’t have happened. It pays to try just a little bit harder.

“My next job is going to be lucky to have me.”

I began my search applying desperately for any job that sounded remotely creative, particularly low-level entry jobs that paid a fraction of what I was earning at my previous job. I even applied for a few “intern” jobs–even though I’m 25 years old and have a Master’s degree! Now, obviously, switching jobs may necessitate starting from square one, especially when making such a drastic career change as I did. But even if you appear not to have too many relevant skills to your newly desired job, you still have plenty from school, work, and–let’s face it–life. Your job search should take a while, because you don’t want to rush into anything. It’s like a relationship: wait for the right one.

I’m proud of myself for writing such a concise entry (and I really, really need to get back to editing my book), so I’ll leave you with these thoughts. But just to tie everything together, remember this truism above all: you will get a job. Your first job, second, third, or fourth jobs may not be tailor-made for you, but if you persevere, you will eventually make your way into the job (or jobs) of your dreams.


How to Take a Mental Health Retreat

I spent the evening of New Year’s Eve cramped in a car for about four hours. When I finally got to my destination, it was a hotel I wouldn’t recommend to the shadiest crack dealer. After passing by the police activity on the first floor, I made my way up to my room, where I discovered that one of the towels I used for my bath (believe me, I needed a BATH, not a shower after my previous day) had not been washed prior to my scheduled stay. I spent the evening trying, unsuccessfully, to connect to the wi-fi so I could work on my book, but ended up sacrificing my precious network data to stream Master of None from my cracked phone until about 1:00 am instead. I didn’t even notice the New Year when it passed. Instead, I happened to look at my phone around 12:07, only to lacksadaisically mutter to myself, “Oh. Happy 2016, me.”

To most people, this probably sounds like the most disappointing, boring, and lonely New Years Eve that anyone has ever experienced. But for me, it was everything I needed.

Let me back up a bit–and provide some context, because I think that would help.

As I mentioned in my previous entry, I recently experienced a breakup. In an effort to not come off as “airing dirty laundry”, I neglected to mention that said breakup occurred in the wee hours of December 30th. Even though I was fresh from an incredible road trip I took with my stepdad, I was in utterly miserable spirits thanks to this. So, in an effort to bring my pain level down from “hellish” to “bearable”, I vowed to take myself on a little mini-trip for the few following days–or, as I like to call it, a “Mental Health Retreat”. I left the afternoon of the 31st and spent four days in San Luis Obispo (and its surrounding areas), Lompoc, and Malibu. Sounds like paradise, right? Indeed, but that’s not why I went.

But before I go on, let’s look at pictures! YAY!

bishop peak hike
Shortly after I began my hike up Bishop Peak – San Luis Obispo (note: got a NON-CRAPPY camera for Christmas and I’m elated!!!!!)
Waves crashing down close to sunset at Montana de Oro State Park – Los Osos
A look from inside a comfy car at the dunes at Pismo Beach.
morro rock
Morro Rock – Morro Bay
view from bishop peak
The view from atop Bishop Peak – San Luis Obispo
Our barn at the ranch in Lompoc.
kids with donkey
Brother Declan (9), sister Abby (15), and fabulous Donkey Joshua (wise beyond his years…a wiseass…get it??!)
mare with foal
Our adorable horses, Big Red and Little Red (note: Big Red’s name is not really Big Red. That’s a placeholder because I’m a terrible person and I don’t remember her real name.)

Anyway, despite what you see above, I didn’t want it to be all paradise. In fact, even though I didn’t anticipate the hotel to be quite *that* crappy, I knew that I would be experiencing a range of emotions–many positive, but quite a few negative: wrenching remorse, cold apathy, sunny elation, deep sorrow. And believe it or not, wanted to feel all of those emotions. 

I wanted to come to terms with what had happened. I wanted to evaluate my life–past, present, and future–and figure out how I was going to move forward. I wanted to at least start the trip by spending a generous amount of time alone, which most people would find harrowing after a breakup. I decided, however, that I needed to feel the loneliness.

It sounds weird, but I think we become much more human and real if we allow ourselves to not only feel negative emotions, but bask in them. When we let these negative emotions run their proper course, we put less pressure and stress on ourselves to be this perfectly-put-together human (which, by the way, is impossible). Because I let myself experience a normally super-social, super-escapist holiday alone in an uncomfortable place, I feel like the negativity was all but flushed out of me that night.

It wasn’t all gloom, though. I also wanted to exercise, eat some delicious food, and see some beautiful sites while on my retreat, and I got to do all of those things. I also visited my stepmom, sisters, and little brother at our family ranch on Saturday and stayed the night at my dad’s house on Sunday. All was not emotionally wrenching; I had an amazing time.

If you’re having a rough time, and can afford (in both a time and money sense) to take a few days away, here are some ideas that can help make your Haley-style retreat a great one!:

  1. Have an open mind. This may be a retreat, but stuff like flat tires, lousy hotel rooms, and horribly inclement weather can still happen. Unless your budget is abnormally large, you must first come to terms with the fact that these things may happen and thus may interrupt your inner peace a tad. That’s okay, though. Just remember that this is your time and your only job is to make the most of it.
  2. Feel all the emotions you need to. That way, you can let go of the negative ones before you return to the “normal” world.
  3. Go somewhere you’ve never been. Distract your mind with newness–in a way that won’t damage you (or others) like a rebound will. Hooray for not using humans as unwilling objects!
  4. Go do stuff, but don’t put pressure on yourself to do a ton. Remember, this is more about taking a break from your routine and connecting with yourself.  While I’m normally a super-eager traveler who likes to pack in as many activities as possible, I felt better sticking with a couple of nice hikes or sightseeing activities per day during my short journey.
  5. Go somewhere where you can actually hear yourself think. This is why I chose SLO and the central coast: it’s super open, beautiful, and incredibly laid-back. Maybe don’t do places like New York or Miami if you’re trying to be as relaxed as possible.
  6. Let loved ones know where you’ll be. You might need space from the world, but the people you know and love aren’t suddenly going to stop caring about you. Let them know before you jet out that you’re taking some time. They will support you unequivocally.

I did get a few texts from said loved ones on New Year’s Eve–many of whom I hadn’t heard from in ages. Most of them had no idea about my breakup, they were just reaching out to say hi. So, be prepared for the fact that the littlest of nice surprises just might make you realize how lucky you are.