Single, Grieving and Job Hunting
Let me tell you a little story. I am not asking for sympathy or pity; I am merely sharing what has exactly transpired and why I am where I am.
Today I hit 300 applications.
That is 300 customized over letters.
That is 300 tailored resumes.
That is at least 300 new connections and efforts to network.
That is 300 moments of holding my breath,
That is 300 let downs.
This is while grieving.
This is while gaining new skills and certifications.
This is while doing deep work within myself and taking far too many personality and professional tests.
This is while re-doing my website and picking up freelance work.
This is also while doing the work for the positions, including building strategy decks, lengthy content examples, even writing five original articles and putting together ten different story ideas.
This is while working with two different career coaches, both of whom couldn’t come up with a reason beyond, “the economy” for why I am still searching.
This is while the world weeps and wails for change.
This is while I held signs to stand as a brown woman in partnership with the black community.
This is while I wrote countless emails, pleading for justice.
This is while I started anti-racism book clubs and read more books in the last two months than I have for most years.
This is while the administration threatens to ban social creation platforms.
This is while the administration calls 100s of thousands of deaths, including friends and family of mine, “it is what it is.”
This is while the administration claims we all sit on our couches, refusing to work. But keep in mind, this sentiment exists because we live in such a despicable society where being home, in a pandemic, without a job, and getting $600 extra is enough to keep someone home because for once they can buy from the WIC rack.
This is while we spit vitriol and call it patriotism, and no one remembers what kindness truly means.
This is while I worry about catching COVID-19 without insurance, for I will not know how my body will react. I could hang with popsicles, or I could be on a ventilator. No one knows, and yet they tell me to “fear not! live your life!”
This is while I worry about seeing my parents, the two people I have left in this world after losing in a tragic, cruel way, my safe person, my only sibling, for I do not want to get them sick.
This is while I worry about moving and if it’s the only way to save my bank account, but after the math on moving expenses, I decide that hemorrhaging rent money makes more sense.
This is while I worry about my pets’ well-being, one of whom had a cancer scare, forcing me to choose between treatment or the rainbow bridge.
This is while I worry about my future and the possibility of becoming a mother, not only to be a power spender in society but a biologically contributing member as well.
This is while I focus on my mental health.
This is while I focus on finding my center again after my world ripped to shreds, and I had to adjust to a sentence I never wanted to say, “I lost my brother.”
This is while I focus on building a grief community through my podcast geared toward those who have experienced sibling-loss, a veritable desert in the grief world.
This is while I focus on being a supportive friend, daughter, ally, and fellow griever.
This is while I focus on losing the year’s worth of grief weight — 30 pounds.
This is while I started running in May, so far completing a 100-mile challenge and a few 5Ks, a 10K is coming up.
This is while I focus on eating better, doing the healthy lifestyle that my brother adopted.
This is while I focus on being happy and buoyant for the small ones in my family.
This is while I focus on hearing my friends as they share their struggles and work to support them.
This is while I date virtually.
This is while I cry because my heart is forever broken.
This is while I cry because our country is so broken.
This is while I cry because I’m scared of what the future looks like, for me, for my family and for you.
And yet. I apply.
…and with fervor.
I apply each day, and the least an employer can do is respond or tell you why, or what else you can do to improve or stand out above the fray. And yet, even an automated response seems to be asking too much. Even when I created a 40-page presentation of a digital strategy with custom graphics in four days, or when I wrote five articles with original reporting, or when I shared countless story ideas or even when I earned certification recommended to me. I didn’t even get more than one or two responses when I emailed and simply asked why, couched with many appreciative statements, because that’s the truth. I am appreciative. I’m just tired.
How’d I get here, you ask? Perhaps I deserve it somehow?
Well, if you read this far, you must be thinking this girl is full of sh*t, and you’re looking for a way to prove it, or you’re just stunned and don’t know what to say so you’re just reading. But either way, I’ve never been very good at lying, and all I have is my integrity anymore, and I’m not willing to lose that over a blog post.
I was working as a marketing communications manager at a tech company. Within my first year there, I had to support my family as they worked through my grandmother’s repeated strokes. I was grateful to be permitted to spend a few weeks working remotely from the hospital, so I could be with my Nani as she eventually needed to be moved to hospice care. I was at my desk when I got the call, and my boss was the first person I told while choking back tears.
Upon returning to work, more stressful family events were occurring, and when December hit, I was looking forward to seeing my family in Florida, deeply worried about my brother. My vacation turned into planning a funeral, and I’ve never been the same since.
Upon returning to work, finishing up my vacation time, and begging for an extra day or two, I was met with faces far too happy to see me and not a single sympathy card, flower, or glance. I was immediately expected to function and was chastised for not being at my best. I wish I could even show you the reviews I received. These were my peers, my leaders? Those who wished the best for me? Did they not see how hurt, sad, and broken I was? How much pain I was in, how disorienting grief and loss is? Some even created a separate group chat and talked about me while sitting inches from me. So, I wanted to leave. Layoffs were happening, people were quitting, and we were told the company was having a tough year. The frenetic energy was overwhelming, and I so needed stability. I wanted to do meaningful work; I wanted to give back and help and work with love and kindness and just do something to help the population of which my brother was a member — the medical community. So, I set out to get a job with a medical nonprofit*.
I was so grateful to get the interview, during which I learned it was part of the Insurance side. It wasn’t ideal. But the women they hired to run marketing enamored me, and she was new, too. So we would build the digital side together — a dream opportunity. Standing in the lobby, I was speechless. I couldn’t believe I had made it to the very organization that was a part of so many conversations of my time with my brother.
Upon quitting, my boss asked me to stay, but I couldn’t. I gave an extra week and even trained the remaining team members on the work I was doing. One was kind, the other was very disinterested and wanted training on the tools for which I went to school — it didn’t seem fair to expect that of me, there wasn’t even enough time. That’s what you get for trying to be helpful, I guess?
My first week at the profit side of the non-profit* was exciting. I worked late every night. I immediately threw myself into the work and wanted to impress. I wanted to do so much, so fast and just make lives better. I was encouraged by my new boss, and the pace wasn’t a concern. Soon, the clash between the tenured folks — 20 to 30 years at the company — and us newbies began. And it was insidious. I remember my boss telling me one day, after reading my body language, “I know you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop, but you’re safe here. I promise.”
Famous last words.
This is where the story becomes difficult for me to write because I’ve found peace with this, but it still cuts so deep, it’s hard to breathe.
I churned out so much work. I created a brand guide, and editorial guide, all from the ground-up, I was tasked with a whirlwind of projects without a clear idea of launch dates or goals. I worked with agencies to produce 12 videos, with customized graphics that I supported creating. I built the creative for the agency’s major event, a contest, and created all the social media graphics and videos — more than 30 customized for each platform. I worked with other departments on newsletter content, focus group surveys, and questionnaires. I produced, manged, shot and edited a video where interviewees were flown in from other states without so much as a notification beyond, “hey she will be here on Friday, we need to get a camera, get on Amazon and tell me how much it is.” Everything was to happen at once and also over a few months. It was so much on my grief brain, but also my new-employee mind. The tension grew, and awkward conversations became more frequent, and eventually, my boss and the president couldn’t agree any longer. She was out that day. She negotiated a package and would be okay. Still, we would be left without a survival pack and to fend for ourselves in deep woods with inhabitants who spoke a different language. Without proper change management or foundation-setting, a traditional marketing department in a very regulated industry didn’t know what to do with a bunch of digital kids and content producers. I held on for a month, managed another campaign, tried to finish the video, wrapped up the twelve other videos, built metric-based digital campaigns, as a content marketing manager, and saw the contest through. It was performing better than it had in previous years, but it still was wrought with issues. As interpersonal pressures grew, we all knew little about what to expect, but we knew things would be changing, fast, and not in our favor. Amid editing and building graphics and writing, I get a call. My job was eliminated. I am still welcome to work for other departments, and nothing is a reflection on me or my work, and I’m absolutely re-hireable, but this position no longer exists. The HR woman even asked the president if she really wanted to do that, because she would never be able to hire someone in that role again, and she said she was certain.
This was a month before the first anniversary, and I was just shattered.
A few concerning calls later and a lot of sobbing and seeking to understand, I took my severance on the road and set out to heal myself before the one-year, to try to prepare myself as best as I could for what would be an excruciating day. If anyone has ever lost anyone important to them, you know how milestones can be, especially when it’s an unexpected, horrific event.
I visited friends I hadn’t seen in so long, I hiked and spent a couple of weeks with just myself and prepared to spend the anniversary and holidays without my family and instead alone. This was a year unlike any other, and new traditions needed forming, even if it meant traditions I do with myself. A close friend invited me for a Christmas dinner, so after morning with some other friends, an afternoon with my pets, I went to my friend’s second dinner, the one for lost souls. It was delicious and welcoming, and I almost didn’t have pangs of sadness.
Thus began the search. I hit January and had a mindset shift and decided this would be my year. I would continue working through my grief, and I would find a new role that allowed me to do meaningful work. I went on so many interviews. I created so many test projects and was the final candidate multiple times. And yet. By March, COVID-19 had embedded itself into our air, despite the disagreements and it has shaped my search into some form of insanity, where I continue the same repetitive tasks, hoping for a new outcome.
So yeah, hey, you got an idea? I have an ear and pen ready to take notes. You want to meet for coffee? I can’t seem to get enough these days. You want to chat about your job hunting woes and commiserate, I’ll swap out the coffee for wine or just water, and we can go all day.
In the meantime, I’m finally pursuing a long time dream and going back to school. I’ll share what my pursuit is soon, but regardless of my studies, I will need to keep working because, well, bills don’t pay themselves.
So, if you see me out there, my resume comes across your desk, just at least dop a “hello,” I could use it.
Your girl on the inside,
*specific names not provided to maintain privacy.