Thursday, December 11, 2008

Is true 'happiness' even attainable?

It's true. I suck at life... err, I suck at my online life. I've neglected Facebook, LinkedIn, my blog, Brazen Careerist. And I probably don't even have a good reason for it.

The truth is, I sort of assumed that once I started working I would morph into some sort of super happy, super productive superhuman that would go to the gym, work 10+ hours, write a blog post, and Facebook/Digg/Tweet to my heart's content. We all know the people who DO pull it off (my friend Jess, for instance, already has sent out her Christmas cards). As you can probably guess, I have definitely not morphed into a superhuman.

The only things I've managed to do in the last couple of months are work those 10+ hour days, piss off my mom by not having time to call her, and convince my boyfriend that I have a brain tumor. I've learned a lot about how the world works, and none of it makes me too darn happy. I've learned that...
  • I suck at pretending I don't miss dancing. This has manifested in getting dumped by my co-author, and me waking up in the middle of the night during nightmares that involve ballet class and horrific, gory injuries.
  • Startups are incredibly fun and horribly frustrating all at the same time. I feel like I'm constantly on the verge of both laughing and punching my computer.
  • There comes a time in one's life when your parents don't understand a single aspect of your life anymore. It's liberating, but extremely depressing.
  • I can have the greatest living situation, the best boyfriend, the sweetest dog, and the cushiest checking account I ever thought I'd have... but it's not going to be enough. I'll always have that 'what if' in the back of your head.
It's not that I'm unhappy, it's just that I don't quite have very much figured out yet.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Dancer to startup nerd in 18 months

As you may know, I've been working on a book that gives the practical education of how to really truly live as an artist with Milena Thomas over at Quiet the Thunder. The premise of the book is essentially two creative individuals who have mapped out the intellectual, psychological, social, and economical minefield that is an arts career letting other creative individuals in on this valuable information.

Things are going well, but I'm feeling like a bit of a poser. We're calling ourselves 'creative individuals' and, quite frankly, I'm a business manager for an online travel startup. I feel like it deserves a little explanation... maybe no to you, but to me and potential future readers. How did I decide to give up my life's dream? And how am I dealing with it?

When I initially hurt my knee, it was dramatic enough to be soap-opera-worthy. It was at the end of a class, in a big leap, on the day of dress rehearsal for THE big show at Northwestern. I had solos and featured roles in half of the show, with no understudy. Suddenly I was unable to even walk, and unable to perform in the crowning moment of my college career. Worse still, I was suddenly unable to fulfill my duties as an apprentice to the dance company I had been trying to get into for 5 years and had, just two months ago, signed a contract with.

First phase: denial. I was convinced I would perform. The cantaloupe where my tiny knee used to be stopped this.

Second phase: more denial. I didn't think about the issue at hand. I just sat on the couch, iced my knee, watched bad daytime TV and waited for Nick to get home so I could stuff my face and mix painkillers with wine.

Third phase: determination. I was going to have the fastest damn recovery EVER. I became fanatical about physical therapy and even performed exercises in the apartment complex pool. I lost weight, tried to eat right, and took my vitamins.

Fourth phase: indecision. Suddenly, I wondered if it was all worth it. To entertain me in between gym and PT sessions, I took an internship with a small PR firm in Chicago. Suddenly I was a real person again: getting dressed, having a schedule, making a little money. I was learning new things, working in a new office environment, and having the chance to go to some really neat events (there are many perks to PR). I came to a huge realization: My identity to other people was not 'dancer'. I was just a smart, silly, very motivated girl with a lot to offer. I liked this revelation a great deal, but it precipitated a series of little breakdowns where I would decide to not go back to dance, only to jump in the car and drive to a ballet class. I was still healing so there were setbacks, and ultimately I just decided that the grief was getting to me. I still planned on returning to rehearsals for the fall season with the 'dream' dance company.

Fifth phase: false euphoria. Back in the studio again, dance class felt blissful. I had never felt happier. But after class, when rehearsal began, I suddenly realized something: this didn't make me happy anymore. I loved dancing, but dancing was not making me happy. Day two in class I blew out my knee again, and it was a split second decision: it was time to move on.

Sixth phase: mourning. It was not until I was waist-deep in the job search that I really started mourning my dancing career. I assumed that I should stick in the industry, and become an arts administrator... and then quickly realized that I couldn't talk about dance or watch a performance without being brought to tears. I realized I wasn't ready to work with my art in this capacity.

The decision not to dance ended up being an easy one: it didn't make me quite happy enough to endure working 40 hour weeks for free and holding three part-time jobs in order to make my tiny rent payment. Could I have made it work? Probably. Could I have eventually found the jobs, either performing or choreographing (or both) that would have allowed me to be 'just' a dancer? It is likely. But could I do it at 22? No.

Now, I'm pretty much over it. I can bear watching dance, my knee is back to maybe 70%, I have a job I love that both pays the bills and lets me be creative a bit, and I'm getting the 'itch' to dance again. But why the hell am I not in class, now that I have the money and a working knee?

I AM TERRIFIED. I'm terrified of getting hurt again, I'm terrified of looking like a fat incompetent slob, I'm terrified of dealing with learning the dance scene of a new city. Most of all, I'm terrified that I'll fall back in love with it and try to go back. This, I know, would be disaster.

So what to do? I know what I need to do. I need to get back in the studio and make dance a constant, albeit small, part of my life. Take classes, maybe choreograph, at least doodle around in the studio to some music. I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, September 1, 2008

A Realization of Gen-Y Tendencies...

When I first started being alerted to the unique 'qualities' of Gen-Y I kind of thought the whole thing was bullshit. I mean, who are we to think that we are beautiful and unique snowflakes? Or, at least, a new breed of worker and society contributor? I thought that we really were just trying to emulate our superiors as best we could while figuring out how to navigate coming of age during a war and a pretty shitty economy. Only total numbskulls were going to work in irreverent tees and designer jeans, listening to iPods when we should they overhearing office conversations, and multitasking like crazy between business-related tasks.

Well, here is one of those rare times where Victoria Gutierrez is going to put her gnarly dancer's foot in her mouth. Here I am, sitting across my boyfriend at the kitchen table. Both of us are 23. Both of us are on our work computers, getting a huge amount of work done on a holiday... while blogging and catching up on personal emails, in between showing each other condo listings and getting a week's worth of laundry done. My chihuahua, Elvis, is sitting on my lap and trying to steal sips of organic green tea. Nick is in his pajamas, I am in an old Red Hot Chili Peppers tee. Pandora is blaring some sort of whiny-boy punk music, and this somehow feels like my ideal work environment.

Contrast this with Nick's dad, who is at this very minute (and most minutes while he is here) dressed in very polished business casual,with the door closed in his office, trying to get his next presentation put together on his huge desk full of laptops, monitors, and printers. Complete silence and a big cup of coffee generally gets the job done.

And here I see the fundamental differences between the generations. Nick's dad is a boomer, we are the definition of Gen Y. Gen X I feel, for the most part, is much better at the act that I thought I was playing: copying their boomer boss' moves, outfits, and mortgages to a tee until it comes naturally. My Gen X cousins and friends take a certain joy in getting to wear a tie to work, creeping into middle management, and planning for single family homes and babies. I want a timber loft and more chihuahuas (and a child only if it is a son who will play in the NFL and guarantee me a Campbells Chunky Soup commercial of my own), and to run my own start-up so that I can continue dressing like some sort of eccentric pseudo-hippie.

I'm sure I'll get accused of making assumptions based upon very generalized ideas. I don't really care. What I feel is most important about coming to this sort of realization is that it shows me that I am finally doing something right. My job search was a long and arduous one because I have two requirements for career paths in my life: one, it has to be one where you have something unique and valuable to contribute, and two, it has to be something that makes you excited to get out of bed 75% of the time. For me that means being creative, being extremely busy, and just getting to be myself while I'm at work.

I am there, but Nick is not. Neither are a lot of my friends...which makes me wonder, how many of you are unhappy? How many of you played the game to get the job, and are now struggling to just feel right in your own skin at work?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What You Need To Get Hired By A Startup

So you want to work at a startup.  Who doesn't these days? The hope of being 'the next Google', cashing in major stock options, wearing jeans to work, ping pong in the conference room, and young co-workers.  For some people, this is a pretty accurate description of their life at a startup, and for some people startups are disasters.  Yet, Gen Y'ers seem intent on working at these fledgling companies, especially out here in the Bay Area.

As it turns out, I am seven days into working at a San Francisco online startup, and therefore I am an expert on these matters (yeah right).  I have, however, become a bit of a job search expert by means of searching for a job for twelve months.  While I kept pushing myself toward the stability of larger corporations, it always ended up that I received the most interest from startups.  So, if you want to work at a startup and don't have any highly specialized skills that would make finding a job easier, here are some of the things that I think contributed to my getting the job.

Workaholic Tendencies
Most HR personnel will see this as a red flag that you will burn out, or that you're not a very well-rounded individual.  However, a true startup is going to be very excited by the prospect of someone who's really okay with showing up early, staying late, and probably taking lunch at their desk.  They're going to like someone who loses track of time while immersed in a project, and who is stressed by not having enough to do.  If you're sure that you have these qualities (or faults?), make sure you bring it up in the interview process.  But don't sound like a crazy person, because they're trying to pick someone they'll enjoy spending those long hours with.

Usually you can fake interest in a company's product if you want the paycheck badly enough.  Most people in the workplace are indifferent, at best, about the big picture surrounding what they do.  This will not fly in a startup.  You must possess true passion and a considerable amount of knowledge about the field, because you will be counted on to have a high base level of knowledge and be able to contribute specific experiences and opinions.  Funds are carefully appropriated in a startup, and the passion that management holds for their product is so strong that they won't trust a paycheck to someone who doesn't share that passion.

Equal Parts Trigger-Happy and Cautious
My CEO says 'think fast, work fast.'  You need to not be too scared to commit to an action without management signing off on every little thing.  You also can't be stupid with that trigger finger.  My parents inadvertantly taught me to live in a sort of "informed reckless" environment: if you stay aware, present, and informed of your environment then you can afford to be impulsive and a little bit crazy. They lived this way, taking huge chances but doing it in a way so that there were big returns (exactly the aim of startups). Big risk, big reward.  But don't take stupid risks.

Jack of all Trades, Master of None
The way to stand out in a large corporation is to specialize to the point of being indispensable (the other option is to be an amazing manager, but you're more likely to be good at specializing your skills).  The way to stand out in a startup as a young person is to be able to contribute from all angles, and at least get a handle on everything that is in motion.  You will work with all departments and everyone must understand what the others are doing in order for the product to be successful.  My arts, philosophy, nonprofit, public relations, and sales background was getting me nowhere at companies where the job titles are well defined... but in a startup I am valuable because I can grasp the overall process more quickly.  You also have to look at it from the standpoint of who is doing the hiring: a startup can't know what its personnel needs will be two years (or less) from now, so someone who can be shaped into many different needs is going to be cheaper in the long run.  If you crave structure in your position, rethink your desires to work in a startup, unless you have a Computer Engineering degree.

I had a ballet teacher who once said "Don't be a dancer if you can be anything else." This certainly applies to startups: they are a place for people who are not able to fit into the standard corporate mold, because they crave a bit more creativity and danger in their career.  If you think you're one of those people, then by all means make sure you demonstrate that you have all of the afore-mentioned things while you are interviewing.  And then, good luck. I hope those stock options get you somewhere!

Friday, July 25, 2008


I always feel as though I should explain myself when its been more than a week between posts (I swear I'll be posting regularly again soon!).  An update on why I'm M.I.A.:

1. I just accepted a job with  I am super excited about this and will start on Aug. 4
2. I'm currently in Chicago.  The beauty of living with Nick is that Abbott is paying to move our stuff. Fantastico.

A formal update will follow soon..

Thursday, July 17, 2008

How did college fail you?

I'm working on a pretty exciting project with fellow Brazen Careerist writer Milena Thomas and my task, right now, is to figure out exactly what college didn't teach me about a life in the performing arts.  Re-read Milena's great analysis of what she got in college... and exactly what I got out of my dance major... here. At Northwestern University, where I got my B.S., they even instituted a 'Senior Seminar' to hopefully remedy some of what the typical curriculum lacks... but it was much less about networking and finances, and much more about honing your craft for the end of the year performance.  I feel that a real senior seminar, a sort of 'Grown-up 101' should be mandatory, but thats another blog post entirely.

I need to come up with a list of questions to ask people who've gone through performing arts training and have figured out how to navigate the actual performing life. Or those who are still struggling with it.

I was lucky enough to be in the 'professional world' during high school and college so that I was pretty well prepared to handle the transition from craft to career... but in the grand scheme of things I spent about eight months as an actual professional dancer (six of those rehabbing a knee injury) so I obviously don't know it all.  I need to put myself in the shoes of some undergrad Junior who has an hour or two with a seasoned professional.  What would I ask?

  • What do you feel was missing from your college education?
  • Were you aware of what was missing while you were in school, or did it not hit you until later?
  • What was most helpful about your college education?
  • Were you able to use college to build relationships that helped you get jobs?
Personal Finance
  • How did you figure out your personal finances? 
  • Did you have any problems?
  • If you teach/freelance, do you file as an independent contractor or have you incorporated yourself?
  • Do you have a retirement fund?
Getting Performance/Art work
  • Did networking come naturally to you, or did you have to work at it? Were you able to get additional gigs/jobs/etc. that you wouldn't have gotten through just an audition?
  • Did you/do you do any personal marketing? Do you have a blog, Facebook profile, Myspace profile, Linkedin profile, etc. to increase visibility of your work?
  • How has geography influenced your work load? Did you have to move to find more opportunities?
The All-Important Part-Time Job
  • What jobs have you held to pay the bills while performing?
  • What have been the best part-time jobs for you?
  • What have been the worst?
  • Do you think it is a good idea to work as a teacher in your field while performing?
Taking care of you
  • How do you solve the health insurance issue?
  • How do you stay organized?
  • Do you ever feel like you need to distance yourself from your art?
  • Have you ever felt like quitting? How did you cope with it?
  • Have you ever been unable to perform? What happened, and how did you cope?
  • If you have moved on from performing, how did you make the decision? Why did you make the decision? How did you move on? Are you still confident in your decision?
Have any of you out there graduated from college with a degree that helps you as little as a performing arts career? What would you have liked to know before you got out? Better yet, how would you improve the curriculum so that, when you get your diploma, you are ready to start working?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Go figure...

While drafting a letter to Google's head of HR, talking about the things wrong with their process, I get a phone call from them.  Apparently one of my two biggest issues with them is actually letting me back into the game.  Interview on campus (finally, no more video conferencing!) next week thanks to a cool kid named Jessie.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

"I began to see that overplanning can be as pernicious as not planning at all.  There's an emotional lie to overplanning; it creates a security blanket that lets you assume you have things under control, that you are further along than you really are, that you're home free when you haven't even walked out the door yet."
-Twyla Tharp

Amen, sister.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Bad moods are just fine with me

I haven't blogged in two weeks.  Why, you ask?  Did I find a fantastic full-time job with benefits and challenges and a San Francisco-worthy salary?  Did I figure out how to put Christine Hassler's fantastic advice into practice and conquer my demons? Did I finally go back to Chicago and load up all of my belongings on a moving truck to make my relocation final? Have I been out making friends? Exercising? Am I dead?


Basically, I've had nothing to say.  It's been a crappy couple of weeks full of mediocre interviews, disappointing work, and porn site data entry (yes, I somehow find myself doing data entry temp work for a porn site. Don't ask).  I'm feeling lonely and becoming acutely aware of the financial crunch in this new home of San Francisco.  Without anything positive, inspiring, or even interesting to write about, I figured I should just lay low until I can write the exciting 'How I got my dream job' or 'Why you should relocate right now' blog entry.  I hope you're not holding your breath, because I don't foresee these sorts of topics being discussed on Working + Wishing for at least a little while.

Yesterday I realized this: while society has hard-wired us to strive for and boast about our happiness and success, I think it is more than fine to be a Negative Nancy (or Negative Nick for you XY's out there) for an hour, a day, a couple of weeks if you want.  Sure, I've written about keeping your chin up before... but there's a big difference between living in pajamas, subsisting on Oreo's and what I'm talking about now, which is just being pretty damn disappointed with your own situation.

We talk about crises in our lives, we talk about trying to change them, and we talk about dealing with the change as these crises get rectified.  What seems to get forgotten is that after you've set the ball rolling to change things, there is this horrible middle ground where nothing seems to happen, and where you forget that something will eventually happen.  You've done all you can, and now you just sit and wait in your own mess.  A physical and psychological purgatory.   The place where I've been for a month in San Francisco, and a year in Chicago.

While this 'purgatory' sucks, I can't help but find that it serves a purpose.  When you wallow in your own self pity for a little bit, you find out a lot about yourself:

1. You learn your personal methods of keeping busy.  I, for one, take on projects to fill my time (though right now they are threatening to make me a full-time part-time-er).  An example on the opposite side of the spectrum is a friend who has become an expert Guitar Hero player because he doesn't feel he's ready for the working world yet.  I do not recommend his method, but I am sure there are even worse ways of keeping yourself occupied out there.

2. You learn what else in this world bothers you, other from the mess in your own personal sphere.  Several things (mostly crazy) have gotten me spitting mad in this time of limbo: the out of control use of plastic shopping bags in Chinatown, childhood obesity, complicated public transportation, how much a good bra costs... the list goes on.  What makes you mad without you even knowing it?  When you're already in a shitty mood, I guarantee you'll find out.

3. You will realize that, deep-down, you are a neat freak.  You will clean everything. You will organize everything.  You will have Excel spreadsheets that would make any tech nerd blush.

4. You will prioritize your time for your emotions.  Being upset is not allowed when your boyfriend just got home from work, but definitely okay while you're washing your hair or inputting the stage names for all the 'actors' in Midget Gangbang (once again, don't ask).

5. You will incorporate an even more finely developed sense of humor.  When everything gets bad, it somehow gets hilarious.  Case in point: instead of making me cry for Chicago, San Francisco's fireworks display on July 4th (nothing more than faint flashes of color lighting up a thick fog) made me laugh.  A full, belly aching, pee-in-my-pants laughing attack at something that would've opened the waterworks mere weeks ago.

6. You will write a stupid blog post like this that will make you realize that you're suddenly not in as morose a mood as you were half an hour ago.  Things aren't so bad... or maybe it's that it's okay that things are so bad.  

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Just getting back from a whirlwind weekend of friends and wineries.  The contract job starts today, and I've got a 2 hour interview with a travel startup, but hopefully tonight or tomorrow some sort of blogging will commence.  There's a lot going on in this crazy brain right now!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Don't deny who you are. Just find a way to make it work.

The most interesting opportunities come from the most random of places.  I just got home from an incredibly exciting interview/meeting with a woman who has figured out the dance holy grail: making your knowledge of the needs and wants of professional dance companies lucrative.  I'm not going to spill the beans on what she's doing, but let's just say that she gets to keep dancing, choreographing, making connections, and she will get to travel the world doing it.  We'll call her P.

P was looking for a virtual assistant to help with the planning necessary for launching the company's website and its first round of fundraising.  She hopped on Craigslist's resume postings, searched the keyword 'dance', and up popped my resume.  We communicated via email for a bit, then had a great (albeit a bit giggly) phone conversation, and yesterday I met up with her and the president of her board in north Oakland for a face-to-face interview.  The interview quickly turned into a business planning meeting and, suffice it to say, I am incredibly excited.

When I stopped dancing professionally, I first assumed that I was just going to pop into the administrative office at some ballet company and make a new career for myself.  Months later, after leaving a dance performance during intermission for the umpteenth time because I was crying too much, I felt as though it was impossible for me to ever work in the field again.  Watching these companies that were doing work I could no longer do made me feel like a giant (giant meaning both major and obese) failure.  I stopped watching for openings at places like the Joffrey Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and San Francisco Ballet, and went the opposite direction: Silicon Valley tech companies.

If you've been reading my blog, you know how the new goal went.  Not very well.  Not that I failed completely, as the recruitment process is still in motion, but I'm not very optimistic anymore.

What excited me about talking with P yesterday is that she's approaching a new dance venture in the right way: with an entrepreneurial spirit, and with business sense.  My expertise comes in because I've worked with a huge range of dance organizations, including large foundations, schools, established companies imploding on themselves, small companies doing the right thing to become established, and small companies that never should have become anything in the first place.  I know what works, and what doesn't.  Since I consider myself to be rather equal parts 'artist' and 'business mind', I can see both sides of these dance organizations and why they are failing or doing well.  And P was smart enough to be able to see this from my resume.

Perhaps the smartest thing that P is doing is actively playing off of her strengths and weaknesses, and acquiring more people as a result of them.   She has grabbed someone good at all of the legal red tape and the 'corporate speak', someone with great connections for fundraising, people with international connections, people with the necessary language skills, etc.  I've been grabbed for my experience in dance PR, the building of a dance company 'brand', and my almost sickening love for figuring out the logistics of things like events and travel.  I'm not being counted on for operating any of my weaknesses, the most crippling of which being the fact that I'm still mourning the loss of my dance career.

This is a huge opportunity for me, because I'm getting in on the ground level of a venture that I think could actually work.  I'm getting to do what I want and what I'm good at.  I get to work from home, making my own hours, which still allows me to pursue other career interests and eventually my MBA.  The BEST part is that I am removed enough from the actual dancing; this unique situation is going to allow me to get bitten by the entrepreneurial bug while keeping me involved in dance in a way that I can handle it.

What feels so fulfilling right now is that I know that, for a few hours every week, I won't need to deny a huge part of 'me' anymore.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

BPTW Update

Dear me, this has officially gotten ridiculous.  Despite stellar reviews on my 8 interviews, both teams have decided to pursue other candidates.  And it gets better: my recruitment has out-lasted my recruiter.  Today was her last day, so she called to let me know that she has passed my file on to one of her associates, who will let me know if any other openings pop up.

We're heading onto five months now.  I'm definitely not holding my breath anymore, if the 17-ish job applications I've sent out since moving are any indication.  Also, I've started looking at continuing education programs and masters programs in the area as I'd definitely consider a part-time working-and-school arrangement. We'll see what happens.

At least it is frickin' perfect in San Francisco today (but isn't it everyday?)...

Monday, June 9, 2008

The most important thing to do when things are a mess

When life gets to be a mess, it's incredibly tempting to let the 'mess' take over absolutely everything.  Work is wreaking havoc, your dog died, your career is over (in my case), and all of a sudden you are a desperate disaster.  I've been there: getting out of bed just in time for Nick to get home so that he can't tell I've been in bed all day, wearing the same jeans and t-shirt all week, going outside without mascara (gasp!).  We like to think that when we do go outside people can't tell that we've been in our Spongebob pajamas eating peanut butter with a spoon for 4 days, but they totally can.  That kind of forlorn laziness, that lack of focus, that denial of necessity for hygiene, it invades your very being.  Forget trying to find a job, or network, or be a human being.

So, what do you do?  This is where all the cliche' little sayings come in handy: fake it 'til you make it, keep your chin up, or just quote The Killers and 'smile like you mean it.'  Face it: you're smart, you're motivated, and you know how to sell something.  So sell a bit of success or at least 'togetherness' to yourself.  If you can keep it together and convince yourself that things are alright, other people will tend to believe you.  If they can believe that you're not going to jump off the roof or show up to work in sweatpants, then you're in business.  Some necessary steps in keeping it together:

  1. Set a work-out routine and stick to it.  Put your daily workouts in your planner or Blackberry or whatever, and make sure you do them.  If you have a vigorous workout in the morning, you're going to have a better outlook on the day (my inner monologue goes something like "well, it's 10:30 am and I've accomplished something, so today is not a complete failure).  Working out will give you more energy, give you a sense of accomplishment, keep your clothes from feeling the effects of your Ben-and-Jerry's-habit, and practically guarantee that you will shower and put real clothes on.
  2. Don't neglect necessary things just because you're depressed, there is a crisis, or you don't have your usual income.  Make sure you get your hair cut/colored.  Get your dry cleaning done.  Try to eat a balanced diet.  If you need to go shopping, go shopping; just make sure that you are smart about it.
  3. Set yourself a minimum number of social activities for the week.  Hit a happy hour, go to a friend's apartment, or grab coffee with someone.  Make sure you keep up the phone calls to the college roommate across the country, and your mom, your grandma, etc.  
I guess the moral of the story is that you have to keep up appearances and keep living your life, and before you know it, things will get better

Monday, June 2, 2008

The SF-centric blog is up.  Enjoy... I know I'm going to have fun with it.

Unemployed and suffering from some serious burn-out

I've always been particularly susceptible to burn-out.  Knowing this about myself, I tend to get things done as quickly as possible, be they projects, school, or even careers (I am the youngest retired person I know, in a way).  I had Chicago burn-out, so here I am 36 hours into living in San Francisco, reunited with Nick and with some serious hope for the future.  There is, however, one burn-out I just can't seem to rectify: unemployment.  And the goshdarn awful thing that is the job search.

If we want to get technical with it, then I've been searching for a job for ten months.  However, realistically I've only been looking at San Francisco for the past three, and I've been unemployed for maybe six weeks.  I really shouldn't feel like someone ashed their Cuban cigar directly on my brain, but I do.  Why?

First of all: I'm still not entirely sure what I want to do.  My education was both too specific and too broad: my dance degree was really only good for making me a competent dancer and a potential dance administrator, and my philosophy degree just made me curious about absolutely everything.  My passions are music, art, animals, fitness/healthy living, and the environment.  Goals include an MBA (maybe MBA/JD), a condo, charity work, and lots of travel.  The problem I am currently running into is that there isn't a clearly identifiable connection between my skills/education, passions, and goals.  Trying to think clearly about my career path is like herding cats.  A big, loud, hilarious mess.

Second issue: I have now learned that unless you are absolutely indispensable or a very high-ranking worker, never under any circumstances should you look for a job in another city without being there first.  No one takes you seriously.  No one believes that you really promise you are going to move across the country, away from a city you have lived in for 23 years, to happily tackle their entry-level dance donor database position.  Nor do they have complete confidence in a person they are interviewing via video conference.  In the end, you don't want to deal with all of these things anyway.

Third issue: I am a twenty-something.  By definition, our lives are tumultuous, a bit depressing, maniacally busy, and a bit of a joke to everyone who isn't one of us.  It's no freaking wonder that I am so tired I never want to write another cover letter EVER again.  Optimism in the face of the economy, of history, and of circumstances beyond your control is absolutely exhausting.  I'm at the end of a 4-month-long recruitment period with a particular employer, and at this point even a negative answer would feel better than the stress of trying to keep up hope.

The whole situation is a bit of a circular logic problem: I'm burned out and depressed because I'm so tired of looking for a job, but we all know that burn-out makes it almost impossible to do something well.  If you aren't effectively kicking the ass of the job search process, you're never going to find anything in this economy.  

The real kicker is that it doesn't matter to anyone else if I'm suffering from burn-out.  I've still got to be the proactive, type-A go-getter I've always been, feigning optimism.  Otherwise, there's no way out.

Now please excuse me, it's time for a quick stroll along the Craigslist job boards...

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


I know I haven't posted in a few days... sorry.  Things are wacky: drove my car down to Atlanta, had another VC interview today, and I'm moving on Saturday.  In between there's packing, parties, and general insanity.  Something constructive should come through either on Friday or over the weekend.

In other news, I'm going to be starting another blog.  Since this one is career oriented (and will stay that way with all the Brazen Careerist stuff), I will be starting up one that will be exclusively chronicling my adventures and discoveries in my new home of San Francisco!  All will be in preparation for a book I plan to write about the whole ordeal.

Friday, May 23, 2008


VC today went great. So great that I heard back from my recruiter by the end of the day, and she scheduled the next round with me (instead of her assistant).  Tomorrow I meet my rather frighteningly important potential director. We'll see how it goes... in the words of my recruiter, "this is promising!"

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

I found my mojo!

Well, I finally did it.  I took charge of my life yesterday by booking the flights necessary for my move.  My car is getting sold this weekend (along with a much-needed visit to the family in the south), and Elvis and I have a one-way ticket to San Francisco next Saturday.

In this tumultuous year-and-a-half of major life decisions, I have learned an incredible amount about my personal decision-making style.  In my recovery from my knee injury, I spent a lot of time weighing the pros and cons of returning to dance.  It seemed as though each weighed differently with each day, and it seemed as though I would never figure it out.  All it took was one deciding factor (injuring the knee a second time) for me to make a split-second decision, and I've never looked back.

This move has been a stressful one to plan.  On one hand, I wanted to fly out to San Francisco six months ago when Nick started his rotation there.  I didn't because, quite frankly, I'm not the kind of girl to fly across the country for a boy (there's nothing wrong with doing this, it's just not my style).  Finding a job has been an incredibly difficult process at a distance of 2,000+ miles, but it's an incredibly scary thing to move away from your hometown to an even more expensive one without any sort of income.  In the back of my head I knew it would all work out because I am incredibly lucky to have the safety nets that I do.

Nick had a pretty unfortunate encounter with a pretty miserable 'talent acquisition' person at work, telling him that he had to settle for something he had no interest in just to have a job.  This was a huge wake-up call to us: watch out for yourselves! Suddenly he knew that he had to take matters into his own hands with regards to the job search, and it showed me that I couldn't depend upon the company that has been there for us for two years to help with moving our lives out to California.  Suddenly, my decision was an easy one, and I'm moving in less than two weeks.

What have I learned? I will weigh all possible options and outcomes extensively, but will have no problem making a swift and drastic move as soon as a frontrunner establishes itself.  To the outsider it seems a little crazy: first I can't make a decision to save my life, and then it seems like I make a completely impulsive move.  I think I do this because I spent my whole life trying to plan and worry for my parents who are the most impulsive people I have ever met!

To everyone who said it would all work out: thank you.  But don't you dare say 'I told you so'!

BPTW update

Another VC interview is in the cards... for tomorrow.  This second team is supposed to be a better fit for me, like I discussed earlier.  It's refreshing to work with an HR department that is so invested in the person instead of filling the opening.  Granted, this has to do with the sheer size and wealth of this specific company, but kudos to them.  From what I've seen in my friends' (especially Nick's) cases, a vast majority of the large companies out there have unwieldy, unorganized, and generally unthoughtful HR departments (and isn't that an oxymoron?).

What makes BPTW's long process worth it is that at the heart of their recruitment process is a pure goal: get the best people possible in the spots where they will be happiest.  This seems to be an incredibly smart time investment to me because, for the most part, a company's most important aspect is going to be its people. Whether the cornerstone of their profits is in new products, better products, consistent products, customer service, et cetera, it is their employees who are going to make this happen.  

It always blows me away when recruiters are distant, or nasty, or just plain clueless.  In a roundabout way, the hiring process can be seen as the most important mechanism in a company's success.  They should have the best interests of both the company and the job hunter in mind, striving toward finding a good balance for the two.  In my searches, and in Nick's, we have not experienced this.  From our experiences (I realize they are limited) the average recruiter seems more interested in the bottom line: filling X position with whoever fills Y qualifications  for the least amount of money.  As the hiring world is going to have to go more service-based in order to attract the best and brightest, it will be the idealist hiring mechanisms coming out on top.

My recruiter called me yesterday to tell me a story, about a girl who was interviewing for a role similar to the one I am looking to fill.  They found her FOUR teams to interview with before everyone felt as though the best match had been made.  Moral of the story, according to my recruiter: the important part is not only finding a job, but finding one where you will be happy and extremely successful.  And BPTW will not make a hire until this happens.

It might be that I now have a rather large crush on my potential future employer...

Friday, May 16, 2008

I've been anxious to make this anxiety post...

I hope some higher power blesses Ryan Paugh for writing this article today.  Anxiety is a huge issue in my life, and probably the largest contributing factor to my current state (which happens to be laying in bed until I make myself go to the gym, and then crawling back in until the next day).  It takes huge guts for a seemingly confident Type-A to admit to any sort of instability, so I tip my hat to Ryan... and it also gives me a great template from which to explain my situation.  I've got anxiety about my anxiety.

Ryan's first tip: "Don't put yourself in a box"
  • My apartment gives me heart attack-caliber panic attacks.  In typical vintage Chicago fashion, it is a dark little box made up of smaller boxes, it is dingy, and not all of the doors work.  During the winter I felt like I could never get out of here.
  • High school and college put me in a box.  I hated being labeled: 'goth girl', 'ballerina', 'brainiac'.  These taxonomical boxes made me feel like less of a person and made me highly anxious to get out of school.  End result: I sped through both in little over 3 years, and didn't enjoy a single minute.
  • Even when I was able to dance professionally, I hated the constraints it put upon you as a person.  Everything you ate and did related to dance, and it was not a happy life.  It was a miserable, constraining life that made me so anxious I stopped eating, which is why my quadriceps gave way on the day that I blew out my knee.
Ryan's second tip: "Find structure"
  • Structure keeps a person with anxiety from feeling too pressured to occupy themselves constantly, which is an exhausting task.  While unemployed in Chicago, with my boyfriend and family on opposite coasts, I try very hard to impose structure upon myself: 3 yoga classes, 2 dance classes, 5 gym visits, 3 social activities.  This regimen is great in theory, but gets blown out of the water when I have panic attacks about the things themselves...
Tip three: "Give yourself things to look forward to"
  • This one I can't completely agree with.  I certainly want to.  But personally, I find my anxiety to be so debilitating that it almost puts me in a state of anedonia: nothing makes me happy, nothing upsets me more than life in general, and because of these things nothing can possibly make me excited.  Why am I still in Chicago? Because the beautiful prospect of moving to San Francisco is being clouded by my anxiety around being broke, getting fat, and not being able to find a job.
  • In theory, having something to look forward to might work well for some with anxiety and/or depression.  But when I do have something on the agenda, I find myself getting anxious about the hours that must be passed before I can go do whatever it is I am going to do.
Last tip from Ryan: "Have a good friend on speed dial"
  • This one really hits the nail on the head.  There's nothing like heart palpitations, pounding in your head, sweating, hyperventilating, and passing out (in my case) to make you feel totally insane and completely alone.  The only way to fully get out of one and to try to break the cycle is to have someone who knows what's going on... and like Ryan says, almost no one does.
  • I've had Nick there for me for several years now, but it took some time for him to understand exactly what was making me behave so erratically and irrationally.  He's an incredibly stable person who only deals with a bit of depression here and there, so it's been a learning process.
  • I found, in my friend Tony, someone who experiences what I do.  We have promised to call each other when we feel one coming on, or in the aftermath when we need help putting the pieces back together.  Finding someone like this is like finding a gold mine (or an oil well, these days) because there is NOTHING more comforting than feeling like you're maybe not so crazy.

Thanks a lot, Ryan.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Anyone have a little patience to lend to me?

Well, I just got off of the phone with my recruiter at best place to work.  Apparently I got rave reviews from the team I VC'ed with for the last two weeks, but they are still looking at other candidates.  She was worried that they would take too long, so she went ahead and submitted me for a post a little bit out of my league (someone with my amount of experience would normally support Directors, but this is for supporting two VP's).  Apparently I will be able to use my creativity, and my art and PR backgrounds a little bit in this post... not to mention having VP's at this company as my mentors will serve me incredibly well when it comes time for promotions.  So, more video conferencing is in my future!

I've always worked in very small offices, and the only times I worked somewhere with  more than 20 employees were in retail/warehouse settings.  The beauty of this large corporation is that they apparently have decided they want to find a place for me, and there are enough spots that we all can keep trying until a perfect fit is found.  I've always been against working somewhere with 10,000+ (15,000+?) employees, but since it's 'best place to work' somehow it seems okay.

My 'in' at the company warned me about a ridiculously long recruitment period.  As of now it's pushing four months.  Thank goodness for the serenity that my sun salutations grant me!

p.s. I have a sneaking suspicion you've all figured out what 'best place to work' actually is...

Friday, May 9, 2008

Week 3: Bored enough to overcome some fears

First of all, I had final round interviews for the 'best place to work' position, where I was able to meet with and talk to the Directors I'll potentially be supporting.  The first was wonderful and basically told me that his vote was for me to get the job.  The second woman, whom I've decided is the most tired woman in America, was much more difficult to read.  Her questioning style was a bit more confrontational and seemingly skeptical of my abilities, and she asked this dance and philosophy major for technical user input on a couple of the products that she helped develop.  Yikes!  In the end she told me that her only worry was hiring someone whom she has never met in person.  I'm going to see if I get a call today (things seem to happen with them on Fridays), and if nothing comes through I'm going to offer to fly myself out to have lunch with the team.  That's why I've been saving those free Southwest flights, right?

The big news for the week: I made my triumphant return to dance class.  Okay, maybe not so triumphant.  It was a jazz class with my favorite-ever teacher... the exact class where I first blew my knee.  I was confident going in, and thanks to my faithful yoga practice I actually held my own and felt like I haven't lost too much ability.  It felt great, it probably looked okay, and I was able to keep myself fairly low-profile since it was a small class full of people I don't know.  Perhaps the biggest triumph of the entire ordeal was that I could walk the next morning!

The euphoria was short-lived and probably almost entirely founded upon adrenaline.  Yesterday I went back to class, running into several girls I danced with at school, as well as two girls from the company I danced with.  Furthermore, the 'cliquey' nature of dance ensured that those who had seen me in class on Tuesday had done a lot of talking and investigating on their parts, so everyone knew my situation.  With the cat out of the bag, I went back to feeling fat, slow, unflexible, and a quitter.  All adrenaline gone, I was able to realize during this second class back that my knee probably has a fairly major arthritis problem, and I've been in pain ever since.

Do I chalk this up to a failure? Certainly not.  I got over a major fear that has been haunting me; since the initial injury in February 2007, I've been through physical therapy, surgery, more therapy, a return to dance, and a re-injury in August.  Since August I've been living in denial about my need to return to class, and I've finally gotten over it!  I feel rather elated, and I'm also glad that this is going to give me a sense of routine to my weeks.  Two dance classes, three yoga classes, and two big workouts at the gym give me something to write in my planner for every day.

And now, back to the waiting game...

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The most fun one could possibly have in a VC interview

Today was my big, bad VC interview with 'best place to work'.  I've heard absolute horror stories about the face-to-face interviews, but it was such a treat.  I was in the Chicago office for 90 minutes, and spoke with three different administrators in different areas of the company.

The first interviewer was actually the woman whom I would be replacing.  She seemed happy, but tired (everyone in the Chicago office, in both of my visits, also seems happy and tired).  The position sounds as though its pretty much straight-up calendar scheduling, but the woman I would be supporting encourages taking on outside projects.  There would also be a lot of opportunity for some very interesting event planning.  I can also work with the engineers if I have an idea for another way/place to use the platform the team develops.

My second interview was with a gentleman who was an absolute hoot... disheveled but so friendly and energetic.  He went to school in Chicago, so we had a great time catching up on restaurants, neighborhoods, and weather.  After finishing school at U of Chicago, he worked as an admin/account coordinator for a very small marketing firm; what was perhaps most encouraging about speaking to him was that we had so much in common.  He asked a couple of tough questions, and I shot back with tough ones of my own.  Apparently, I can go in a number of different directions after this position, and he said that it would not be unheard of for an administrative associate to jump onto the events team or into project management.  They have a policy which would allow me to spend up to a full day each week sitting in on projects in other teams that interest me, such as events, project management, or even the .org entity.

Number three was 'Mamma Admin'... she supports a very important VP.  She was one of those 'balls to the wall' types, and her interviewing style certainly followed suit.  Thankfully I've been reading all of my interview books and was ready for her.  I was feeling a bit uneasy just because we didn't 'click' as well as I did with the first two, but I sealed the deal at the end.  She asked me how dance will play a role in my work life, and I came up with an answer that even surprised me, because I had never thought about how dance can help.  As it turns out, dance gave me a skill set incredibly suited to this position at this company, as it forced me to make creativity, analytical thinking, attention to detail, and outstanding memory/recall simultaneous habits.  Piano has also done this for me.  She was impressed with the answer and it was a perfect way to end the day.

Hopefully they all felt that it went as well as I'm convinced it did.  Next step will likely be onsite interviews in California, and the position is to be filled by June 1.  May could be quite an exciting month!

My recruiter at 'best place to work' just called.  Apparently everyone loved me yesterday, and its off to another VC next week with two more on the team.  Supposedly they might be able to hire me after that one, unless someone wants to meet me in person. Hooray!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I know I've been absent for a while... let's just say that unemployment doesn't suit me all too well. On the bright side, I'm caught up on errands, I've had lunch downtown with friends, and I'm playing piano a couple of hours each day at the library.  Hooray!

The whole point of this post is just to say that I have a first round video conference interview with 'best place to work' tomorrow.  I'm incredibly excited, and scared, and have been preparing for most of the week.  It looks like Nick is getting an incredible offer in the next day or two, so if I can pull this off, we'll be back on our feet again!

I'll certainly post a rundown of the proceedings of the interview tomorrow, which is a fabled nightmare in the blogosphere...

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The horrible cycle...

I always think I've got it beat, but this always happens.  Things start rolling, I get into a nice groove, and then they change.  I try to keep my momentum, but end up crashing hard.  I'm sure a therapist would say that I'm lacking some sort of maturity that keeps a person functioning during seemingly neverending bouts of under-stimulation, but I'd like to think my problem is just that no one else has to go through with this sort of thing.  Don't worry, I am fully aware that I'm kidding myself.

Week one of unemployment was fine, due to a ton of craziness (hair photo shoot for salon, coffee date in Evanston, free ticket run-off from TSG) and then I spent a few days in Georgia visiting my parents.  I've been off the plane for four hours, have already bathed the dog and cleaned my room, and I am crashing.  The library will be too crowded to play piano, it's too cold(!) out to walk Elvis or enjoy the sunshine, and I feel like a giant lump of failure-ridden mush.  

My dad is definitely a product of his generation: this week, I could not get him to understand the fact that I need to be working.  I need stimulation, inspiration, and a sense of getting things accomplished.  I also need the feeling that I'm paying my own bills (at least some of them).  He thinks that having all of this free time is an incredible opportunity for me to 'be happy'... but I just don't understand how a 23 year old can be happy by being a complete failure in their own eyes.  I'm not a good enough writer or musician to embark upon all of these projects people keep suggesting, and I'm definitely not in the mental state to make the much-needed return to ballet classes.  In a nutshell, I don't know what to do with the gift of time.  I am such a spoiled brat.

Friday, April 18, 2008


Well, I've got to hand it to Kate, because that's one lady who's got it all figured out. She called me out on yesterday's disillusionment, and I definitely deserved it. What I really love about blogging is that you end up with a network of people who might actually really relate (or disagree) with what you say, and the resulting discourse can really make you think things over.

'Best place to work' called yesterday, and my HR contact has finally come through with an interview. Not only is it an interview, but one with a team involved with a product I'm super excited about. The position is also going to be a lot more than filtering phone calls and calendar management: I'll have a chance to plan and implement some really interesting events, while helping along a process that I think is really changing the way that this company does business.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

It's all winding down

Well, it's Thursday. After an insane week at work (in a position that's supposed to be extremely low stress), I'm passing the torch to my new incumbent. I've been rather stressed about training her, as I basically created the position and care very deeply about the office, my co-workers, and the clients. I don't want to let anybody down.

Tomorrow's my last day, and then I'm officially unemployed. It's a little frightening, especially considering I did NOT get the research job, and 'best place to work' is being slower than molasses. The woman hiring for the research job was incredibly nice about it, and they assured that I was extremely qualified and definitely in the final decision. What it came down to, I realize, is that the other candidate was able to interview in person, while I was doing everything over the phone. All the more reason to move soon!

Nick and I had a great talk last night while enjoying what will likely be our last dinner for a long time at our favorite Chicago restaurant. As it turns out, I really do not think that I want to go into nonprofit development. The idea of making a living out of asking people for money leaves a bad taste in my mouth, especially asking for money for something like dance instead of for a life-or-death cause. I had gotten wrapped up in the idea of still contributing to the dance world before I really thought it out. I'd love to work for a dance or arts organization, but not in development.

We realized together (Nick is so good at helping me toward my own conclusions) that what would make me exceedingly happy is to be some sort of Project Manager. I thrive on busy situations where I am in charge of the operations, the nitty-gritty. My happiest times in college were when I was stage managing or producing shows, or when I was putting together choreography. I love orchestrating something large; I can see the big picture and how to get there. 'Best place to work' would certainly help me get to this sort of role, and so would a number of other places.

While I haven't made any sort of true commitment, I'm leaving May 3rd. Hopefully, once I'm in San Francisco, I can take advantage of the connections Nick and I have made. I'm expecting that someone in the know will be able to point me in the right direction for this new sort of goal!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Eye on the Prize

It's been an interesting weekend, bleeding into what promises to be an interesting week (and end to the month). Nick flew in Friday night, and I carted him around the city showing him all my favorite places. He's in town for his graduation from the Professional Development Program at Abbott Laboratories, which means that he too will soon be unemployed (my last day at TSG is Friday, and I made a hire for my replacement today). We're screwed! Okay, we'll probably be fine... he'll be especially fine, what with his highly marketable majors...

It was a good weekend for me because I got a lot off of my chest. The past few months have been heavily precipitated with panic attacks regarding work, life, love, and my ever-expanding ass. My buddy Tony has been trying to get me to 'write it all down' ever since I met him, and I've fully resisted it up until now. Nick suggested making lists of our goals, what needs to get done, and what we'd like to get done, with everything categorized and prioritized properly. We only really got around to the Travel list, but the others should be forthcoming. It really does make me feel better because: A, I know that Nick is focusing on the same thing as me, B, I have some sort of focus besides just getting it all together, and C, I can entertain the thought that this list of hopes and goals is actually a loose timeline of a successful and happy life together.

Nick also commented on the future of this blog. All weekend he marveled at how I knew how to get around the city, knew exactly where to go eat, and had a wealth of interesting websites at my fingertips to figure out, say, how to get a Chicago-style hotdog in Logan Square at 11pm. Interestingly enough, this Chi-savvy is a huge reason why I am less than enthusiastic about the idea of a new city, because I'm afraid that I won't develop such an urban fluency in San Francisco or that it won't be quite so user-friendly. However, I am looking forward to getting to know San Fran as well as I know Chicago, and hopefully better. Thus this blog will turn into a diary of sorts following my explorations, discoveries, and recommendations in the new city. I'm rather looking forward to it!

also: hopefully this blog will need an aim different than 'looking for a job' soon

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Holy ballet, batman!

Last night my good friend Tony and I visited the art-deco perfection that is the Civic Opera House, to see American Ballet Theater perform 'Sleeping Beauty'. In all honesty, I hate story ballets, Tony had never seen a ballet, and it seemed like a good excuse to take advantage of incredible free tickets and go out for a few drinks.

The production, in all of its over-the-top glory, is quite easily the most lavish and beautiful show I have ever seen (I love the works of Paul Taylor or Mark Morris for their simplicity, and thus they are like apples to ABT's oranges). Usually, when I see dance, I am crying because I miss it so much and wish I was on stage. Last night I cried because I was able to see some of the greatest moments of ballet performed incredibly by some of the greatest athletes/artists in the world. The corps de ballet was a divine collection of individuals (not clones), the charactere roles were perfectly done, and the principal dancers absolutely took my breath away.

When I was in middle school, my ballet teacher Sergey asked us "how do you define grace?". The room of pre-teens gave verbose, dreamy descriptions having to do with beauty, style, poise, etc. Sergey replied, "Grace is to have no extra movements; grace is purity of movement and line; grace is to be without style or affectation." At that tender age, I didn't completely buy it. The most graceful people I noticed were generally in ball gowns or tutus, with as many extras and as much style piled on as possible.

Since then, I've 'gotten it'. But the idea never hit home so much as it did watching the suave (oh so sexy) Jose Manuel Carreno run through the paces as the Prince last night: it was the cleanest, most effortless, most graceful (in every sense of Sergey's definition) dancing I have ever witnessed. The dancers who wow-ed last night were the same: knife sharp, clean, effortless grace.

Tony, I believe, is now a ballet convert. He loved it, he 'got' it, he'll certainly be back. As an art history major who dabbled in design (but works in construction management... go figure), he is incredibly insightful and has a wealth of knowledge that can be tied into his analysis of the form, and it was refreshing to speak with someone who isn't so jaded with the form as I am. All in all, the evening was a splendid success and a sign that one, I'm coming out of mourning for my lost dance career, and two, ballet is coming back in a big way.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Updates, updates, updates

Lately I haven't been finding a whole lot of time to write... because I'm suddenly enjoying reading, being outside, and hanging around humans again. What a concept! We finally had a weekend here in Chi-town where temps were consecutively in the 60s, so I was able to take Elvis on long walks, walk home from work (okay, I probably shouldn't have done that anyway), and go to a Cubs game with my new friends. Leave it to Chicago to put up a fight in losing a 23-year resident.

Yesterday's talk with the Director of Development was a bit odd; on one hand, it felt like a formality, but at the same time I also had the acute feeling that if we didn't 'click' then I could kiss the job sayonara. I played it well, however: I played friendly hardball in the interview, shot a thank-you email out to them immediately, and then emailed 'best place to work' to fill them in on the details. This might seem a bit bold, but my contact there keeps telling me to let them know when I'm interviewing elsewhere. Needless to say, I got a frantic phone call from Nicole telling me of prospective teams interested in me, and I've been written into her schedule for a phone update on Thursday. Show momma the offers!

Moral of the story: play your hand the best you can. A little bluffing can do wonders if you do it right. You're tryin for a job, and it is the same as any other business transaction. You have to be tactful, witty, and on the offensive.

I'm also really looking forward to tomorrow: American Ballet Theater is performing 'Sleeping Beauty' at the Civic Opera House! And, of course, PR girl has free tickets courtesy of this great job I'm leaving in just a few days. For once the second ticket in my pair is getting used, as I'm taking a new, great friend who also happens to be a ballet virgin. Look for a fun re-cap on Thursday, or perhaps tomorrow night after the festivities.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

A quote...

to dwell on, from Waiting for God by French mystic/political activist Simone Weil (1909-1943):

"When an apprentice gets hurt, or complains of being tired, the workmen have this fine expression: 'It is the trade entering his body.' Each time that we have some pain to go through, we can say to ourselves quite truly that it is the order and beauty of the world that are entering our body."

Come on, order and beauty, do your worst.

(On a side note, the ballet company as well as the 'kickass' company emailed me last night for further phone interviews; 'best place to work' is still silent. We shall see what happens, seeing as how I am fairly certain I shall be loading up the Prius with clothing, books, files, and dog at the end of the month!)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

An update on it all...

People who know me know that when things get bad, I get silent. So, since I haven't talked to my mom in days or blogged, that means that things aren't going all that swimmingly.

After coming down from my phone interview high on Friday, I became skeptical. The last time this woman got my hopes up, she called me while I was walking to an in-person interview in San Francisco to tell me that she had offered the position to the first interviewee. Apparently the girl is wonderful. I'm happy for them, but justifiably skeptical this time around.

Turns out I was right to be skeptical: between Saturday and this morning, the job has been posted in several different areas. Apparently I didn't quite 'fit the bill' as much as I felt that I had, and they've continued the search. Bummer!

It was a research and stewardship position at a ballet company. Ballet experience: 20 years. Arts administration experience: probably around 4 by now. Research and stewardship is essentially what I do right now at the PR firm: for our president I research prospective media outlets, VIP's for event attendance, etc. and help to make suggestions for pitches for features/partnerships. However, the woman at the ballet company seemed to be bothered by the fact that all of this experience wasn't completely correlated.

Oh well, this isn't to say that I heard a resounding 'no.' But it's always disconcerting to be able to tell that you disappointed someone when you were trying your best (I've found that one of the big realizations of growing up is that often your best is simply not enough).

I'll survive, though; 'best place to work' is due to call with an update soon. The last thing I heard was "we all know you will be a great fit, the stars just need to align for you". I need to be excited for this, and remember that I am moving to my dream city! I was scolded last night by Nick for forgetting that life and love come first, and I have been forgetting the great changes about to come in those spheres in favor of dwelling upon career issues which just require patience, perseverance, and time.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Is it a baby, or a... I don't even know what

I make a point of religiously reading the posts over at Chicagoist. Mostly, I read them because I think they kick ass, and they always manage to hit the nail on the head about the nuances, quirks, annoyances, and bliss of living in this city (the other editions are great as well, and I've been reading SFist in preparation of my move). What kills me, today at least, is their knack for finding some seriously hilarious shtuff in the news, such as today's gem about bringing your precious baby into the big, bad city.

I find it hilarious. First of all, the advice is WAY off. Why do you need to stay on Michigan Avenue? There are much better places to stay, without staying with relatives as they suggest. Most people's relatives live in the suburbs, not the city, and then you would have to deal with the dreaded, dirty public transportation! Portillo's as the only dining suggestion? Come on people, Chicago is really turning into an incredible culinary city that even I can enjoy (for the most part, though I eat far more than my fair share of Logan Square tacos) on my part-time, nonprofit income... although by all means, have a beef sandwich and a hotdog dragged through the garden at Portillo's. But the really hilarious and infuriating part of this article, and supposed issue, is the way in which people coddle their children! Am I of a dying generation of kids who played with bugs, ate dirt, and had some crazy city experiences?

Let the kids touch some germs on the L. If your hotel isn't one possessing some special kid-friendly package of toys and babysitters and flying cribs, get over it. Of COURSE kids will like the aquarium, the museums, the planetarium, Navy Pier, etc. Culture your kids, let them get a little dirty, and let them live a little tiny bit. Who knows, you might even have a little bit of fun yourself.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Careful what you wish for!

Well, my dream employer just called to say that I am one of two candidates being considered for a Research and Stewardship Associate position... letting me use my writing and research skills that I'm using in PR right now while letting me get my foot in the door of the development department in what I consider to be the premiere artistic institution in the country. This would give me the experience I'd need to get into a top arts-based MBA program.

I would love this job. I also think I'd love the job at 'best place to work'. I'd also probably love the three other jobs I applied to today (at this point, I'm going to love a predictable schedule, feeling like I'm accomplishing something, having benefits, and getting regular paychecks). So, what to choose? And how important is money to a girl looking to move to an incredibly expensive city, with hopes to purchase a condo with her boyfriend soon, with future hopes for marriage, travel, etc? We're talking a difference of up to 20k here. What to do if I'm put in the position to choose?

Grrrr. It's all happening at once right now, after almost eight months of searching.

Ten days without words or movement...

So I'm giddy right now, which I'm attributing to the ten minutes of nice weather we had this morning, and the fact that 'best place to work' finally got back to me about when and with whom I'll be interviewing in step #67 of the hiring process. Also, its because I'm rather chuffed to find that my favorite blogger, Kate Hutchinson, has been reading my blog. Nick led me to Kate's blog a few months ago ("hey babe, look, someone else is trying to find a job and trying not to sell out"), and I've been an avid reader since. And while I'd love to just talk about her for this entire entry, that is not the point.

Yesterday Kate was blogging a tiny bit about the wonders of going to the gym, and I couldn't agree more. My gym obsession began in my teens when I was trying so hard to still fit into my tutus for ballet, but a serious foray into yoga made me start re-thinking the true aim of physical fitness. In college, I found that working out centered my mind, calmed my jitters, and energized me. Now it has become the constant and controllable factor in a life that includes an erratic schedule at a crazy job, a de-humanizing career search, and equally persuasive parents and boyfriend who live on opposite coasts.

Last night, at my usual Monday yoga class at the gym (my gym has great yoga, honest), the teacher had recently returned from an interesting retreat. It was ten days long, and the constraints were this: no speaking until the last day, no yoga (!), and one must sit perfectly still for ten hours each day, for 90 minutes at a time. She was positively glowing as she told us about what was the most physically challenging practice of her life, which is impressive considering this was coming from an extremely strong and disciplined yogi. Our practice for class was, naturally, based upon the principles of the retreat and was thus extremely difficult. Our asanas were held for several minutes at a time, completely without fidgeting and large adjustments.

What she explained, and what I found in this intense practice, is that the thinking shifts. Instead of thinking "Oh goodness, this is taking forever, this is never going to end, I need to stop" you suddenly accept "This is difficult, but it will end; this difficult position I am in will change at some point". Simple in theory, but difficult in practice, this philosophy is a sort of release and surrender to things in life which you cannot control but logically cannot last forever.

I went to sleep last night realizing that, logically, given my credentials and passion I cannot go career-less forever. My circumstances will change. Accepting these things makes it much easier to take.

It's been a while...

So it's been two weeks since I posted on this fledgling blog. Oh well. My excuse was that I was busy preparing for my trip, but it was really that I was feeling lost, depressed, and wholly uninspired. To be honest, that's been the general feeling for the last year or so, with a couple of random spurts of optomism.

It's been a rough year, and I've allowed the 'woe is me' feeling to penetrate and take over my life. There's really no excuse for that; I've never done it before, I'm not going to let it happen again, and the only reason why I let it happen is because it seemed like an almost acceptable time to let it happen. Thinking I had emerged from it a few months ago, I pressed on more seriously in the job hunt but have ultimately failed thus far because I lacked any sort of aim or passion.

Amsterdam completely changed this. I had never been to Europe, had only been out of the country once (rural Costa Rica, you should go), but Amsterdam just felt perfect. It is a beautiful city that is clean, organized, quiet, artistic, industrious, and just the right size. There is no traffic because there are no cars, just on-time-to-the-second public transit and more bikes than I've ever seen. The people are incredible: bluntly honest, thoughtful, very friendly, and extremely cultured. Quite honestly, it is my idea of the utopian city: the small but bustling center of a wealthy socialist country.

What got to me is that I immediately started imagining living there, and my priorities instantly shifted. My career goals were simply to be challenged while contributing to the success of the city, such that I could enjoy the government controlled 9 hour maximum work days, 20-25 days of vacation, and mandatory 8% bonus. To eat simple, organic meals of fresh bread, dutch cheese, beautiful vegetables, and great beer; to ride my bike EVERYWHERE, to walk with Nick and Elvis in Vondel Park in the evenings, to take weekend excursions to Brussels, Rotterdam, Paris.....

I've come home refreshed, knowing that life does not revolve around what you do from 9-5 (or 8-7, or whatever). Life is about feeling good about what you do during that time, and using your success during that time to enjoy your free time with the people and things you love, in a place that you love. I'm sure this sounds a little half-baked and dreamy, but this is quite a profound moment for this lost little puppy. So now, I say, bring on the job offers (which, amazingly, started to actualize themselves while I was gone). Bring out the boxes to pack my piles of books. Craigslist buyers, come get my furniture. And off to San Francisco (or Holland, or Singapore, or Atlanta, or...?) I go...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A hint (okay, a huge pile) of spontaneity

A funny thing happened today... I booked a trip to Amsterdam. I leave in exactly one week and 3 hours. Nick said "Hey look, flights are cheap. Let's have a little anniversary trip". I said "I'll talk to the parents" since A, there's no way in hell I can travel farther than the nearest convenience store on my budget and B, I wasn't expecting my parents to help out. That's the dumb part... they're SO happy to help me, what with me saving them two quarters of tuition, being a good kid, having an incredibly unlucky year, and just because they're truly wonderful and generous people. My dad said yes, have fun, thanks for the AMEX points. Sweet, right?

For alot of people my age, this probably wouldn't be a very big deal. A great trip at a great price... hooray. But for me, this is huge. I am (was?) an over-planner... I had my life plan at 3 (and followed it up until this past August) and have always planned everything out to a T. I plan the meals for the week, when chores get done, and my desk is a frightening display of OCD post-it-ing. So to say hey, I'm gonna leave the country in a week, is a big deal for me. I'm still in shock!

Perhaps I'm finally coming to terms with the fact that life is going to do what it wants, despite your best attempts to corral it. More importantly, I'm finding that this is almost always a good thing. Learning to roll with the punches is a huge step, and I'm looking forward to doing it more often...

Monday, March 10, 2008

The truth about helicopter parents

I've been job hunting. For a long time. The search has been 'serious' for the last seven months or so (aka as of the death of my dancing career), although I've been sort of recreationally looking ever since the first day of sitting on the couch with a swollen knee and a lack of good daytime TV. Inevitably, you get sick of looking at Craigslist, Monster, Careerbuilder, and Idealist, and start looking at blogs. Trust me, it happens (why are you reading this, anyway?). The whole career blog community is what I find most intriguing right now. Not for a wealth of advice or the holy grail of interviewing or anything of that sort; what cracks me up is the sensationalistic feeling of all the issues. Everyone is SO caught up in the ideas of Gen-Y vs Baby Boomers, helicopter parents, and other issues that really don't seem to be issues to me.

The way I see it, so-called friction at work between the Gen Y group and the Boomers is inevitable because these people are our parents' age. We are in the age range of their children. Naturally, there's going to be some transferrance, and your boss is probably going to yell at you not realizing that he's mistaking you for his 23 year old daughter who just ran away and married a tattoo artist in Las Vegas. Problems between Gen Y and Gen X? Come on, people. You naturally get testy with people you spend most of your waking hours with. It's human nature. When you find the person who doesn't make you want to go on a shooting rampage, hold on to them and marry them.

Helicopter parents are what really bugged me today. I had been reading Penelope Trunk's blog in an effort to become a bit more realistic about my expectations for a job, so naturally when she launched I figured I should read the blogs that she reads: 50 20-something-aimed, career-geared writers. One in particular (I forget her name) seems rather obsessed with helicopter parents. All these 20-somethings complain so much about their 'hovering' parents but the truth is, we did it to ourselves. We were the ones who wanted to do ballet, tennis, swim team, gymnastics, and honors choir all at the same time in fourth grade while taking 6th grade math and getting bussed across the district for the gifted program. So, our parents became impossibly busy chauffeurs. So we were spending hours of extra one-on-one time with our parents each day in the car, and naturally we told them what was going on in our lives. Too much, in fact. They knew our homework assignments, projects, and issues inside and out... and once they knew, its only natural that they made sure that we followed through on it all. So we did it to ourselves in becoming over-involved, super overachievers who made the mistake of telling our parents all of the things we needed to do. Our parents wanted to help and make sure we were successful in all that we were doing, so they hovered (a bit). So many people my age complain that it's their helicopter parents who are to blame for their lacking abilities to look after themselves, get a job, and for their absolutely crushing feelings of inadequacy. Nope, guys. We did it to ourselves. The quicker you figure it out, the quicker you can heal.

Of course, I have this 'suck it up' attitude right now because I lived through a pretty damn hard year and am still living to tell the tale. Also, I'm awaiting travel plans for an onsite interview for a pretty fun job at the number one place in the country to work...

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Time to hang up the pointe shoes...

Last night, I went to see the State Ballet of Georgia (the country) perform 'Don Quixote'. Normally I shy away from the full-evening classical ballets, but the main draw last night was Nina Ananiashvili, one of the most prominent ballerinas of my time. I remember seeing her on posters and the covers of Dance Magazine when I was younger, and was excited to see such a legend. However, in my excitement (the ticket was also free... ah, the perks of PR) I forgot to do the math. She was already a very well known 'veteran' ballerina when I was getting serious in to this stuff in middle school...

So she's 43. She also has had an incredibly busy, brutal, physically taxing career. Granted, she also has a body well suited to the form (I'm sure she has a faster metabolism and less arthritis and cartilage damage than I do at my tender, ex-dancer age). But something was clearly wrong with her. Clearly, clearly, seriously wrong. We couldn't tell if it was her back, or a hip, but one leg seemed to not function so well. Furthermore, the corps de ballet was messy and soloists were falling left and right. I wanted to leave at the first intermission.

It all made me think, as I watched 18-year-old men in tights fumble with tamborines, that most people don't know when they've passed their prime. Or do they? It's like seeing people show up to interviews in suits that are 10 years old in both style and size, or the boss who refuses to realize he/she has lost control of his/her employees, or how Elvis thinks he can still jump up on my bed despite failing knees and ends up wiping out on the floor. And Nina Ananiashvili, bringing a huge ballet company and orchestra on a world tour for a gratuitous show of pantomime and pirouettes. Are they just oblivious, or do they know perfectly well what's going on?

I think Nina knows. Those legs don't go up as high as they used to, but gosh darn it she's going to do that Grand Pas de Deux in the third act with the faaaabulous music. While still impossibly thin, she's gone a bit doughy around the middle, but you bet your bottom she owns that incredibly sparkly scarlet velvet tutu. And despite shaky landings and marked jumps, she killed in the finale fouette`s, whipping off 'single single single double' for the first sixteen of the thirty-two. What's most important here is that the crowd ate it up. Standing ovation, applause every time the music paused, hoots and hollers, and plenty of people there just for her.

Was I impressed with the company? Not really. Have I changed my mind about story ballets? Certainly not (whoever thought villagers, tutus, bad pantomime, and erroneous characters made a good entertainment mix was crazy). Do I love going to the Auditorium Theatre to people-and-fur watch? Of course! But what I'm not decided on is whether or not old legends should give it up when they're not at their peak anymore. Any thoughts?

(side note, I remember now that Brett Favre has retired this week. We saw him through some incredible years, and a truly bad year, and then this last year was pretty darn good. Should he have retired sooner? Or kept going until he looked like a geriatric Brian Griese?)

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

For Starters

First blog, so why don't I outline the basics.

1) Name's Victoria, 20-something years old. Graduated from Northwestern University w/ Honors in Dance and Philosophy.

2) Grew up dancing, and was able to have a short professional career. I had plans to continue well into my 30's, but my right knee had other plans.

3) Currently working in PR but trying my damnedest to get a more permanent, interesting job... and in San Francisco. What's in San Francisco? Well, 100000% less winter than Chicago, for one. Lots and lots of enjoyable, green, outdoors things to do. And Nick, the peanut butter to my jelly, the one person I've chosen to keep in my life consistently for what's become nearly 4 years!

4) I have a rescued Chihuahua named Elvis... today's our first anniversary of being together... and I'm sure he'll make some appearances on this blog. He's a rock star, after all.