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...