I am so thrilled that I can’t hold back from making this pre-emptive post. I’ve accepted a job offer and I start at the end of this month.
I was going to write a rambling, pithy, “what I’ve learned from 5 years of freelancing” blog, but it wasn’t flowing. Instead, I’ve decided to be more real.
My fault has been staying on sinking ships too long; staying loyal to businesses that are failing, even my own. I simply don’t like to give up.
It was an interesting month, doing “real” job hunting for the first time in my life. My very first job, working at DeGraffenreid Pickle Factory (then bought out by TreeHouse Foods, now closed), was obtained through a temp agency… I got job opening tips from friends for my second and third jobs. My fourth job, when I moved to Buffalo NY, obtained through a temp agency. It’s been through friends and helping out friends who have businesses, ever since 2005.
I kicked off this job hunt on May 17, with an interview at a company off Craigslist who said they were looking for a marketing assistant but who were really looking for door to door salespeople. At least it was fun, as I knew one of the other applicants through friends, and chatted about food with the interviewer. When the task of doing cold calling was brought up, I politely excused myself and wished the interviewer best of luck. ‘
I was feeling pretty lost, after that. It’s overwhelming to start looking for a job when none of your friends have openings or know of anything that would be a great fit! Even more overwhelming: St. Louis has SO MANY OPTIONS for different types of jobs and SO many different companies to work for!!!
My first step, getting serious about this job-finding challenge, was to go to the personnel agency that I thought that one of my best friends had used. Snelling Staffing Services in Brentwood gave me some constructive critique and sent me on an interview right away. I didn’t get the job, but the job coaching and post-interview analysis gave me some valuable insight that I applied to other interviews that I went on. I spent that next week overhauling my resume and editing it down to one page, and making three different versions for the main types of positions that I was applying for (administrative/general-office, project coordinator, and social media marketing). I called on my most successful and supportive friends, and applied their good advice and drank their encouragement.
Over Memorial Day, I started my blitz of applying. I set job alerts on LinkedIn, checked them daily, and applied to all jobs that I thought that I even had a remote chance at getting. I also applied to jobs that sounded comfortably within my skill set, and jobs that were only vaguely written. I pretty much spammed the internet with my resume and application, using Indeed and Craigslist to a very limited degree (but 90% LinkedIn).
I gloriously failed a video interview as a project manager for Express Scripts (and learned that I am much better at interviewing in person). I got rejected by an out of town recruiter (her reasoning wasn’t logical, so I found her client’s original job posting, got an immediate interview with them, and was in the top two final considerations with having the necessary skills but the “winner” had more hands-on working experience). I gave a totally disingenuous answer to a childcare center interviewing me for social media about how much I love small children (they’re like cockatoos, except little people, right?). I thought I did pretty good in an interview for an office manager for another company, but it didn’t pan out.
I can honestly say that I gave my 100% best on each and every interview that I went on, and it was interesting to meet people in management and learn about their businesses and what they were looking for as far as different types of positions that needed filled. I wish that I could bullshit and sell myself better, but that has been my downfall with selling my freelance services. I get off-topic and off-message too easily, and I’m too curious about others (two of my interviews turned into accidental discovery sessions, with me asking the more revealing questions but not getting much of a chance to talk about how I’d be great for those companies).
I believe that working freelance is a blessing and a curse for job hunting. The main positive thing that a potential employer noted, was that I have a history of working with startups and adapting myself to different roles. The negative was predictable: belief that I wouldn’t truly give up my current business, belief that this has been a 5 year cover for having kids or something because of my limited portfolio, belief that I would have a hard time leading or working under others because I’ve been a solo-preneur for so long, etcetera. The fact that I completely deleted and never remembered to mention any of my extensive promotional modeling/brand-ambassador and fundraising work, was probably to my detriment in retrospect (but I don’t want to do, and have never done that kind of work full-time).
Finding a job is like finding your keys, it’s always the last place you look.
The last interviewer had sold vintage, and knew how much money you can make from a quick “pop up” sale. He totally understood that I would never put work in my portfolio that no longer represented my best work. He understood that both vintage and web-design at this non-coding level, as solo-efforts, are limited careers. I was honest about my boyfriend paying the housing bills, so I really don’t need to make much money, but I need to be more financially comfortable than I am right now. I was PMSing and in a fuckitall mood, so rather than giving the pithy and impersonal answers that I’d given at previous interviews, the answers that everyone and every site advised me to give, I was 100% authentic.
A few hours later, I found out that I got the job. I slept on it and called back the next morning, 10 minutes after Google said the company opened. I had “job hunted” for exactly a month (not counting the first attempt in mid-May that was such a deep learning experience that it took me two weeks to regroup from). I decided that Wednesday June 29 is a great day to start, because it will ease me back into a 9-5 with a 3 day week, followed by a 4 day week because of Independence Day.
I cancelled my other interviews for this week, and sent the Brentwood Snelling office a very nice thank you note for the valuable advice they gave me. The euphoria of going with my gut started to wear off and reality started to sink in: OMG I need summer office clothes, I can call myself an underwater basket weaver at networking events if I want to, and I can have real non-income-related hobbies again!
I still have enough money saved that I’m going to have fun splurging on new clothes. I have a decent work-wardrobe of winter and autumn/spring outfits, but the past 5 summers I’ve just worn thin cotton sundresses and gym shorts. I practically live in my tan pair of SAS walking sandals, and the only other summers-shoes that I have are too impractical and high-heeled for this workplace (or I’m becoming an old lady, and preferring comfortable shoes for work).
I am keeping my current hosting clients since that can easily be maintained after work, wrapping up the three small projects that I’m working on now (but with new and more limited hours of availability), and not advertising nor actively seeking more new work. The CreativeCircle Agency sent me a great client, a 10 hour gig working from home and setting up another business’s e-Learning and membership management. If they can work around my more limited work schedule, I’ll take occasional similar remote-based short-term subcontracting gigs, because it’s fun (especially when I don’t need the money).
For the first time in over five years, I can have hobbies again.
I can “do photography” for the fun, instead of trying to figure out an angle to monetize it. I can post a vintage dress for sale, not to meet some numerical profit margin in my head, but because I really feel like posting it for sale (no pressures).
I did not realize until the reality of getting 9-5 employment hit me today, how I’ve not really had any hobbies since early 2011. It will be so nice to have a job that doesn’t have anything to do with photography or vintage. I’ve been wanting to get back into both, but in my freelancer mindset, I just kept thinking of how to make money from them and getting mentally paralyzed. I literally have not been able to disconnect my head from “work mode” to enjoy what used to be fun past times.
My new position will be doing what I love most about freelancing, helping a growing business be the best that it can be by applying my broad communication and general office skills. I have always been private about ongoing work and clients, for my personal stalker-prevention reasons and just because unless it’s a PR or social media role there really isn’t a need to go broadcasting that info all over the place.
After I get settled in, after the mandatory 90 day probationary period, or maybe before, I think I’ll be re-doing this site to represent myself more wholistically as an artist and philosopher, who also knows quite a bit about practical WordPress and SEO.
I am still going to go to tech-networking events, except with no other objective than to simply meet cool people. I’m so sick of telling coders at these events that I do web-design (because I will never be as good as them, and I don’t aspire to learn code), and it’s a relief that now I can honestly call myself an artist or whatever is my interest of the week, without the pressure of generating income from a single darn thing besides my 9-5 job.