Hung Up On My Job Search

The action that I’ve become the most adept at procrastinating is also one of my most important personal concerns: Finally getting a job. When our family of four moved last spring to the San Francisco Bay area–coincidentally, because my wife accepted a new job in the City–our arrangement required that I remain at home, temporarily, to set up housekeeping. Thus, I spent the first few weeks patiently unpacking the myriad moving boxes (along with methodically breaking them down and staging them for eventual recycling). 

I also assumed the role of family shuttle driver, making as many as six daily round trips to the local commuter rail (“BART”) station. What’s more, I’ve folded tons of laundry, and kept the house (occasionally) spotless. And, since we settled in, one daughter’s chronic medical issues have kept me home, or accompanying her to doctor’s offices, more than we ever predicted.

So, were I to land a job myself now, after nearly eight months in our new digs, we’d have to find “creative solutions” to handle these challenges. But, many two-income families somehow “make do” in the face of such demands. No matter how good I’ve become at housecleaning, shuttle-driving, or folding laundry–well, the convenience we derive scarcely trumps the increasing need for me to find a steady job. (As my patient wife periodically reminds me, in as diplomatic terms as possible.)

I know that “it’s time” for me to deal seriously with this problem. Still, I find myself dragging my feet when my attention returns–as it now does, daily–to getting on with my job hunt.

To be clear, my hesitancy around this issue stems from some formidable, entrenched concerns. For one thing, I have been off the job market now for about 6-1/2 years. Back in 2004, I incurred a medical leave from a corporate communications job; then I chose not to return–in order to regroup and “rethink my career options.”  However, with such a vague game plan, it seems that time–and circumstances–have gotten way out of my control.  At first, I competed earnestly for several new job opportunities, both back in my former profession (quality assurance) as well as in communications. And, I came oh-so-close to sealing a few deals; two hiring managers honestly insisted I was their “second choice.”

But, over that first two-three years I went from cautiously optimistic to full-on-discouraged.  More recently, and even now, with the overall economy on the ropes, I’ve continued responding to job ads–but, frankly, in a half-hearted, desultory way. In the meantime, I’ve occasionally put my alternate aspirations as a “semi-professional photographer” into service to shoot portraits, weddings and other events. (This has included volunteering my services over the last couple years to Special Olympics–which has been spiritually, if not financially, rewarding). 

Thus now, with my last full-time employment nearly seven years past, I feel greater urgency to find a job. At the same time, I’m really good–just adept— at tallying all the difficulties before me: I’m a male in my mid-fifties,  so I can easily imagine the weight of “age discrimination” bearing down on me; I’ve been lax in maintaining a strategic “network” of past associates that experts count as essential leads to the next job. (And I’m barely a blip on the “social network.”); whatever “technical skills” I once claimed from my background in “QA” must be hopelessly outmoded (a real drawback in this region, within the gravitational pull of tech giants like Apple and Genentech); and, as all the resume guides point out, employers view long employment gaps, like mine, very suspiciously. 

I mean, as lists of reasons against job candidates go, its easy to assess my prospects as The Perfect Storm of Unqualified.  So, maybe it’s not so unusual I drag my feet–just a bit–in approaching this job search project.

Luckily, I do possess a vestige of level-headedness and optimism.  This persistent inner voice arises, when I’m spiraling downward, and advises me to “be calm, and break this down into steps.”  And, luckily, that’s also what many of those experts advise: Approach the job search methodically; start by answering the question, “What am I good at and enjoy doing?” Defining that–as precisely as possible–then helps the job seeker answer the more salient question, “What do I want to do?”

So, I’m now focused on completing that little incremental task. Lay this foundation … don’t get ahead of myself … remember what the experts say in a chorus of career guides (beginning with Richard Bolles’ annual tome, What Color Is Your Parachute). Or, to put a slightly different spin on my goal: The journey out of procrastination begins with a single step.

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