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Posts Tagged ‘career change’

Is it ever appropriate to write the sentence “You need me!” in a cover letter?

What do you say when you’re sending out your 400th resume of the month and you realize that your cover letter has to stand out among 4,000 others? Which line from the job search handbook actually works in real life? Successful job seekers? Hiring managers? Anyone?

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I saw a lot of great articles on MSNBC.com this morning on reinventing America.  There were human interest stories, suggestions for coping with career change, the effect of job loss on colleges, which businesses are making the most out of the unemployment rate, and a call out to anyone who is in the middle of the crisis to tell their personal stories.

I have been dealing with this sort of thing since I was 19.  Twenty-five years later, I can say, “been there, done that.”

I grew up in a small town, and started my adult life with a baby, a trip three times a week to the local extension of Purdue University, and a lot of help from my family.  My first real job was as a substitute teacher, because my major at the time was education and I wanted to see what it was really like.  I had to learn to present myself as an authority figure, to dress like an adult (which was more helpful than I knew at the time), and to constantly hold the attention of all ages of kids.  I  was trying so hard to be a teacher that I almost forgot to look at whether or not I liked it.  I didn’t.

I went into retail – which really meant that I worked 35 hours per week at the mall for a while.  I had to learn to make small talk, learn about different products and sell them, and operate a cash register.  Retail management started to look good – you have a fun work environment, you can actually have a full-time job with benefits (which seemed like the top of the ladder at the time), and it was something I was good at.  The company was bought out, and went in another direction – and so did I.

After I switched my major to business, I got a job as a bookkeeper.  I thought, “This is great.  I can still earn money without having to talk to the customers!”  (I said I was good at it – I didn’t say that I liked that part of it.)  That type of job lasted a while – it turned out that I was very good with numbers and paperwork and computers.  I learned more through that type of work (thanks to my supervisors) than I did in business school.  Working for small businesses, I got a chance to write ad copy, write business documents, learn the language of contracts, set up accounting software, and design marketing and training materials.  I thought I had found my niche.  Unfortunately, with that small-town atmosphere everywhere within driving distance, I worked for one small business after another which was sold, failed entirely, or went back to being a ‘Mom & Pop’ for economic reasons.  I learned about some great businesses, but my experience didn’t do much good because, by this time, I looked like crap on paper.  Apparently, looking like a job-hopper was a bad thing.

I fell apart.  The last job I lost was the last straw.  My son was grown and on his own, so I gave up my apartment and went to live with friends for a few months.  I worked as a bartender, a campground aide, and a hotel clerk to make sure I ate and paid the rent without having to ask Mother for help (again).  It was hard to be enthusiastic about jobs that I had to take – they weren’t my first choice, and I was angry that my resume wasn’t doing me any favors.  You do what you need to do to survive.  You learn to adapt.  You learn that the only thing you can count on is that life will change once in a while, and either you roll with the changes or you get plowed over by them.

I’ve been pretty lucky in my life.  I did survive, and eventually the right opportunities came along.  Don’t give up.  Reinvent yourself if you need to.  Did you honestly like what you were doing – really?  Is there something else that  you always wanted to do, but never got around to it?  Look reality square in the face, put the stress aside for a little while, and think about your options.  Get your mind ready to try new things.  Who knows – a new, fresh approach to life might be fun!  You just might end up with a better situation than you ever thought possible.

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