Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Managing Expectations

For the convenience of those lazy readers out there, I will begin at the end. Last week, after nearly four months of tireless searching, I accepted a new job. The specifics of the position will allow me to have a manager-level position on my resume, will offer me a chance to learn new, marketable skills and will only occupy my time four days a week, thereby allowing me to keep up my concierge service business. It's also only a few miles from my apartment which means I don't have to move.

Since being laid off on May 1, I wrote 27 different versions of my resume, submitted nearly 100 cover letters, interviewed with 17 organizations, spent entirely too much money on NJ Transit, made umpteen phone calls and sent a litany of emails to friends, colleagues, classmates, advisers and sometimes even total strangers. I made a thorough accounting of my unique skills, did several self-assessment tests and humbly reached out to my contacts for informational meetings whenever possible.

As I wrote on Facebook, I absolutely could not have gotten through this test in my life without the amazing friends who called me to check in, who bought me a drink, who sent me job listings and who generally encouraged me along the way.

Yet, I've titled this post "Managing Expectations" for a very specific reason. I'm not taking my dream job. What I am taking is a 15% pay cut from my old job and the risk of working within the same community, albeit under the auspices of a different agency. I'm not working in the cutting-edge, innovative environment I had imagined, but rather am working for an organization that goes back almost 150 years and provides some of the most basic human services one can imagine.

Most critically, I'm not relocating which means I do get to keep my aforementioned awesome group of friends, but I also keep the challenges of living an involved Jewish life as a single girl in suburban New Jersey. Hopefully, my 4 day/week schedule will allow me some extra time to create new opportunities for Jewish young adults in my area to mingle and with Fridays off, I can travel a bit more too.

And I suppose this mental act of making vodka-spiked lemonade out of life's lemons is the biggest lesson that I have learned in this latest episode of my life. Many people of my generation were taught hard work guaranteed delivery of your heart's desire and that having it all was inherently possible.

I absolutely feel that I have identified myself (and my friends) based on the bags we carry, the vacations we take and the cocktails we drink. After two master's degrees and three years of post-grad work, I expected a certain earning power that simply has not translated in our society's new reality.

Now with this economic crisis particularly crippling the mid-level/pre-executive labor market, those of us on the Generation X/Y cusp have had to re-evaluate and learn serious new skills. We garden, trade food, cook for each other or eat in cheaper restaurants rather than dining in the newest hot spot. We barter and enlist each others' sweat equity. We give smaller gifts and give our time more than our money. We may not fear the label of "thrifty," the way we would have in college or lusher days. We go on walking dates instead of happy hours.

I cannot begin to wonder what the next several months will bring and I have also learned that long-term planning is an exercise best executed in terms of generalities. The next few weeks will be a true gift as I have until after Yom Kippur to start my new job. I am hoping to take a few cultural and culinary staycations around New York and New Jersey so please send your suggestions for your favorite ethnic neighborhood so I can get additional stamps in my virtual passport.

And yes, doing a better job keeping up with this blog will be on the agenda as well.


Roy said...

"Many people of my generation were taught hard work guaranteed delivery of your heart's desire and that having it all was inherently possible."

This is so key, in a couple of different ways. So many kids in our generation heard "Hard work guarantees the success you want" instead of the message "If you do succeed, and you 'can', it will take hard work to get you there.

Even worse, the group that came in age just after us, the everyone gets a trophy group, learned that you will be successful; and so will everyone else. Nothing really even entered the picture of hard work.

I think success is a moving target everywhere except in your own heart and mind. If I can find the satisfaction in the things I do, and the people I love, and achievements, and struggles and failures, in my life, then I am successful, even if it's not everything I first wanted. But it's going to take hard work.

Congrats again on the job, SF. So happy for you. Sorry lunch didn't work out. Fri and Mon I was busy, working hard. ;-)

Suzanne said...

Mazel tov! Good luck with your new gig! I've also been looking for a job in the New York area since early May, so I can relate to the cover letters and resumes and trials and tribulations. This also means that I am mad jealous, but I can't help think of the lyrics to "L'Chaim" from Fiddler on the Roof (We know that when good fortune favors two such men, it stands to reason, we deserve it too!) - jeez, how schmaltzy am I? - and take hope from it.