Career Transition Update: My Parachute Is Black

20Oct10

Or at best, it’s a neutral tone.  Regardless, it isn’t chromatic.

I returned to purgatory on Sunday night.  Good, in that I didn’t have too much time to anticipate my return to work; bad, in that I was returning to work.  Napa was truly wonderful, as any place with amazing food, good wine and beautiful landscapes would be.  Highlights: the “taco truck” bloody mary at Ubuntu, made with clarified heirloom tomato juice and soju (among other, wonderfully tasty, things), running around (tipsy) with my husband in the cool night air, seeing Thomas Keller (because who doesn’t enjoy a celebrity sighting?), and flipping through a coffee table book dedicated to Tom of Finland (a highlight only in the sense that I will never be able to forget what I saw on those pages). 

But back to the subject at hand.  The networking event for professionals in publishing — the one that I had invested so much hope in, the one that was supposed to be my coming-out event — didn’t happen.  Whatever planet rules work-life balance must have been in retrograde last Thursday, because I was even more inundated with work than usual.  I find it a little bizarre that this happened on such a special night for me, but perhaps it wasn’t bizarre at all.  Either way, I worked through all of my meals, until my head hurt and I couldn’t see my computer screen anymore.   

Anyway, on the plane home from California I continued reading “What Color Is Your Parachute?”  In fact, I studied it.  I read and reread certain chapters, did a bunch of exercises, got the T-shirt.   While the book is teeming with useful guidence, the following exercise is particularly enlightening:

First, define yourself in ten words and then write each word at the top of a different sheet of paper.  My ten words, for example, were something like “creative, independent, gracious, learner, wordsmith, sophisticated, organizer, futuristic, ambitious, whimsical”.  Then on each page, write why you chose that word, why it appeals to you and (I would add) one or two instances in which you demonstrated that trait.  Next, put each page in order based on which you think best describe you.  Finally, identify themes that run across the pages and put together a cohesive statement about what your job would have to involve in order to best serve all of the traits you’ve identified.   This exercise helped me come to the conclusion that I am much better suited for the magazine world than for the world of book publising, because I thrive on a diversity of information and experiences — different tasks, varied subject matter, different roles.  After my plane ride, my parachute was a palette of burgendies — still mostly dark, but with spots of incandescense, not entirely unlike the zinfandels and cabernets that I had been swirling around Napa all weekend.

Sadly, the book stressed the importance of networking.  Two of the least effective job hunting methods: responding to internet postings and blindly sending out resumed.   The most effective job hunting methods: targeting an organization and using your contacts to get in front of the person with the power to hire you (irrespective of whether the company has posted job openings), and various other forms of networking.  Perhaps my recap is over-simplified, but the point is that you have to sell yourself.  You have to put yourself out there and people have to like you, every step of the way.  This is not my forte. 

So now I am back at work, inundated, facing my ineptitudes vis-a-vis netorking, not to mention the very real possibility that if I can manage to jump at all, I may end up leaving purgatory for a job that works me just as hard for a quarter of the salary (I would be inclined to call that “hell”, although I realize qualitative factors should, in theory, come into play — more on that in another post).  Needless to say, my parachute is reflecting black.  Maybe it’s not really black, but that’s what I see today.   I remain hopeful, but I can no longer deny just how much work it is going to take in order for me to make a seamless transition. 

There is a woman who works down the hall from me, who I run into at the coffee machine every morning.  This is notable, since we both arrive at the office absurdly early by Biglaw standards.  She is making a career transition from graphic designer to non-profit administrator and has been working full time, and going to school part time, for three years now.   No one promised this process would be fast.  No one promised that it would be easy.  Luckily, there is so much to learn along the way.  That will have to be my focus.  Each day I am faced with this new challenge and as I learn more about myself and the society that I inhabit, I get closer to where I want to be.   That will have to be enough for now. 

Until I pull the trigger on “Project Jet Blue” and just fucking quit.

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4 Responses to “Career Transition Update: My Parachute Is Black”

  1. 1 Cara

    I’m glad you had a good vacation, and I’m glad you’re getting clearer on what you want to do. That should make it much easier to make connections and find people to help you.

    As for ending up in a hell job where you work just as much for a quarter of the salary, that doesn’t seem terribly likely to me. I had a summer internship at a magazine when I was in college, and at least in editorial, it was a very chilled out environment. Nobody came in before 9, and I don’t remember anyone regularly sticking around much after 5. The layout/production all took place at another facility, so I don’t know what their hours were, but I doubt they were much worse. Even if you somehow happen upon a psycho workaholic magazine your first time, you can just stick it out a year or so to get experience and then go somewhere else. That will be much easier than the initial career change. There’s no reason for your career to suck up all of your time forever.

    • 2 Samantha Alexander

      Thank you so very much for your comment. The presence of hope in my life has been touch-and-go lately, so I really appreciate your giving it a boost. May I ask what magazine you interned at? Or at least what kind of magazine and where?

  2. If the job you wind up at is one you like, never mind the money for a moment, you’ve at least found something better than Hell. And for that matter, there’s plenty of moola to be had in the world of magazines. And that being said, now that you’ve narrowed down where you want to be a bit, you just took a huge leap in a good direction!

    Rule #1: You don’t know how you’re going to wind up where you want to be. And if you think that you do because a book told you so, you need to flee to a Tibetan monastery in the Himalayas, or a Zen monastery on some peak peak on Mt. Fugi post hast to clear your mind of the nonsense that the reality of your life can be contained in a book. Not to say that their advice isn’t sound and won’t be exactly how you get to where you’re going, but you never know what alternate route might work out even better!

    That being said, you’re definitely likable. Maybe putting yourself out there isn’t something you’re used to yet, but you’re definitely likable. The professionalism thing can get old and boring quick, but beneath your professionalism and drive to succeed, you have a vulnerability that’s reminds others of their own humanity. I think you maybe focus too much on what you think others might want to see, and not enough on what kind of wow you possess that others don’t know yet they’ve been missing in their lives. It seems to me people do like you, and it’s because you bring your humanity to the table along with your genuine desire to be the best at what you do. If there’s any skills you lack, that’s easy enough to remedy, and aside from that, you introduce yourself to your networkees as yourself, and you’ll find yourself in a place where you’re where you want to be.

    I don’t know if this song is strictly appropriate, but your posting reminded me of it. Sam’s my absolute favorite, may you enjoy! (And check out “How to Dream” if you get a chance)

  3. 4 Samantha Alexander

    Thanks, Tygarjas! I really appreciate the feedback, as it is often difficult to see things objectively. Thank you also for the compliments and the song recommendation which, aside from being a cool song, has perfectly relevant lyrics. I hope you had lines out the door at your book signing!


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