HELP WANTED

I’d much rather offer my help than ask for it.

When I talk about my volunteer work with the Charlottesville Track Club during interviews, I always explain that I will never criticize something unless I’m willing to try to fix it or improve it. That’s how I started with the Marathon and Half Marathon Training Program. I saw the way people signed up (on paper!) and it didn’t seem to be ideal. I made suggestions to help modernize registration and disseminate information on a website and social media. On May 23 we have our orientation meeting for the program I’ve helped coordinate for over 13 years and I can’t wait to keep making it better with each edition.

Asking for help has been really hard for me. I don’t have a lot of memories about my time at the Child Guidance Center in Philadelphia’s Children’s Hospital, when I suffered from Anorexia Nervosa, but the one that clearly stands out is when I couldn’t ask for a tissue. I don’t know why I was crying, but I remember the counselor offering me a tissue and then questioning why I couldn’t ask for one myself when I clearly needed it. That sticks with me almost 40 years later … that I could have tears and snot all over my face and still not ask for help.

I’m trying very hard to change this hesitancy of mine. It’s not that I think it’s weak to ask for help; I don’t. It’s just that sometimes I feel like I don’t want to bother people or I think maybe I don’t deserve help or kindness because there are so many people with greater needs than mine. Or, I fear rejection when someone doesn’t respond in the way I’d hope for.

I’m learning that it’s worth the risk to put yourself out there and ask for something that someone might enthusiastically give you. That’s why I recently sent out an email with the subject line, “I need your help.” I didn’t want to hide the fact that my twin sister and I had been struggling with some big changes over the past year and we wanted our 50th birthday to be special and memorable. A photo from a friend could be the one bright spot in an otherwise challenging day. No one can read my mind so I need to tell people how meaningful it would be get that picture. And guess what? It’s working! We’ve already received adorable and beautiful photos of our “Flat Twins” and I can’t wait to see more.

The sign in the store window for a job opening might be “Help Wanted”, but I’m finding the job hunt to be a lot like dating. It’s a confusing mixture of “Swipe right” and “Swipe left” on both sides. Is this the dream job? Is she the ideal candidate?

We all want the offer/acceptance instead of the rejection/denial. Is it worse to get a interview only to be rejected or to get passed on right away? I can’t quite figure it all out just yet. All I know is that it’s very challenging and exciting at the same time.

I never dated much and I had the same job longer than my marriage, so how do I maneuver myself in this strange world of hiring? Sometimes I think I just need to have the right conversation with the right person and they will know that I want this and that I can do it. (OMG I’m quoting Shiv from HBO’s Succession. I hope my resume doesn’t get torn apart like her memo did!)

I’m very lucky to be getting interviews for positions that I really want or am genuinely interested in, but I find myself thinking afterwards, “Oh **** I was too honest!” I wonder: Is my unique and transparent personality getting in the way of receiving an offer or do I just not have the experience needed? As a former supervisor once told one of my colleagues, “You’ve got to let Leah be Leah.” I know deep down that if I can’t be valued or appreciated for being my authentic self, then it’s probably not the right position for me. That being said, perhaps I should try to avoid any self-deprecating humor next time I’m on Zoom.

I’m going to do a deep dive analysis of my job hunt so far and work on improving my resume and my elevator pitch to market myself to potential employers. I was thinking about writing my bio for a company website where I want to work as if I were hired to see what I come up with. I also thought on my two-hour walk this morning that maybe I need to work on my tagline, but all I could come up with were funny ones for an edition of the “Real Running Housewives of Charlottesville.” Seriously Bravo come here to cast your next franchise!

“I’ve got a one track mind, but don’t always stay in my lane.” 

“No need to analyze my face, just check my resting heart rate.” 

“It’s time for me to roll, but only because my piriformis really hurts.” 

“I want to break the glass ceiling like I’ve shattered my sesamoids … into many little pieces.” 

“Every mile is a gift and I love presents! (especially in Pokemon Go)”

So please send me and my twin lots of birthday “presents” on Tuesday, May 18th … especially Flat Twin photos and Pokemon Go gifts (they’re FREE!).

Lessons Learned: The Job Hunt

  1. Always apply for the job that interests you even if you don’t think you’re qualified.
  2. Always start the day with a walk or run before turning on your computer or checking your phone for notifications and emails.
  3. Cultivate optimism on a daily basis.

I’ve been on the job hunt for a lot longer than I’d like to admit, but I have learned more in the past two weeks than I have during this entire journey. So take it from me and follow these important tips.

  1. Always apply for the job that interests you even if you don’t think you’re qualified.
    This seems like a no-brainer, especially when you consider there’s absolutely no financial cost to submitting an online job application. (Anyone else remember those days when you had to buy stamps and mail resumes?) It’s not like applying for every college or university on your wish list which could easily break the bank at an average of $50 each. (I’m not calling out my niece with this one, or am I?!)

    Feeling like you don’t have all the experience required for the “dream job” could keep you from applying. This is the time to remember Shakespeare:

“Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we might oft win by fearing to attempt.”

Early on I let the self-doubts keep me sending off my resume because either I was intimidated by a job title or worried that I didn’t have all the experience required. In retrospect, even if I knew I probably wouldn’t get the job, maybe I could have at least gotten an interview and taken that time to build relationships with people in the company. I strongly believe that every conversation is valuable and has the potential to lead to useful dialogue, personal connections, and the opportunity for growth.

It’s also worth applying for jobs that are in different areas of the country even if they aren’t considering remote employees and you’re not sure if moving is feasible. Once again, you never know where a phone call can take you. Put yourself out there and send your resume to any position that appeals to you even if it might not initially seem like a realistic option.

Another exercise to consider is expanding your reach by applying for jobs you aren’t entirely sure you’d want. And, never turn down an interview. I’ve ended up having interviews for jobs I’ve either been overqualified for or that were with companies that I hadn’t initially considered to be on the “OMG I want to work there!” list. Each time I came away learning something about myself that helped me fine-tune my pitch to potential employers and expand my career goals.

2. Start the day with exercise, you’ll never regret it.

I’ve been a long distance runner since 2007, but I’ve always been an avid walker since my college days. I didn’t own a car until I was in my 30s because I prefer to walk than drive. Some people come up with great ideas in the shower, but I have my best thoughts while I’m taking a leisurely neighborhood stroll or enjoying a long run. There had been many days when I was planning on a run, but would check my email or turn on my computer to then get sucked into the job hunt or other projects and never get out the door. Once I decided that I couldn’t look at my phone until I went for my daily walk or run, I started having a better attitude all around.

3. Cultivate optimism on a daily basis.

Create a virtual bank overflowing with items that makes you smile, laugh, or feel hopeful, i.e., songs, photos, cartoons, etc. Rejection is no joke and sometimes the only way to turn that frown upside down is to listen to a pop song or look at a photo of the people that really matter in your life. Having a playlist of tunes that makes me want to dance and content/media that always makes me laugh has been lifesaver for me. My twin sister has been keeping a daily gratitude journal after attending Cultivating Optimism with Deena Kastor. I can’t quite get myself into that routine just yet, but what has been easier for me is to make a positivity playlist or add to my Instagram story highlight featuring my favorite humor.

Thank you Johnny DiNapoli for making me smile every single time I see this!

Available to Work

The job search process is new for me. I spent nearly 20 years in my position at AcademyHealth and 22 years working with Handwriting Without Tears. The last time I applied for a job I printed a cover letter and resume and mailed it at the United States Post Office. When I was asked to schedule an interview, I received a call on a land line. Yes, it really was dark times, those 90s.


In a recent interview, I told the HR Manager that I’m a runner so I can’t hide my age, it’s right there in the race results. I’m proud to tell potential employers that I’m about to turn 50.


A visit to my website or social media will quickly show that I’m happily celebrating this milestone birthday with my identical twin.

For another position, the HR Coordinator asked me to give her 5 adjectives to describe myself. So I submitted:

1. Persistent
2. Creative
3. Helpful
4. Inquisitive
5. Dedicated

All those are absolutely true to my core identity as a person and employee, but if I had to add five more that might not be as flattering, I’d probably include:

1. Neurotic
2. Impatient
3. Obsessive
4. Honest
5. Indignant

This weekend, I had an amazing conversation with an old friend, from the 90s, who gave me the best advice for pursuing my next position. Now I’m inspired again with a list of proactive things to do including requesting informational interviews with people who are in what I’d consider “dream jobs” to find out their stories and learn about their journeys into their current roles. And, I am committed to keep applying for even more positions in fields and companies I might not have initially considered.

I don’t know what the next chapter in my life will be, but I’m excited to start writing it.

Do you have any job hunt “lessons learned” you’d like to share? I’d love feedback and tips. Leave a comment or send me an email. Snail mail is also accepted. 🙂

Resume

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Over 25 years experience in small businesses and non-profit organizations with strengths in social media, website design and management, graphic design and production, email marketing, and internet research.

Volunteer with the Charlottesville Track Club for over 13 years, managing online presence, social media, and email, designing logos and marketing materials, managing membership and race registration databases, administrating training programs, and race directing including the creation of the Rivanna Greenbelt Marathon in 2014.

Expertise with several content management systems such as Drupal and CMS-Plus; e-mail marketing software including Bronto, Alterian, and Constant Contact; Adobe Creative Suite; Microsoft Office; Google analytics; and social media tools including Hootsuite and Social Studio.

Academic background in liberal and fine arts. MA in Women’s Studies from The George Washington University and MFA in Creative Writing from George Mason University.

Strong organizational skills with the ability to handle multiple projects at once while completing quality work on a timely basis and within frequent, tight deadlines.

Avid long-distance runner and RRCA certified race director and running coach with an interest in athletic training and physiology, injury prevention, and sports nutrition. Passionate about training and racing, completed 37 marathons, dozens of half-marathons, ten-milers, and many other shorter races since 2007. Learn why I think every runner should volunteer at a race by watching Lessons Learned, Everything Marathoning with special guest, Joan Benoit Samuelson.

PokemonGo addict who achieved Level 40 status on December 21, 2017 and Level 46 on April 12, 2021.

Frequent competitor on team Our Doubts Are Traitors with Geeks Who Drink trivia.

The Last Word with Leah

I’ve been a volunteer with the Charlottesville Track Club since joining the Marathon and Half Marathon Training Program in 2007. I’ve loved raising money for local causes and promoting family friendly events, especially the All-Comers Summer Track Meets. I was asked to write a column for our newsletter and I thought it was important to share the value of giving thanks to those tireless volunteers who make events seem like they are easy to run (literally and figuratively!).