Nothing shakes you more and reminds you of the brevity of life when you visit the hospital. A month ago I sat in my friend’s hospital room while she recovered from a complicated surgery. It started out as a simple female procedure but somehow turned into a week-long stay from unexpected complications. I took turns with friends visiting her to make sure she wasn’t feeling too down or frustrated about losing the freedom to move around too much. She rarely is sad and it shocked me to see her struggling to keep up her joy. It was at this moment I realized we learn our greatest lessons when we realize what we’ve taken for granted.
It got me to thinking about if I was really living the life I say I am when I ended up chatting with a mutual friend at the hospital. It was a Saturday but she was diligently typing away on her laptop when I walked in my friend’s room. I brought my Kindle Fire along but only had it for fun and not work. So, I asked her how she’d been and said, “Are you working on a project?” She quickly responded “Oh no, I’m just completing work. That’s all I do.” I said “Really?” Her head was buried in the laptop when she said….”Yea.” I remembered she was in a sorority and mentioned seeing some of her soror sisters involved in a community service project over the weekend. I asked if she was active or ever worked with any of them. Again, she said, “I don’t even know when they meet. I should get more involved.”
I’m stunned because this woman was beautiful, smart, successful, but largely isolated from anything but her job. Here I was telling her more about organizations she’s affiliated with just because I was paying more attention. She admitted she didn’t get out much unless it was related to work. We talked a bit more and she shared that even though she had her own moment with a life changing and personal illness, she hadn’t taken hold of truly living instead of focusing her energy on work. Somehow, she’s still clinging to work as her life’s purpose. Here’s the deal. We all have the tendency to cling to what we know and what’s comfortable out of fear. More than likely, we don’t realize that we shortchange ourselves by doing so. Unfortunately, I saw alot of myself in her. Of course I can cushion the blow by saying I’m not that bad, but alot of my life is patterned around work and finding more opportunities to work. That’s where alot of my value comes from (which I constantly battle). I volunteer here and there, but I’ve gotten comfortable being by myself and fail at going out alone or if I’m not with a friend. While I love what I do both as a counselor and as a singer, it won’t always be there. And since it won’t, it’s time to start focusing more on creating relationships that last and not based simply on what I do for a living. I certainly don’t want to wake up one day and realize I’m all I got.
It was ironic that as I listened to this woman maybe five years older than me, I learned that while I am chasing my career goals, other more personal ones are getting slighted. It reminded me that if I’m not careful, I’ll end up the same way dragging my laptop around as my friend. I’m so careful with my life choices sometimes to the point that I’m almost afraid to make a move, but my conversation with the laptop lady reminded me that it’s important to create a sense of balance. I’ve made more of an effort to spend time with family and friends and even seek them out to nurture our relationships. In the next months, I’ll be sharing my experiences and difficulties of trying to even out the time I spend in my personal life and my career. I don’t want to look back and see missed opportunities because I was afraid of failure or too focused on moving up in the world. My friend is out of the hospital now and recovering like a champ. So, I’m challenging myself to get out of my comfort zone even more so that I don’t only have certificates of attendance and job promotions as my only proof I was here.
What’s the worst thing you’ve done while interviewing for a job? Tripped over your feet right before shaking hands with the boss? Walked in smackin’ on gum because you forgot to spit it out or realized your boobs were showing even though they started out safe in the pocket? Interviewing can be a painful or easy experience depending on how you comfortable you are presenting yourself.
My job has one of the most strenuous interview processes I’ve even been seen. First the phone interview with the team, then an invitation to interview with the staff: a day’s worth of group interviews and presentations. You meet with every single person affiliated with the staff. That’s a lot of people taking notes, eyeballing you, and forming opinions while dissecting your every word. I call it good old-fashioned hazing. After my interview, I was so exhausted and drained I couldn’t talk about it afterwards without getting irritated. Seriously, who needs five interviews and a two-hour presentation in one day to decide if I can do the job? Don’t you know after the first round? Ugh, I’m getting rowdy even writing about it.
Which brings me to my point. During “hell night” as I like to call it, I was so nervous I teared up with frustration from the steady stream of questions being thrown at me. I was so embarrassed but scrambled quickly to suck my emotions back in. I was angry with myself because I’d always managed to keep it together even when things got tense. What was going on? Well, I survived the rest of the day and surprisingly got the job. Now I’m on the other side of things and have the opportunity to watch other people in the process. The past two weeks I’ve seen interviews where the most random foolishness occurred. Thought me getting all in my feelings in public was wacky? Well, one woman actually sat down in the middle of her presentation and sipped from her water bottle like she was outside chillin’ on the back porch on a Sunday afternoon. Another candidate was 45 minutes late to the interview and NEVER even apologized to the director. Where dey do dat at? And how about boldly admitting you just started working on your presentation the night before like wanted the church’s sympathy to forgive you if you hit a wrong note? It was a mess. And the worst? The half cocked response to the answer “Why are you looking for a job with us?” “Because I can’t stand my boss and I’m ready to move on.” I was embarrassed for the one woman who cursed when her slides didn’t work, the guy who slipped and called his old boss a jerk, and just thought to myself…..are you freakin’ kiddin’ me?
Interviewing is difficult because you want to leave the employer with your best impression while showing glimpses of your personality. But some stuff needs to stay hidden. Like deep, deep in the closet under the winter clothes. So please don’t go the next interview late, with 5 slides and a 15 minute presentation when you know it’s supposed to last an hour and a half. And can we come up with a decent, civil answer for why you want to change jobs? “I hate my boss” ain’t gonna cut it. I sympathize with the candidates because I went through it myself and know how agonizing the day can be. But bad behaviors only show how little you really want the job. And no fancy suit, years of experience, or impressive resume is going to fix that.
I joined the #GoalDiggers group not knowing what to expect. I’m a huge fan of Britni Danielle from reading Clutch Magazine so I wanted to see the ideas behind the group. I haven’t been disappointed yet. The #GoalDiggers group has helped to get me back on track with my dreams, my goals, and my life.
I’m sharing 3 major lessons I’ve learned from being Goal Digger, but know that there are so many more.
You will only be as successful as the people you surround yourself with. Each and every day, the #GoalDiggers group welcomes a new person who has a goal, a dream, and a focus. Instantly, there is encouragement, networking, and the ability to get resources and direction in a safe environment. This is the first group on Facebook I’ve joined that inspires me to do more, to always use risk as my choice for success, and to just keep going. I’ve met so many women and men who are already accomplished and successful but willing to share their life lessons with the group. You cannot be around naysayers and move forward. Goal Diggers has opened my eyes to the power of positive people and support.
Your dream is just a sliver of what you can do. There are so many ways to live your dream and your plan is just the beginning of opportunity. Within the group, there are many of us who are working our day job but burning the oil at night to build our own brand and businesses. I’ve seen women who are creating their own mentoring programs, raising children, creating new jobs, and traveling all at the same time. Nothing is too hard for God. I like to say our dreams make God laugh. I know I’ve limited myself in certain areas but #GoalDiggers makes it comfortable enough to say, I need help in doing this. And thankfully, it’s a place where you get a response and blow your dream up even more.
Make sure you’re ready to work so make sure your dream is one worth working for. I’ve learned about the #30in30 writing challenge, the meetups, creating my website, tips for building brands, all in one place. But I’m responsible for the follow through. And many of us have crazy hot ideas, but sit on them until the time is right. I’ve learned that any thing is possible IF I am willing to work for it. And I have to make time for my passion until my passion makes time for me. There are many times I want to quit and think, this is hard. But, it keeps me up at night and I know there’s a purpose to it if it drives me to wipe my eyes and keep writing. Every single person who is a #GoalDigger has to sacrifice, get over their fears, and believe in themselves even when no one else does. But we also know that while others may encourage us, ain’t nobody going to do it but me.
#GoalDiggers=strong, success minded people who will and work for their dreams to come to fruition. I’m a goal digger. Watch out cuz this is just the beginning.
“I want to remain committed to a purpose, not a position.-Cory Booker
I ran across the Mayor’s comment at a time when I was questioning my commitment to a leadership role in church ministry. An interviewer asked him how long he anticipated staying in office. I was surprised by his answer because it wasn’t the pat political response. By nature, I feel like I tend to stick around too long in situations that I’ve outgrown for one reason or another. I didn’t want to be the colleague who drives everyone nuts at work by asking questions during the last five minutes of an 1 1/2 staff conference call. Seriously, who does that?!! That person doesn’t understand the beauty of boundaries and honoring limits. And I really didn’t want to feel like the woman in a relationship whose waiting for the words she already knows have been spoken in the crevice of her heart: it’s over. Like any relationship, or job,, it’s important to check in and evaluate what’s still effective and useful.
I’ll be honest and say I’ve held on too long in relationships, jobs, and even petty arguments just so I’d feel like I had some sort of control. (That’s a story for another day). But even more so, I kept positions because I worried what other people would say. That ranged from my working as church ministry leader to being in a half-baked, terribly unhealthy relationship. Would the church volunteers be proud of the work I attempted, or say I didn’t do enough? Would I be called disobedient in the spirit or faithful for trusting my voice? Even in my relationship, I didn’t feel comfortable anymore but I was too afraid to let go. What would he say in the end? Was I good enough as a woman or was it truly a bad fit for two people who just wanted love? It wasn’t a good time in my life as I struggled with these decisions. As I look back, I knew what was best for me, but hadn’t learned to trust that God was leading me in the right direction in spite of the negative chatter spewing through the grapevine.
I was stuck as a result of not learing the art of release. To me, the art of release simply means being self-aware of what’s working and what no longer fits in a person’s life. Then, having the willingness to make changes before being forced to do so in crisis mode. If you need an example: what about being fired from a job because you are underperforming? For my Love and Hip Hop Fans, what about staying in a relationship that puts you at risk for STD’s as well as constant emotional abuse? And my sports fans, what about Dwight Howard sticking around In Orlando when he knew that’s not what he REALLY wanted to do? Perhaps you can identify with this. Staying put was hurting my ability to heal and move on in relationships and my career.
This was the time in my life where I just wanted to be needed. If I wasn’t seeing anyone, I’d take on project after project at work and church as most single women do. See, it fills up your schedule and you can avoid instead of learning how to balance work and your personal life. I’m writing this from the perspective of a woman whose heart belongs to God and loves to serve him. I grew up in church and believe strongly in the power and purpose in serving in ministry. If anyone asked me to work on a project, I did it. Because they asked. And that may have been part of the problem. Who knew there were would be a time when I have tapped out my potential in a position and really needed to move on? It’s tricky and sometimes difficult to know when you are serving connected to your purpose and simply being busy and stagnant after the goal has been met. I liken the word stagnant to dirty, muddy water after a rain. Stinks, huh?
In my relationship, we tried to adjust and it didn’t work. I pretended he was happy, he continued being unhappy, I was unhappy and the both of us kept bumping into each other with fake hearts. It made us more uncomfortable. The truth was we weren’t a good match for each other and our needs weren’t being met. Now, my involvement in ministry has the same concepts. I chose to step down at a time when there were multiple departures in other units within the church. And I stayed longer than I wanted to because I felt guilty. And it made leaving worse, and more difficult, and like a slow death both my volunteers wanted the transition to be done. Thank God for his grace. Through that, I learned that part of growing is moving forward. And knowing most of all, when it’s time to let go. I was sad, but I would have been even more despondent if I stayed. Not because I didn’t love what I was doing, but because there were other lessons for me to learn outside of the church I spent most of my time at.
I now pay more attention to the signs of change in my dating and career world. I am often the first to say, “I think it’s time for a change.” Not because I’m bored or disatissfied. But because my purpose and my understanding of who I am has become more clear. And that’s a good thing. I now know when it’s time to leave and have less worry of what others will say. Guess what? Those who talk about you will talk whether you are present or gone. But that’s no longer my focus. I am.
I’m going back to work! After being laid off in March 2012, I scrambled like a chicken with her head cut off the past 6 months doing freelance gigs as an entertainer. I also went to my trusty fallback degree and worked as a counselor for the local university. There were many emotions as I questioned my talent, my decision to pursue performing again, and trusting that something good would come out of a funky situation. This was the first time in all my years of living that I didn’t know where my next paycheck would come from. Not a good feeling. And even though I used my education to work as a counselor part-time, it still ate at me that I felt so helpless. Compared to others who go years without working, six months is not a lot of time in the world of unemployment compensation. without a consistent job. So I’m beyond grateful that I’m not back at work. The discomfort provided several lessons along the way and I wanted to share them today. I’m not completely healed from the disappointment but I can share lessons that are now closest to my heart.
Don’t assume the worst about your skill set but always check if your work environment is the best fit for your abilities. When employment contracts came around in March and I didn’t receive an offer, my coworkers began the whisper while you work mentality. You know, the ” What happened?”, or “I can’t believe it!”, or “Well, I didn’t think she was all that anyway” talk away from me but just close enough for me to hear it. My goal was to not get sucked into the conjecture and let that affect my overall belief in myself. I was already fragile from the pending financial and lifestyle change coming and did my best to avoid discussing the past. I had to stay focused on what was next. I admit I worried about my overall value as a performer and wondered had I simply lost the “it” factor. To my surprise, I didn’t have too much time to think about it as I received several offers for freelance jobs the week my full-time employment was to end. I also used an old contact to return to work part-time as a counselor. It was a blessing because the jobs reminded me I still had value as a performer and to watch defining myself or my worth by what I do for a living. Freelancing opened my eyes to how I was limiting myself to one primary stream of income. Quick lesson learned: don’t doubt yourself. And realize that if you aren’t the best fit for one place, another company may hold a totally different perspective. Go where the water is warm and where people are seeking your skills.
Diversify I’ve never had the entrepreneurial spirit. My parents have always worked for someone and when my dad tried his own business, he quit trying and went back to the sales world. But the lay-off shook me out of my comfort zone where I just show up to work and get paid. Being laid off left me feeling like I had no control over anything. And, I realized I gave too much power to people relying on them to hire and pay me for my skills. To avoid this from happening again, I took inventory of my strengths and weaknesses and saw a lot that I wasn’t fully maximizing. As a result, I’ve decided to get another certification to enhance my counseling marketability in private practice. My goal is to eventually manage my own clinical counseling & consulting services so that I can support myself no matter what my day job is. I started a blog that addresses mental health and social issues affecting women and minorities. This will turn into free lancing my articles in online magazines for supplemental income as well. And I haven’t given up performing. I took my moment to mourn the loss of one job, and then started auditioning again. it’s working as I am starting a new show as we speak. Social media has now become a resource for tips on rebounding from unemployment and networking. I’ve never been too comfortable bragging on myself but now my mouth is open wide sharing what I can do and how well I can do it. Thankfully, I am starting a new full-time job today as a college counselor but have a different focus and purpose in returning to work. I’m actively looking for ways to improve my marketability. If there’s a class, I’m taking it. Free training? I’m there and constantly asking for emails to keep in touch with professionals I meet. You could say I’m all over the place but it means I’m improving my areas of influence. Diversify now means making sure I am always enhancing my skills, having multiple sources of income that I control, and constantly looking for the next opportunity for growth all while doing what I love.
Take Care….of You. My feelings were like a roller coaster while I was wasn’t working consistently. One day I’m hopeful and happy, the next I’m sad because I got a job rejection letter in the mail. The next I’m up exercising and trying to keep my stress level down, only to plop on my favorite red couch to swallow a whole pint of Blue Bell Cookies n’ Cream ice cream wondering when I would have medical benefits again. My energy level dropped, I gained weight, and I was a mess. I’m so very grateful to family and friends that supported me and reminded me of Romans 8:28: And we know that all things work together for the good of those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose. God always works things out for our good. I just had to do my part and make sure I was pursuing HIS purpose as well. I also had to readjust my social circle. Let’s face it, it’s hard to hang with friends like you used to when you’re broke. Even harder to balance healing from the loss of a job when most of your friends still work there. I worked hard at staying connected to church and sorority activity and even contacted a life coach to process my own disappointments. When I was down, my friends who also believe in God’s plan for my life kept me grounded. I believe in prayer, I believe in utilizing counseling and maintaining a healthy body to stay sane. So, whatever it takes and whatever works for you, do it and take control of what you can do especially in difficult times. It’s one of the biggest keys to recovery and getting focused on what’s next, not what’s left.
There were many more lessons learned and in this economy, I know I’m not the only one who has experienced shaky employment trials. But I firmly believe that things that can break us have the potential to build us into a stronger and better version of who we were before IF, we allow it.