Had a distressing and disheartening career counseling appointment today. Almost started crying a couple times. I thought I was going to receive some direction in creating a job search plan. Evidently this session was for long-term career counseling. It wasn't until the end of the appointment that I figured out that we were not on the same page. So I made another appointment for Tuesday to get what I need.
Basically, this guy sat with me for an hour and told me that I am "all over the place" in regard to my looking for employment. Which I do not dispute. He advised me to really hone in on the type of job I am seeking because everything is specialized today. I tried to explain that I am not really specialized in anything specific. I was trained to be a generalist counselor. He gave the example of a woman he knows who finds her "greatest joy" in working with domestic violence victims. He asked me what my greatest joy or passion is and I replied, "Working at a job so I can provide for my children." Where would I really work if I could follow my bliss? A book store, yarn store or library. But we're not talking bliss here, we're talking survival.
This career counselor actually put me down for my attitude of trying to find a job (any job) as quickly as possible. He tried to talk me into putting my main focus into finding more professional work in my field of social services/counseling. He dismissed my explanations that when I looked for work in my field, I was only offered on-call or 10-hour-a-week positions. I firmly stated that as an only parent I must accept full-time employment - I don't have the luxury of just working 10-hours a week with no benefits. But according to this guy, I should consider them to get my foot in the door. This isn't practical for me. Hello - I am the sole bread winner in my family of kids fast approaching going to college.
Sadly, the reality of my situation did not seem to hit this guy. My reality doesn't allow me the extra time to spend months on the job hunt. I pretty much have to take whatever is offered me as soon as it is offered. And that doesn't bother me. I just want and need to have some kind of work to be bringing in some funds.
I was told not to act, appear and sound too desperate. But at the same time must be enthusiastic and sell myself. I need to be "the best athlete at the top of the pyramid." We won't even bother to go into the strain of playing the B.S. games that abound when job hunting. And that is on top of worrying about feeding the kids and putting gas into the van to get to job interviews.
We talked a little about networking and I explained that in the years I stopped working outside the home to care for sick family members, I'd lost touch with my former co-workers. I tried to relate how isolating widowhood is when raising school-aged children. It was recommended that at the next school activity I attend, say a volleyball game, that I "work" the bleachers and tell everyone that I am looking for that specific job - whatever that will turn out to be. Oh boy, I'm really looking forward to that. It is hard enough for me to attend school events on my lonesome. Now I'll have the added pleasure of "working" the bleachers. Right.
At the end of our session, I was asked what "groups" I am involved with. I said, none. "None? No church groups?" I tired to explain how tough it is to get through the laundry, make dinner and do the dishes much less socialize in any capacity. But there is that superwoman mentality rearing its ugly head again. Not only am I supposed to function as an only parent with virtually no assistance but also be out there off to job club meetings and the like. I did ask at the library yesterday if there were any book discussion groups and was told no. In my life before widowhood I was a PTA officer and committee chair. Activities and groups like that faded away as the reality of functioning as an only parent took over.
I did mention that I blog and was asked how many follow. I replied maybe a dozen. So now my homework is to try and find job contacts or connections via this blog. I said that this is a nationwide blog but apparently that isn't supposed to matter in this cyber age. Well, I am not combining job searching with this personal grief blog. I will join the Wed. a.m. job club that meets at the center and keep looking for a book club.
In the end, Mr. Job Counselor Guy, whom I should add is unemployed and a volunteer himself, was pretty critical of my "I can't do this attitude" that sometimes was exposed. I countered him by saying that I need to look for work in the here and now and long-term goals are on the back burner for now. Since when did working to put food on the table for your kids become a dishonorable goal? In fact, when I was going through hints for surviving hard economic times, one tip was to go back to school for a short-term program such as the CNA one I completed to get a job ASAP. I can concentrate on a more "fun" job later when the need is not so intensely dire.
I guess my whole impression about this encounter was how little people and especially the untouched fail to comprehend the situation I am in relating to my widowhood. I don't know why I can't be taken at face value. It is what it is, although I dislike that expression. I need a job. I need a job now. I'm willing to pretty much do anything for the time being. It is a necessity. I don't have much choice. My pension is not enough for us to survive on. We have to supplement it with food from the food pantry.
I was reminded that I'll hear the word "No" plenty of times while looking for working. And I suppose along the way I'll meet more than a few people who don't get it. There needs to be acknowledgment at least that my situation may not be the same as others. That is all I really want and have ever wanted. Just recognize that I'm living with circumstances that might require some tweaking or another approach. Give me some credit for where I'm coming from. Don't put me into that one-size-fits-all box.
To be fair, this guy did say I have a lot of great job, volunteer and life experience and that I need to harness this and really sell it. He also was complimentary of my achievement of having a Master's Degree for which I will always be grateful. And I will not totally dismiss everything that was discussed. Job counselor guy made some cogent points and I need to filter in everything that is offered. I'll reflect on his suggestions. But I don't think he'll give me or my situation another thought.