“The man with the best job in the country is the vice-president. All he has to do is get up every morning and say, 'How is the president?'” -Will Rogers As I continue to network with my community and explore job possibilities, there are days when I feel the stress of not having a clear structure and plan for finding opportunites--and not knowing where to look. I have discovered later in life that my highly distorted perception of being a visionary has been altered by understanding my great limitation in this area and my real need for much structure. In short, I truly am that "worker bee" that would much rather have a list of things to do, check them off at the end of the day and be done with it.
So it's interesting that my son is also job hunting--- home for the summer from college. "Interesting" covers a lot of ground and is one of my least favorite words often used in a ridiculous, general manner when people don't want to be specific about negativity or challenges. That would be the case here! Okay, perhaps I exaggerate, but I find myself supremely inept at guiding Alec in this finding-a-job-thing, as I veer wildly from the diplomatic, blind leading the blind job-cheerleader to the stressed out mother who is short on sleep, energy, patience, ideas and finances.
Three years ago, it became necessary to downsize from our 5-bedroom home to a small 2-bedroom apartment. This has been difficult but also comically impressive as we fit the three of us humans as well as a dog and two cats quite agreeably (the living room couch becomes my bed when Alec is home). I have attempted to create a comfortable home with this situation, but it has pained me to have to ask my children to contribute financially.
My desire to be a good provider for Laura and Alec has given way to sadness and guilt in needing them to share in this responsibility at a too-young age. Nevertheless, these are the current practicalities of making ends meet every month. Hence, the heightened "interest" in Alec finding gainful employment this summer so Laura can be somewhat relieved of her contribution during these months.
So a stirring debate with Alec regarding job hunting has centered around being willing to take any job (within reason) that is offered to him. This is Alec's first foray into finding a job (to augment his continued summer part-time gig teaching kids theater and music). The initial conversation went something like this:
ME: So, where have you considered looking for work?
ALEC: I'm interested in working at the Community Music Center.
ME: Great idea! Maybe make a call and see who to contact. Also, it's important to contact as many businesses as possible and network as much as possible to keep your options open.
ALEC: I really want to do something that will fit in with my interests and my career down the road.
ME: (feeling rising impatience and irritation) Honey (I know, terms of endearment can be seen as a power play here), finding a first, "real" job you really want, in this economy, at age 19, is unrealistic. (I cleverly insert examples for him of his talented friends that have basic, low-paying summer jobs) For instance, maybe applying at Ben and Jerry's would be a good idea because they are often hiring.
ALEC: Ben and Jerry's?? I would never work there!
The conversation imploded there (especially after I found myself stooping for the "when I was a girl!" routine that I thought I would never hear myself say!) despite all attempts to be "helpful."
In fact, however, I am so grateful for Alec challenging me to think about this job-hunting business in a more expansive way, especially in regards to this one-week project. Do I take any job offered to me to fill up my 52 weeks--and to try a bunch of different things? Do I hold out for the opportunities that are more meaningful to me in my life? Do I take positions only if I see a possible career in that field? Do I stick with the experiences where I might make a greater contribution?
I currently work in my neighborhood coffee shop as a barista; in addition, I direct children's theater with my daughter at a community center. And when asked, I take care of animals (one of my great loves) for a small fee. In other words, in the past 5 years I have been willing to take whatever job has come my way to take care of my family. Bootstraps, by George! It is with this mindset that I have approached my gifted son who possesses brilliant musical sensibilities and gentle-life sensitivities with a rather one-way method of job hunting. It's a numbers game! Sheesh.
What I know to be true is that yes, I do have some wisdom to impart to my son and perhaps can guide him somewhat through this, but right along with him, I am learning about how to network and find opportunities. Alec will discover his own process in applying for jobs this summer. And I hope to improve upon my process with this project--and in helping my son-- in a more gentle, patient, creative and fruitful way.