Saturday, January 28, 2012

I'm not really the job fair type

On Thursday I attended a symposium/job fair for military spouses.  Anyone who knows me knows that I can have a really piss poor attitude when it comes to attending job fairs.  Actually, piss poor might be a bit of an understatement.  I'm more along the lines of down-right hostile with negativity oozing out of my pores.  I hate job fairs.  I know that I'm not great at selling myself to prospective employers, especially when I have no idea what jobs they may have that would be of interest to me.  I can hardly figure out if I'm qualified when they post a job opening - I can't begin to figure out what to say when I'm walking up to random booths not knowing what they have available.  Job fairs are demoralizing, soul-sucking, drink-inducing affairs that usually put me into a tailspin of self-doubt and self-pity for at least a couple of days before and after.  Yes, I'm aware I have issues.

I'm glad to report that this one wasn't as bad.  That's probably because I (mostly) skipped the job fair part.  [I can almost hear my mom yelling at me through the computer.]  The first half of the day was a symposium to help military spouses with issues that many of us face: frequent job changes, gaps in employment, employers being reluctant to hire people that may be moving soon, etc.  I was surprised to hear that the national unemployment rate is around 8.5% but that for military spouses it's closer to 26%.  I count myself lucky that I have a job, as many of the spouses that I talked to that morning were in the unemployed group.  I was also surprised at the number of spouses in attendance that had four-year degrees and beyond.  A fair number of them had masters degrees and I overheard a couple of attorneys talking a few tables over.  Regardless of the education level, the one thing that I saw that every spouse had in common was a look of overwhelmed frustration on their faces.  And I'd say a good half of them just look defeated.  The presenters tried to be bright and perky and bring up every one's spirits, but I think even they realized that it was going to be a tough crowd.

The first panel of the morning was comprised of four human resources specialists.  They gave a lot of advice on interviewing and how to answer those awkward questions about being a military spouse.  A lot of what they shared was common sense: be honest, be upfront.  But they did say a few things that stuck with me.  One of the panelists said that interviewing is sort of like a being a political candidate at a debate - you need to know your message (i.e. why you're the best candidate) and keep bringing the interview back to your message, even if the interviewer throws a couple of tough questions at you.  I hate when politicians do that at debates, but it's true that it's an effective way of controlling the interview and making sure that you get out the information that you want to get out.  I was also surprised that all of the panelists said that they didn't care if it was paid experience or volunteer experience - if it makes you look good as a candidate just put it down under the general label "experience".

The panelists also emphasized that if you're not using social media to try and find a job, then you're really not trying at all.  LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter.  They said you need to be on these and know how to use them.  I was surprised at how much they kept coming back to that.  In closing they also reinforced the "one-page resume" and "hand written thank you note" doctrines, which I'm sure would please my mother.

The second half of the morning session was an abbreviated version of a longer training that addresses building your brand.  One of the key components of the training is getting you to think of good experiences you've had in life, professional or personal.  Not things like, "getting married" or "graduating from college", but things like "The presentation that I made in front of the Board last week" or "putting together the senior class party for my daughter."  We were all instructed to jot down some good experiences on a piece of paper and then get into groups of three to share them.  I sat there and stared at my paper.  I couldn't think of a damn thing, at least not anything related to my job.  I do a lot of little things really well at my job - I'm particularly good at finding errors that some people would over-look - but in terms of the good experiences that they were looking for I was drawing a blank.

Then I thought, "Well, I did have a good experience presenting at COMPASS," so I jotted that down.  And then I thought about putting together the family communications survey when I was the ombudsman at Zac's last command.  That was a pretty good experience too.  When we broke into groups each member shared their good experiences while the other members jotted down what skills they heard when you talked about your experience.  The other two women in my group were younger Navy wives, I'd guess in their mid 20s.  One of the women had a couple of experiences to share, but the other young woman just shook her head.  She hadn't been able to think of anything.  She look particularly sad about that.  I told her that I had a heckuva time thinking of things at first, too, to try to make her feel better.  I told her that I bet if she looked at other parts of her life, being a spouse, a parent, a daughter, a volunteer, etc., that she'd find some good experiences she could use.

Besides exposing what skills we have, sharing our good experiences also was supposed to help us figure out what we enjoy doing.  It wasn't until we did this exercise that I realized how unhappy I've become with my job and how it lacks attributes that make me feel fulfilled - interacting with people, working as part of a group, sharing information with others.  While I enjoy project-based work, performing research and looking for errors, I'm too isolated in my current role.  I need to find a job that it outside of my living room.  I need to have co-workers again.

One of the other cool things about writing down and talking about your good experiences is that it makes you happy.  You feel pride, and excitement, and satisfied.  After the good experiences exercise the vibe in the symposium was decidedly more upbeat and cheerful.  Attendees were actually smiling and laughing, and more than one spouse seemed ready to storm the job fair with a reinforced sense of self.  (No, not me, silly.)

After lunch I did walk through the job fair, just to see what companies turned out.  I saw a lot of IT companies, some banks, the Navy Exchange and the Army Exchange folks, Walgreens, Lowes, 24 Hour Fitness and others.  All of these companies already post as part of the Military Spouse Employment Program so if I'm interested in seeing what they have available I can always check that website out.  While I didn't use the job fair part of the day, I'm glad I attended the morning session.  It gave me some valuable ideas on what I need to put on my resume and how I can start figuring out how to articulate orally and in writing what my job skills actually are.  Now I just need to keep this good-feeling-train rolling and translate it into a new job.   

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Back from vacation

I got home yesterday from spending a few days in Hawaii with Bernadette, Claudia and a couple of other friends.  I hadn't planned on returning to Hawaii so soon after we left, but Bernadette told me that she was going to run the Maui marathon on January 22nd and she suggested that we meet up a few days before that on Oahu.  I hadn't seen Bernadette since she and Ken left Oahu almost two years ago.  The thought of her, Claudia and me lounging on the beach, laughing and catching up was too good to pass up.  Zac is also gone for the month, going to a school in Indiana, so I was alone in the house anyhow.  I found someone to watch the dogs and I headed to paradise for some rest and relaxation.  It was kind of fun being a tourist in Hawaii, rather than a resident.  Hopefully I won't have to wait another two years to see the two of them - Claudia's family will be moving to San Diego in April and Bernadette & Ken might be heading this way too.  That would be fine by me.  It's great to be surrounded by good friends.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

It's about to be Kate's (619)

I'm going to have to change the name of my blog in about a month.  Why?  We bought a house.  HOORAY!  We finally found the one!  It's located in the eastern part of the metro area and it's about a 25 minute drive from Zac's work.  It's got three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a two-car garage and an awesome back (and front) yard.  We're in the middle of the process right now and we should be closing in about four weeks.  I suppose something unforeseen could pop up and derail the purchase, but I'm cautiously optimistic that any hiccups would have been unearthed by now.  After looking at houses for a couple of months, Zac and I were starting to wonder when we'd find one that fit us.  Finally, the week before Christmas, we found this one.  We put in an offer right away and they accepted it on Christmas Eve.  (Which we didn't learn about until the 26th - so it was an early/belated Christmas present for us.)  I'm looking forward to moving in and getting our household goods delivered.  I'm ready to get settled in and start putting our home together.

It's much, much to early to be blogging this morning.  6am on a Sunday?  I should be sound asleep.  But instead I was up at 4:15 this morning, getting ready to take Zac to the airport.  Zac is going to an advanced armory school and he left today.  It's only for a month, so I'm not complaining, but I will miss him.  This will be our longest stretch apart since he was in El Salvador.  I'm really lucky because not only do I love Zac, but I like Zac too.  He's my partner in every sense of the word and life is a lot more fun when he's around.  Kissing him goodbye is always tough - I always want just one more.  Or one more hug.  Or another kiss.  But at some point the airport curb enforcement patrol gives us the evil eye for making out for too long and I have to let him go.  *sigh*  I know he's excited for this school so I'm glad he's getting the opportunity to go.     I guess this means that I'm in charge of putting out the recycling for the next four weeks.  Arg!  I miss him already. 

I was hoping that when I got home I'd be able to fall back asleep easily.  I was up early and didn't sleep very well last night, in fear that we'd miss our alarm.  Unfortunately as soon as I walked back in to the house I knew that while I'm pretty exhausted, I'm not sleepy right now.  I was secretly hoping that if I started typing that maybe the click-clack of the keys would lull me to sleep, but that hasn't happened yet.  I'd read a book or catch up on some magazines, but we don't have any lamps in the house and the ceiling-light doesn't give of nearly enough light to make reading easy or enjoyable.  I miss our lamps.  And our bed.  And my cookie sheets.  And our shelving.  And our legal-sized envelopes.  (While inexpensive, I refuse to buy another box of them because I have two boxes in storage.)  It's so nice to know that soon we'll have those things back and we'll able to sleep on a real mattress and bake cookies and mail things in appropriately-sized envelopes.  2012 is going to be a great year.  

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year! (2012 edition)

Glad new year tidings to everyone!  I'm feeling pretty good about 2012, even though it's only 16 hours old.  I'm feeling optimistic and hopeful that it's going to be a good 12 months.

Going back to last week, Zac and I ended up having a pretty fun Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  As of Christmas Eve morning we had no plans for the weekend.  I was feeling a little blue, more out of boredom than anything.  Groupon to the rescue!  Zac was checking online for Groupon deals and noticed that there was one for a comedy show in La Jolla that night.  He had also previously bought a Groupon for a seafood restaurant, also located in La Jolla.  We called up the restaurant and sure enough, they were open for dinner.  So we made dinner reservations and bought the vouchers for the comedy show.  

We got to the restaurant, had a drink to toast Christmas and then got an amazing lobster/crab/prawns dinner for two.  Pricey?  Yes.  Delicious?  YES.  Hey, if you can't splurge every now and again, what's the fun of eating out?  After we filled our bellies with yummy food, we headed over to the comedy show which started at 9pm.  I wasn't sure how many people would be there, honestly.  I mean, who else besides us would be at a comedy show on Christmas Eve?  A lot of people are either at church or spending time with family and friends.  Although, now that I think about it, I suppose they could have had a full audience comprised of non-Christians, atheists and anti-social types.

It turns out there are about 25-30 other people that go to comedy shows on Christmas Eve.  Sure, the place was only a quarter full, but we were all there ready to have a good laugh and enjoy our night.  The size of the audience made for great fodder for the comedians, and we all laughed loudly and often with a strange sort of camaraderie.  I think we were all grateful for each other's attendance.  Certainly the staff and performers were gracious and thankful.  I mean, it was a Saturday night - what I would assume to be a usually big revenue night.  But because of how the holiday fell this year, the place was a ghost town.  So I'm glad that we were there to contribute to their coffers.  The comedians were hilarious and my cheeks hurt by the time we left.  I'm really glad Zac saw that Groupon.

Christmas Day we went to see the new Mission Impossible movie and then went out to Buca di Beppo for supper.  Yes, we ate out two days in a row.  I'm okay with that, but my hips aren't.

We went out for New Year's Eve last night with Zac's friend from A School and his wife.  (The couple that had us over for Thanksgiving.)  We went out for sushi at their favorite sushi place, which was awesome!  We will be going back there for sure.  I'm salivating as I type about it.  So, so good.  After dinner we went to their friend's house for a party.  Earlier in the day when we were making plans for the evening with them, they told us that their friends were having a trailer-park, white-trash murder mystery party.  Eh?  Zac and I had no idea what the heck that would entail.  Our friends seemed a little worried about how this party would go, so they assured us that if things were too strange that we'd head over to a nearby bar.  

When we walked into the party, it was like walking into a Twilight Zone episode.  The other eight guests were dressed up in costumes.  Most of the women were dressed in things like white tank tops with black bra straps showing, tacky make-up, fake tattoos, beer-can curlers in their hair.  The guys were dressed up too, in assorted outfits for their specific characters.  They had strung up Christmas lights with blue painters tape, there was laundry hanging from clotheslines in the house, pictures of scantily-clad women leaning against cars and trucks hung on the walls, and a few lovely strings of Budweiser cans, hung by the chimney with care, completed the look.  (Yes, I understand how incredibly un-PC this was.)

So the party was a murder-mystery party.  If you aren't familiar with the premise, it's a game where everyone is assigned a character and is given a biography of who that person is and how they relate to the other characters.  A member of the party is "killed" and as the party/game progresses you are handed different pieces of information that you're supposed to share with the group (all in character).  At the end of the night everyone tries to figure out which of the party guests is the murderer.  The other party-goers had been given their characters in advance, hence their costumes and fully developed personas.  We, on the other hand, had just jumped into the deep end of the pool.  I played Zac's overbearing mom, which was mildly awkward but HILARIOUS.  I constantly ran interference between his character and the "hussy" that was trying to corrupt my sweet boy.  (Again, I don't usually call someone a hussy when I've only known them for three minutes, but that's where I found myself last night.)  Zac's character was the sweet, local mechanic that everyone loved.  He played it as a sort of Bobby Boucher-type.  (From the movie "Waterboy".)  He used, "My momma said . . ." regularly which always cracked everyone up.  He was awesome.

The four of us were handed biographies of our characters.  I thought to myself, "This is really weird, but I can play along."  I was worried about Zacfaux-southern accent and interacting with people he had never met.  Turns out he had a great time and played his character really well.  I was really happy that he had a sense of humor about the whole thing.  Once our friends saw that we were on board with the party, everyone relaxed and the murder-mystery party kicked into gear.  It was strange because my character was supposed to be very judgmental and downright nasty to some of the other guests.  It's uncomfortable being rude to someone you've never met, and I found myself breaking character to apologize quite a few times at first.  (I apologized again at the end of the night, just to make sure.)

The hosts cooked up tater tots as a late-evening snack, with the "fancy" Heinz ketchup which caused everyone to laugh.  We finally figured out who the murderer was just before midnight struck.  The night had flown by.  We had a blast.  It was strange, yes.  But it was unexpected fun, which is cool.  We stayed a little longer to watch some of the New Year's tv programming and then headed home.  As we left, the hosts and other guests told us how happy they were that we came and were willing to play.  It was an interesting, and enjoyable, way to ring in the New Year.