Face Facts…They’re Just Not That Into You

A few years ago a pop cult book came out that made a splash. It was aptly titled, “He’s Just Not That Into You.” The basic premise of the book was a wake-up call for women who make excuses for why dudes don’t like them and waste a lot of time analyzing what may or may not be. Well, that idea was so popular (even if the concept was not so novel) it was blown out into a movie slated for release in 2009 starring none other than everyone’s favorite single gal pal,  Jennifer Aniston.

I have a friend and we spend time here and there IMing swapping dating stories and job hunting tales. She always tells me, “You need a job.” To which I reply, “You need a decent date!” What I don’t always tell her and what I’ve begun to suspect is that it might easier to find a lead on a job than it is to go out on a promising date in NYC. And that’s a scary prospect, especially given our dreary economy.

But there are common sense signals in the way of indicators that are pretty universal when it comes to both the job market and dating world. I short, I get it when my friend says, “Hmmm…maybe that means they’re just not interested?” in reference to an unfortuitous sign from a prospective employer I’ve interviewed with.

So here are a few themes I’ve picked up on in my job hunt that usually indicate they’re just [really] not that into you:

  • Parting Doesn’t Need To Be Sweet Sorrow: Whether you’ve finished an initial phone screen or made it on to the final in-person interview with the hiring manager, at the end of the interview, the person on the other end should give you some verbal cue as to what the next steps are (i.e., “we’ll be in touch to set up another interview with X”). The more straight-shooter they are with you, the better the sign. If someone just leaves you with a non-committal, “Thanks for your time” without expression of next steps, move on. And if you’re still not sure, ask them about their timetable and see if it elicits any sort of statement regarding your standing.
  • I Had You At Hello: It’s a fallacy to think that you’ll go into an interview situation and fall in love instantaneously with the people there. You may love the idea of the job, but more often than not when you visit a place for the first time, both you and your interviewer have on a protective layer of distance since you’re still feeling each other out and deciding if it’s a good fit. Proceed with caution, but don’t take it personally if you’re not sensing “warm, touchy-feely” vibes the first time out. That doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t want you to come back.
  • The 48-Hour Rule: Generally, in my experience, when an employer wants a follow-up with you, they get back to you within 48 hours after last contact. Translation: Don’t sit around for weeks pining over one job when they haven’t gotten back to you and run the risk of missing out on other golden opportunities. If you’re still not convinced that they aren’t over you and need more proof, send a follow-up email and see where that gets you. Lick that wound. Bandage it up and don’t throw any pity parties. You have better places to be and be seen.
  • Don’t Waste Your Time On The Could Have Beens: Whether it’s a job interview or going out on a date, you’re presenting the best you. Even if you feel like you want a second chance or could have done better, if it’s the right fit the pieces will come together so don’t sweat it too, too much. As I learned watching Jim Carrey on “Oprah” yesterday, there’s an abundance of all things in the universe. That blanket statement carries over to good men and great jobs.

The Economy Blows, But Is There Hope?

I’ve been reading my share of blog posts on the state of the economy and how this affects our job market here in the U.S. The truth is I don’t need to read about soaring oil prices, corporate lay-offs and companies cutting back to offset the recession. Like most Americans, I’m living it.

When Lehman announced its bankruptcy last week, it may not have come as a complete shock to the executive(s) who received padded severance packages, but to quote Pamela Slim’s recent post on the subject, “How Many of Lehman’s employees had back-up plans”?

How many of any of us have back-up plans? We cringed as we watched dejected financial analysts escorted out of their workplace. Not so much because we felt bad for them (albeit we did) but because we sensed that if that kind of thing could happen to an institution like Lehman what prevents the rest of us from swallowing the same fate? And perhaps in rapid succession?

I’ve been self-employed for a few months now working freelance. I’m actively looking to re-enter the workforce in the hopes of finding more gainful employment. But if my experience with start-ups has taught me anything it’s that even in a more stable economy and thriving job market, there’s no such thing as job security.

What my time away from the office has given me is perspective. I now have a firmer grasp on what kind of company I want to work for, the culture that I work best in, and the people I work best with. These might all seem superfluous given the dire state of our financial outlook and the need for green, but even when the chips are down, it’s important to buckle up, be selective, and only accept what will make you happy.

Or as my GPS would say “recalculate route” and “proceed with caution.”

Football Inspires The Unthinkable (And That’s Why I Dig It)

Youll score eventually. Be patient.

You'll score eventually. Be patient.

In the past 48 hours, I’ve consumed roughly 12 hours of NFL. I’ve watched as more yards got run than plays got stopped, seen a team emerge from their imminent 0-2 status to clinch a game in the final 3 minutes, and another team rebound to new heights and a 2-0 lead with their back-up quarterback after their star QB had a season-ending accident last week.

We’re only a week into the NFL’s regular season and we’ve seen our share of daring athletic feats and bone-headed moves. (The Eagles’ receiver, DeSean Jackson, is a prime example of the lethal cocktail of talent and hubris.)

People ask me why I like football. I don’t entirely get the game to be honest. I do know that a team has 4 attempts to make a play and if they can’t, they need to rethink their immediate game plan. I know there’s a ton of strategy that goes into plays, that the quarterback may not be the coach but he has to a lot of quick-thinking and improvising on the field – often singlehandedly calling the play that can make or break a moment and determine a team’s success.

And that in the end, no single person on the team is any greater than any other, star QB or not, cause it takes all of the players working together (and parking their egos aside) to make it the post-season.

As it happens, football also happens to be a ripe metaphor for a freelancer due to many common, shared parallels:

  • Be The Underdog: Peyton Manning & The Colts proved to us this week that sometimes smelling repeated defeat is all you need sometimes to catapult your motivational spirit to the next level. In my own experience, my confidence is never higher then when after I’ve failed at something big-time and can find within myself that driving force to start climbing back up the hill again.
  • Let The Chips Falls Where They May: This one is hard, especially when you like to plan ahead, need to know how things will play out, and if you’re like me, even Wikipedia a movie while you’re watching it to see how it all unfolds. There’s a lot to be learned through process and results-oriented people need to remind themselves of this. Just like a football game has 4 quarters, life is also cyclical with its share of ups and downs and turning points. Learn to live with them and you’ll be much happier, or so people tell me!
  • Embrace The Unknown: One of the reasons I dig football so much is cause there’s a lot of taking chances which sometimes results in zany, WTF-were-you-thinking moves, but I love it all the more when people get away with “the unthinkable,” debunk the system, and make up their own set of rules as they go along. Call it the rebel in me, or simply the idealist freelancer which hopes that risk-taking moves, such as working solo, will pay off one day.
  • Make Time For Pep Talks With Yourself: In football, the coach takes “time outs” to amp up his players, get them focused, energized and feeling good.  In life, we need to make time for these moments too and just as often if not more often than just once a day.  On days I feel low I tend to build my confidence back up again talking it out with friends, family, or if all else fails a giant boost of caffeine! My sister swears by lists. Create a long list of things you like about yourself or your life. #1 on my list is the fact that I have the time in my day to write a meaningful post for my blog, make a mean pot of chicken soup on a seasonably Fall day, and feel a strong sense of accomplishment by 5 PM.

Maybe Sarah Palin is Getting Through To Me, After All

Catching a fish is no easy feat.

Catching a fish is no easy feat.

In the past 24 hours, I’ve been studying the decline of the # of female entrepreneurs either starting their own businesses or taking their new businesses to the next level. Both the Kauffman Foundation‘s Report on Entrepreneurial Activity and Global Entrepreneurship Monitor‘s 2007 Report on Women & Entrepreneurship indicate an alarming decrease in the # of women globally starting their own companies.

While certain countries, such as Japan and Peru, show an increase in the # of female entrepreneurs, by in large, men are twice as likely to start their own businesses as women. More than that, there are very few dissimilitudes in the way both genders approach business to account for the disparity.

So what’s stopping us?

Well, for one, GEM’s study finds that women tend to be less optimistic about the risk of starting a new business or making a change. This causes women to be less confident about their ventures and as a result, the fear of failure kicks in and results in a flight response.

While fear of failure has often been attributed to killing a women’s drive, and I, for one, am no less of a chicken, in this regard, how do we go about dispelling that fear and ridding it from our consciousness?

Getting personal for a second, when I had a miscarriage earlier this year (from which I’m still reeling from a bit), my gut reaction was what an absolute failure I was. I had a similar reaction when I lost my job, a month after I had my miscarriage. It wasn’t quite as severe, but I the same feelings of shame surfaced again.

I was angry at myself for feeling like a loser, but came to realize, that falling short is perhaps a woman’s greatest insecurity. Just look at how we’re conditioned from our youth to find, not just any Alpha Male to mate with, but the one with the right genetic combination to satisfy the lofty expectations of our family and friends, and if we’re lucky to meet our own. We have to compete with how many other women? (aside from mom, sister and ex-girlfriends?)

So how do we empower women to feel confident and optimistic about change and risk without tapping into their deep-seated fears about their competencies? In short, how do we level the playing field?

The United Nations is working on an initiative called “gender mainstreaming” that is about identifying gaps and bridging understanding in developing countries. In Lativa, women-owned businesses favor hiring women and it’s proved to be an effective way of ushering a new generation of women into the workforce there. And in Finland, women-owned businesses show the most profitability so they are exploring ways to make executive roles more gender-neutral and merit-based. (as opposed to the ‘ol boys network)

With the word “Change” being tossed around like some cheap dime store whiskey lately in presidential campaigning, I’m hesistent to cheapen a sentiment here. Let’s just say the world won’t get better overnight, but progress can and should be made everyday.

Being Priced Out Of My Own Party

Ill cry if I want to.

I'll cry if I want to.

Forget making friends being expensive. These days you can’t even afford the hefty price of admission at a lot of the most popular business networking events around if you’re a self-employed freelancer, unless you’re one that charges $100+ for your services.

And honestly (no offense to those who charge those steep prices), but whose services are that good?

If you’re anything like me, you’re not a high-roller and you’re not even all that convincing at playing the part by wearing the designer threads to get noticed. You’re just trying to make more business happen by expanding your community of offline contacts.

While I know there are a gazillion events like NetParty or NetMixer that are all about mingling to the beat of beer, billiards, or disco balls, my heightened sense of self-awareness won’t allow me to feel that these aren’t entirely a waste of my time.

Maybe, it’s the anti-social entrepreneur in me.

I prefer events that host some sort of themed panel showcasing a few successful businessmen/women who have sought out unique and innovative business solutions – people that I can learn from and introduce myself to. Preferably Bill Gates or Steve Jobs.

Unfortunately once you get keynote speakers involved (and I’m not talking Microsoft or Apple caliber, here), the price tag of an event jumps like tenfold. In fact, it’s an all-out class war between those who make a ton of bling and the rest of us.

As a Boston native, I scour Garysguide.org daily looking for the right event to complement my work style and brand attitude. Otherwise everything feels too forced.

Since I’m a little out of practice when it comes to these events as the last “networking” event I attended was almost 3 years ago (and that was because a buddy of mine put a figurative gun to my head), tiny, baby steps in the wading pool make the most sense. The best find I’ve come across for such an event is Steve Garfield‘s Boston Media Makers. It’s informal and friendly enough to mingle comfortably, and also helps with practicing that elevator pitch since the Sunday brunch starts with people going around the table and talking for less than 3 minutes each about what is they do.

Think this is an easy task?

Think again…But it’s a low-risk environment and a great, supportive crowd to introduce yourself to. I’m sure similar events take place around the country and if they do, you should jump on the bandwagon. And did I mention it’s free, apart from the price of food?

But back to pricey events…

Since I write from time to time on issues of women in the workplace and starting their own businesses, I had a particularly strong interest in attending MIT’s Women In Technology Workshop. “What better way to band with the sisters and learn and grow from each other’s experiences?” I told myself.

Unfortunately, even at the early bird rate of $325/pp for a day’s session, I realized this was a VIP event and the likes of the average woman on a shoestring budget weren’t welcome.

Same thing for the Creative Direct Marketing Strategies Seminar day session I wanted to attend. This one involved a little more hands-on training, but at $1699/pp for “non-members,” and $1399/pp for “members” I came to conclude that even if I were a member of this club, I wouldn’t be able to afford the price to belong.

Alas, there has to be a constructive networking event/group that would want to have me as its participant, it just might take some more diggin’ before I find it.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to network online at will.

The Do-It-Yourself Approach

Bubbles are better than boxes.

Bubbles are better than boxes.

I’m a creature of habit. What this means is I usually opt for convenience and routine over bouts of spontaneity, but yesterday the stingy pragmatist in me rose up from the ranks and decided to have her say.

As luck would have it, the planets were aligned because just as the cheaper-than-yo mama in me emerged so did the fearless, driven risk-taker. The result? A rather extensive art project.

Ok, so perhaps “extensive” is an exaggeration of sorts. For months, I’ve been meaning to frame two of my brother-in-law’s paintings. It’s a task that’s been haunting and nagging on me to the point that one of the paintings has been rolled up a tube in the trunk of my car for at least 6 months now. My obstinance is blinding at times. And did I mention counter-productive?

So with my two paintings, one rolled up to the point of no hope of ever reclaiming its straightness, I walked into the custom framing shop, with every intention of just picking out a suitable frame, dropping off the paintings and getting back to some of my “pro-bono” writing assignments. They are pro-bono in much the same way, I’m “between gigs” at the moment…

Only when the lady behind the counter started estimating the cost of the paintings if the store framed it versus me framing it in the shop myself and telling me how easy it was to frame it myself, I got to thinking that maybe I might try my hand at it.

Sure, I’d never framed a painting before, but I’d put a photograph in a pre-assembled frame so how much harder could this be? Also, despite all my protests and all the way I tried to talk myself out of it, I didn’t have anywhere I really needed to be.

So off I went to make art. Thankfully one of the dudes who worked there guided me through my first painting. I was also working with metal and I was told metal was “idiot-proof,” but the litmus test (according to the store’s owner) for my imminent success as a framer was whether or not I could chew gum and walk at the same time. Or so he said. Since I could chew gum and talk at the same time, I figured I was adept enough at multi-tasking to take this on. So naturally, I turned to the owner and replied in my ever so confident tone, “Is it really idiot-proof?”

I knew the helpful dude was only a shout away if I needed assistance on the second painting. Only I didn’t. I mean I did here and there. And while I futzed around a bit cause I don’t always retain info as well as I’d like the first time around, and I sweated in the hot studio, when I was done with the second painting I felt like I’d actually done good work and was filled with pride.

It wasn’t so much that now I had two beautifully framed paintings. It was because I’d put myself in an unfamiliar situation where I inevitably set myself up to fail at something, only to succeed in spite of all my angst and concerns.

When I left the shop, the store’s owner turned to me carrying the two paintings and attempting to open the door and chew gum and walk at the same time and said, “You sure you can carry the paintings and open the door and chew gum at the same time?” And I smiled back ruefully replying, “Sure can, sir.”

When I got home I was able to harness this fearless energy into creating what I consider pretty damn spanking good copy. All because I opted for a diversion in my day and sought out the road less taken (at least by me, that is). And maybe, just maybe the next time I’m ready to jump the gun and say, “No, I can’t” to something different maybe I’ll think twice.

Maybe I’m not so helphopeless after all.