Meg for Hire: Now with Big-Girl Pants!

I’m job hunting– blech. But this time, I’m going at it a little differently– and the process has got me thinking. (Thinking happens right before blogging, usually.)

When I first started working, I was a receptionist for a real estate investment company. I knew nothing about real estate or investments. One day, I heard some managers complaining about writing investor newsletters. In my naive, twenty-something confidence, I said, “I can write. I’ll write your newsletters.”

They let me write the newsletters. I just figured it out as I went along. Their existing newsletters looked kind of stupid, so I taught myself some desktop publishing software and redesigned them. Then, since I knew how to create newsletters, they started letting me create marketing materials.

Fast-forward eight years: I had become the marketing communications manager. I was thirty years old, with no degree, purely self-taught. I was hiring, training and managing a team of employees. I was responsible for all marketing and corporate communications company-wide. I sat at the conference table with the bigwigs, and I held my own—on the outside, anyway.

On the inside, I still felt like a receptionist. Like I was at that table to take notes, not contribute. I felt like no one took me seriously because I was “just a receptionist” who got promoted.

Never mind that they paid me seriously. Never mind that they trusted me to run a department. Never mind that I wrote a training class designed to introduce newbies to the business.  My self-confidence never caught up.

When I left that job, I believed my success at the real estate investment group was just a fluke. I felt like a sham. “I’m not REALLY a marketing communications manager…I couldn’t actually just do that job at any other company…I just got lucky.” I began to believe that no one would hire me at management level; I’d have to start small and work my way up again.

Self-fulfilling prophecies suck. It’s been 11 years since I left the real estate group. Since then, I’ve held some lesser communications jobs and done lots of admin work. The recession didn’t help, and some of my stagnation was due the lousy job market. But mostly, my lack of self-confidence is to blame.

My current job allows me some freedom to pursue other avenues of income, so I’ve decided to try some freelancing again. I shined up my resume and enlisted my boyfriend to help me set up a web site. I began to dig through my files, looking for work samples for my portfolio.

It’s been quite a dig, uncomfortable and encouraging at the same time. With the perspective gained over the last decade, I feel more objective as I look through my old work samples. I’m surprised to find that I still like them—they’re pretty good. I look at my resume and think, wow—I really did all that stuff! Why did I think I wasn’t qualified? I did the work, I did it well, and I did it with little formal education or training.

All that insecurity—where did it come from? I was focusing on what I lacked—a four-year degree—instead of what I had. What I had was the ability to figure things out on my own. Is there any more valuable skill? Well, maybe the skill to develop a network of experts to help you when you’re in over your head—oh wait! I did that, too!

So here I am back on the market, with a few more years under my belt. I’ve worked a lot of places and I’ve sat in a boatload of meetings. I’ve met plenty of bigwigs and worked on plenty of projects doing all kinds of office-y things. Here is what I’ve learned: most of corporate America is essentially faking it. The posturing, the lingo, the warrants of expertise—that’s how people stall while they figure out what to do next. Everyone is figuring it out as they go along. It’s all about how fast you learn and how well you can flex to each new scenario, each new personality, and each new environment.

In other words, I’m totally qualified.

Some people have more education than me. Some people have more specific experience. Some have certain talents that do not come naturally to me. But I can sit at a table with any one of them and contribute—because I bring my own combination of education, experience and talent, and I can figure things out with the best of ‘em.

I know I sound a little like Stuart Smalley here. (“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!”)   I don’t care. Job hunting is very hard on the ego. If I have to give myself a little pep talk every day to get through it, I will.

Here’s the shiny new portfolio site:  My resume is on there, too. But only you, blog readers, will know about my little self-confidence issue. Everyone else will only see my big-girl pants.

A little positive self-talk can't hurt. I will avoid the jazz-hands.

A little positive self-talk can’t hurt. I will avoid the jazz-hands.

11 thoughts on “Meg for Hire: Now with Big-Girl Pants!

  1. I love this!! You should hit the ground running. Looked at your web site too (working from home these days and love to be distracted!) Looks so professional and impressive!

    Although I’ve been steadily employeed at St. Joseph’s for a gazillion years I suffer from all of the below, and it seems to get worse each year. Another day, another magic trick as an imposter. You are so right: everyone is faking it and posturing. I kinda can’t stand it.

    Good luck! Linda


    Date: Thu, 16 May 2013 20:12:13 +0000 To:

  2. I don’t know if this sounds weird/creepy coming from me, but you are one of the smartest people I know. Am sure that you’re a billion times more capable than lots of folks currently in those jobs. I totally get the education insecurity (that’s the same reason I spent 6 years working with children whose primary form of communication was biting). Best of luck, but I don’t think you’ll need it

    • If you heard all the things I say about how great you are, you’d think I was creepy/ weird, too. Thanks for your kind words; I respect your opinion so they mean a lot!

  3. Great post Meg! I love your honesty because most of us have been there. You’re dead on! Most of corporate America IS faking it. I was made the weekend supervisor at my job and in the beginning everytime I was asked if I could do something I’d say, “Sure.” Then I’d run around like a crazy man trying to figure out how to do that thing. About 80% of the time I figured it out. Then I found out that’s exactly how Teddy Roosevelt functioned! One of my favorite slogans is “Do it afraid!” Don’t let fear hold you back. Also, like you, when I started in TV I had no degree. I got here on talent and experience alone. But out of feeling “incomplete” I finished college…and guess what? All it did for me was rack up debt! Sure there are jobs that MUST have degrees (doctors, lawyers, etc.) but there are a whole lot of really stupid people with college degrees (and I mean STUPID!) and there are some truly brilliant people without them. Some of the wisest people I know never finished college. I wish companies would stop looking at pieces of paper and find ways to truly get to know the people applying.

    • Truer words were never spoken, my friend. The degree doesn’t seem very relevant most of the time. I have $14K in student loan debt even without a degree, and when I think of going back (AGAIN) I think about that and eeek. Maybe not! But we’ll see…I think maybe some employers are waking up. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  4. I am impressed as always, Meg. You forgot to list as an asset your ability to see through the junk and cut to what is relevant. You inspire me just when I have decided to return to the workplace after 16 years and have that unpleasant voice whispering “who would want you?” In my head!

    • Ah, I’d be pretty insecure, too, after 16 years…but women do that as their kids get older so it’s not terribly unusual… and you can do it, too! Thanks for the kind words and good luck in your search.

    • Aren’t you studying neurology or something? Seems like that’s something you shouldn’t fake… on the other hand, there does seem to be a lot of guessing.

      • Well, as the only undergraduate in a research lab with a 5th year PhD student and 7 post-docs, I definitely had to fake it till I made it 🙂 Now I’m applying to med school so it’s more about convincing people that this is 100% what I’ve wanted to do for my entire life, and that I prioritize their school over the others. The good news is I am waitlisted at UCSD, UCLA and USC so those are all places I actually would be glad to attend. Not as much faking necessary.

        I guess for everyone, there’s a need to present a strong, confident face. It’s actually a very beneficial thing from a biological standpoint. I also think that our behaviors shape our attitudes (e.g. smiling and acting happy actually makes us happier), so confidence can make us perform better too. I know this from the MCAT students I’ve tutored. Confident students seem to think that they can find the answer even if they don’t know all the details, whereas underconfident ones tend to get thrown off by the daunting details and just end up guessing.

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