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.