Monday, September 3, 2012

Duty Calls...Can I Just Say No?

And so, my friends (I know you’re out there, even though you decline to leave evidence of your existence…)

In reference to that resume I lately lamented having had to revive:

I’ve sidled up to this job-hunt thing in an anything but conventional way.  I’ll confess: As much as I’ve declared my intention to embrace the “p” word (pro-active) when it comes to obtaining an income, I’m still half in love with the idea of the Universe dropping a job in my lap if It really wants me to have one. By way of making some move in the “right” direction, I have conceded to perusing craigslist once a day.  If I find a posting that even remotely appeals, I copy and paste the contents of my resume into the “respond to this post” email and hit “send.”  No niceties, no research, no painstakingly crafted cover letter.  Just, “Here it is.  You’re interested, or you’re not.” 

And in spite of my ambivalent to downright antithetical lack of attention to the process and/or the result…

I got a call-back.  Well.  Slap my ass and call me Sally.

Now what do I do?

The job is one I should be able to do.  A no-brainer, in fact.  Cook at an Assisted Living facility.  What better example of that “picking up where you left off” concept I discussed in my previous post, since the last job I had, working for someone besides myself, was as a cook at an assisted living facility? 

A job I left, incidentally, with no regrets whatsoever, in 2004; in order to finally commit, utterly and completely, to my own business. 

In the olden days—those years during which my career WAS job-hunting—I developed a rote reaction to a call-back on a job application:  I would begin selling myself on the position.  I would think how great an opportunity it would be.  How the hours would mesh with my lifestyle. If the job was not something I had actually done before, I would anticipate how this would add a new skill to my resume.  I might even go so far as to multiply the expected number of hours by the promised pay, and start envisioning what I might do with the money.

Surely this is what made job-hunting such a nightmare for me.   I made a practice of counting my chickens, not simply before they hatched, but before the nest was built or the eggs were laid.  I could never just tell myself, “This job will suck, but I need the money.” Or, “What am I thinking?  This job will suck, and nobody needs money that badly.”  In the end, during those miserable years, I set myself up for one crushing disappointment after another, when the interview process did not translate into a job offer.  Or, the flip-side of that scenario:  I ended up accepting jobs for which I was miserably unsuited, just because they were offered.   

So, upon the receipt of the afore-mentioned utterly unexpected show of interest in my intentionally feeble attempt to obtain employment, I expected my old routine to kick in.

Except, it didn’t.   

What did kick in was a feeling of dread and hopelessness that settled on me like a concrete overcoat.  I’m paralyzed by the thought of that interview.  I know in my heart that the wounds inflicted upon me by five years of frustration and insurmountable challenge at the café have not healed sufficiently for me to even begin to entertain the idea of cooking—under  pressure of time, cost and performance constraints—for a living, for someone else.  I’m not merely unenthusiastic about the prospect.  I’m scared to death of it.  It’s like facing a gigantic acid flash-back.  It really surprised me, how utterly allergic I am—still—to the idea of making a living doing anything even close to what I did before. “Burned out” doesn’t describe what I am on restaurant work.  “Nuked” might be a more accurate term.      

So now, at the very least, I lose my “I send out resumes but no one calls me” excuse.  How much easier it would be to remain safely unemployed if I could grumble about sending out resumes and never getting so much as a second look.  Subconsciously, I’ve been conducting my job hunt to produce precisely that result. 

And I don’t feel entirely comfortable walking away from the opportunity, either.  I know that, in this economy, any job would be valuable and precious.  I feel like I’m spitting in the face of the Universe by refusing to even go for a chat (which by no means would guarantee that I would land the job, in any case.)  But what’s the point of going any farther in the process if just the prospect of an interview brings on a nigh unto post-traumatic reaction?

If anyone out there has any feedback or advice, I’d be happy to hear it…           


  1. Back when I was a development team leader with IBM, one of my chief complaints was that I had been handed nyit-loads of responsibility, but I had no authority to make things happen.

    When you were running the restaurant, you were at the mercy of employees, wholesalers, customers, the economy, and although I don't recall your mentioning it, taxing authorities, over none of which you had authority or control.

    Yes, I understand why you wouldn't want to get into that situation again. I have also sworn never again to accept ANY responsibility without equal authority and control.

    However, the job offer sounds like you will not be personally responsible for any of the things that made life so difficult. Someone else will handle all that. You like cooking. It's all the other crap that you need to avoid. Make a list of things you like to do, and a list of things you won't accept, and go to the interview and ask. If they want you to deal with suppliers, maybe you'll just say no. But you should at least ask.

    Remember that they are interviewing you to see if they want what you offer, but you are also interviewing them to see if you want what they have to offer. So, relax. You can still say no.

  2. Silk offers an excellent perspective!

    Healing is a process. A long one. It really takes time. And, to some degree, re-experiencing life in such a way as it triggers us and reopens wounds ('cuz it's gonna happen) - and learning that we have a new response, or newer response, or at least, not the same response.

    So, very likely there will be aspects of this position, even just interviewing for it -should you decide to do so (and, it's okay to say you aren't ready yet)- that will open those wounds. But it won't be the same situation. And you aren't the same person.

    As Silk says, you like to cook. So if this is lots of what you like and not much of what you don't like, it could be good.

    Regardless of whether you decide to interview or not, there will be some healing just in going through this process of considering another position....good stuff.

  3. Both the previous comments offer super advise. There's nothing really to lose by going to an interview. Perhaps in talking with someone about the work, it will become clearer to you as to what you really are prepared to take on. I think it's actually good that you didn't fall back into you normal job hunting mindset. That leaves you clear to approach the opportunity with an open mind. Just go, then listen to your gut. It will tell you if you're ready and if not, maybe it's time to move completely away from cooking. Let the universe guide you once you have the scoop.

  4. was my solution: I was so crazed about the whole thing, I let the Universe decide. I tried to call the guy back on Saturday, and he wasn't in--so I did my part. I decided that if the Universe really wanted me to consider this job, the guy would call back on Monday. He didn't. So I'm going to believe this means the Universe has something else in mind for me.