Blog post -

Finding My Career Sweet Spot at 50: Letting Go |

By Deborah Brody Hamilton

My intention with this blog is to be honest. I have now hit the three-month mark on my job search. The days are getting shorter, the weeks seem to run together and the months seem very long. Veterans who have been through this tell me that this is just the beginning, but I can’t help feeling like Pi in the middle of the ocean with the Bengal tiger. I need to reach shore.

I am getting interviews, but things move at a snail’s pace. Then there are so many levels of screening that it completely takes the wind out of my sails. Since the last time I looked for a job, “headhunting” has become a cottage industry. Most senior jobs are now advertised through recruiters. Either hiring managers don’t have the time to do their own resume screening, or the Internet has made it possible for so many applicants to apply for every job that hiring a middleman is a way to make the process more manageable—at least for the employer.

For the applicant, adding a middleman to the hiring process can make things harder. A résumé and cover letter are just a prelude for the pre-screening phone call, the ten-page questionnaire, then another phone call, then maybe finally an in-person interview with the “client” and more time spent up front on nuts and bolts and credentials. The problem is, with experienced candidates like me, the skills are pretty much a given and hiring is more about chemistry.

As in every industry, good recruiters tell you up front what the challenges are with the job and the personalities; they keep you apprised of the process, and provide you with feedback after the interview(s). The not-so-good ones pump you up and gloss over the less desirable aspects of the job—or misread the job completely. If they need you, you’ll hear from them with an urgent message, if not, you may never hear from them again.

Headhunters aside, there are lots of good things coming out of this job search. First and foremost, change was long overdue for me—not just career change but more like a total psychic reboot. It’s like Lao Tzu said, “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” It’s the letting go that’s hard.

I can see changes in myself that are for the better—I’m more thoughtful, less reactive, more empathetic, less judgmental, and more grateful. My Achilles heel, however, is patience. I’m working on it, sort of.

I have been told by so many people NOT TO TAKE THINGS PERSONALLY. Intellectually, I get this, but emotionally not so much. Meg Ryan’s character in You’ve Got Mail says it best, “What is that supposed to mean? I am so sick of that. All it means is it's not personal to you, but it's personal to me, it's personal to a lot of people.” A job search hits us at our most personal level. Propelled by economic and also psychic necessity, we put our goals and accomplishments and hopes and fears out to the world. Ouch!

I’ve heard many stories about difficult job searches, career disappointments, compromises, and eventual triumphs. I can’t even count how many people have told me stories about their friends, acquaintances, distant cousins, or spouses who lost their jobs after 30 years of working, and it took them eons to find a new job—or not. Last week a stranger started to tell me about her husband who was out of work for so many months that he started applying to McDonald’s and Safeway, and even they wouldn’t hire him. I burst into tears on the spot.

As crazy as it sounds, some people have said they envy me. They feel stuck in their jobs, and here I am exploring the universe. (La-dee-da, La-dee-da.) Most of the time, it feels like nothing is happening. At the same time, anything is possible. Like Pi, I don’t think I can tame this tiger, but I know with a little patience, I can train it.

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