by Claire Schmieder, Head Editor, INALJ New Jersey
Adjusting the Sails: Managing Temporary Disruptions in My Job Search
I have two elementary-aged sons, who, until a few weeks ago, were busy all day at school. Now, they are home for summer. Yikes! I was able to stay at home with them (for the most part) from ages zero to five, and I was well aware that summer vacation was coming, so you’d think I’d be ready for this temporary return to stay-at-home-momdom.
Not so much.
I’ve noticed my job applications have dropped off, my attention span has shrunk, and my job searching time has dwindled to late night (when my brain kinda shuts off) and/or weekends. I love my boys – they are curious, smart, and hilarious. But, not surprisingly, they also demand a lot of my attention. During the school year, they are in the capable hands of their teachers all day, which leaves me with time to volunteer, work part time, research jobs, write cover letters, and prep for interviews. I have a new (but thankfully temporary) reality – I can’t do many of these things while they are at home for the summer. Finances don’t allow me to volunteer on-site since that work doesn’t exactly bring home the bacon required to pay a babysitter. And, writing cover letters is really hard when you have a six-year-old asking you questions every 90 seconds.
The more important question I’ve been grappling with is this – how can I stay on top of my game while temporarily out of the game? This has proven a bit of a challenge for me so far, but I’m learning valuable lessons.
Lesson 1: It’s OK for me to ask for help. I’ve built a pretty great local support system, and now I’m learning how to use it. Occasionally, I ask a trusted family member/friend/concerned citizen to take my kids off your hands for a few daytime hours here or there so I can write a cover letter. I’m also working on setting up play date swaps with some of the other stay-at-home moms I know – I’ll take their kids for a few hours one day, and on another day they’ll take mine.
Lesson 2: Accept that I just can’t be as productive right now. Sigh. This has been a hard one for me. I enjoy engaging in professional development, writing, reading, and researching. In fact, those activities are part of how I define myself as a person. So when I can’t fully engross, I don’t feel like myself. But, guess what? There’s not much I can do about the loss of my daytime hours for the time being. Guess what else? This won’t last forever – school starts in 7 weeks, and I’m pretty sure I’ll survive.
Lesson 3: Decide what’s most important to me right now and use my available time for that. I’ve had to give up a few beautiful weekends to write cover letters. But I felt so much better after sending in those applications. And, because it’s hard for me to participate in webinars (something I love), I’ve opted to enroll in a MOOC, which will allow me to learn and engage in a way that works well for my current schedule.
In other words, I’m making the best of a less than ideal situation for my job search. You better believe I’m counting down the days until my sons’ return to school, though.