Tuesday, February 22, 2011

How to find a job in 30 days: Part II

Which steps did I follow, to find a new job?
1.       Once I fixed my attitude, I spent time cherishing my self-worth, every day. This effectively combated the downward pull of negative thinking about myself, and others.
2.       I actively looked for my strengths through considering past experiences, and asked my family and friends to let me know the things about me that they appreciated. In some cases, my family or friends actually told me that they admired me for my resilience and resolve! What a difference to the spirit a few kind words can make. :-) Now that I wasn’t just being hopeful about my areas of strength, and I was actively considering my unique offering as a person and as an employee, I was confidently able to consider which types of organizations would be joyful and appropriate work environments, as well as which positions might be interesting and rewarding!
3.       Wherever present, I accepted learning opportunities with optimism, enthusiasm, and humility. I asked for professional feedback regarding my resume, asked my friends and colleagues about any possible job leads as well as stories of their career-searching successes, and followed up with each potential lead. I asked for meetings with professionals whom I admired and from whom I could learn, then I took their advice. I thanked everyone for helping me.
4.       I avoided being picky! When asked for job interviews, I took them! Even if I wasn’t 100% sure that each company would be the right fit. I wanted to learn about prospective employers, learn about myself, and to learn how to promote myself more effectively. I also wanted to meet as many people as possible, and foster healthy relationships in the community. My goal was to find a new job, not necessarily find “the” career job of my dreams. I wasn’t going to limit my options, before I knew what all of my options were.
5.       I avoided badmouthing the company that was laying me off. A negative attitude isn’t only going to keep someone from growing as a person and a professional; it’s going to limit one’s opportunities. Complaint is a major deterrent to starting healthy new professional relationships, and prospective employers will get the impression that a complainer is going to bring negative energy to their team.
6.       I stayed positive! As I wrote more cover letters and had more job interviews, I was able to narrow my career search to a more narrow focus. Instead of kicking myself for wasting my time during the first part of my search, I took the opportunity to be glad that I was finding a rhythm and learning more about myself.
7.       I followed my instincts. At a certain point in my job search I realized that completing online applications had not yielded successful results or callbacks. As a result, I focused my efforts on making contacts with interesting companies, and strengthening my network. When my first job offer came in, I was seriously torn about whether to take the job, because I thought at least 2 other jobs with better pay would pan out. Remembering that a bird in the hand was worth two in the bush, I accepted that job offer, and I didn’t get any later job offers! Knowing that I was starting a position with an organization whose purpose I fully support made me excited about my new beginning-even if it was different from other jobs I’ve held in the past.
Part III will delve into specifics of how I found my current position. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

How to find a job in 30 days: Part I

Your job search starts with…you! 

What do I know about finding a job? On three occasions, I’ve found a job inside of a month. It is no coincidence. Perhaps my career searching victories can help you, too!

It came as quite a surprise when I was laid off in December! I was called into a meeting with my Director, on a busy Wednesday morning, and there was already someone in the room…she was a representative from the HR office. Technically, this was my second layoff.

For months I had been reading articles related to finding a rewarding work-life balance. The Christian Science Monitor was publishing a wonderful blog titled The Simple Dollar, featuring an inspiring piece by Trent Hamm- a former corporate employee who left the hamster wheel to strategically spend more time with his family. I, too, was looking for a balance that would provide me with joyful employment, and allow me to enjoy those precious moments with my husband. When I received the news of my layoff, I was filled with fear, anger, and sadness. Had I performed poorly? Didn’t they know I was doing the work of three people? How are we going to pay the mortgage? What if I can’t find another job? Who are they to determine my future?

I began to frantically scour job-searching websites and submit online job applications. After zero call-backs, I decided I needed a new perspective.  (In any case, applying for jobs through online postings has never yielded employment, for me. The one positive result of the many job applications and cover letters was that I became much more comfortable describing myself and my abilities.) 

Holding to resentment, bitterness and fear was merely poisoning my joy. I spent more time praying, listening for divine guidance, and acknowledging my qualities of worth and individuality. For specifics on my prayerful search, please see my blog installment from January 28. As I let go of the mistaken idea that this job was my source of economic stability, happiness, and safety the fog lifted from my attitude.  God had provided me that job. And, whether I got another job or not, God would show me the next place to be, where I would be valued, challenged, and supplied. Anger, injured ego, blame and fear quickly disappeared, and my job search also changed.

Have you ever found yourself in this situation? How did you change your feelings around?

...Stay tuned for Part II-specific, repeatable instructions for finding a job.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

30th Time’s a Charm: San Francisco Sourdough Bread

San Francisco Sourdough Bread: They key to a soft but nicely risen interior is to stop baking when the inside measures 200 degrees F.

Wheat sourdough pizza crust: use cornmeal on the pizza peel so that your topped pizza will slide off onto the heated pizza stone, easily.
Something worth having is something worth waiting for. In the past year, I’ve occupied hundreds of hours making recipes from scratch, looking for ways to use real ingredients in cooking to yield really delicious food. (My cooking does not always turn out, but c’est la vie!) Less prepackaged food means fewer fillers, additives, chemicals, and preservatives in our food. And, it’s very rewarding to learn which foods are in season, and how to prepare the fruits and vegetables that come fresh from the farm.  

If I can figure out how to cook fresh seasonal food, everybody can! Good cooking is mostly about doing justice to great ingredients, and enthusiasm for bringing together loved ones around the kitchen table.
In my kitchen, this winter has been the season of sourdough bread baking. With varying degrees of success, I’ve explored a variety of “expert” internet resources with recipes, tips and reviews from experienced bakers. While the flavor of my starter is well-developed and sour, for some reason my breads never rise as well as commercially baked San Francisco sourdough bread. I tried tips from various bloggers and foodies, including letting my bread rise in the oven, with the light on. No success. I took Alton Brown’s advice and used yeast in my sourdough. Better bread, but still too dense. Finally, last Sunday at church, the answer came to me from a friend. Holly had discovered the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, and was making fabulously beautiful breads, just like the loaves I had been trying to bake for 9 months! 

With resolve to become a successful sourdough baker, I returned home and opened an artisan bread cookbook we received as a wedding gift: Artisan Breads Every Day. My first batch of San Francisco Sourdough was successful, as was the second batch. The wheat sourdough pizza dough was chewy, fluffy and delicious, too! Why had we endured the agony of half-baked recipes for nearly a year? (However, I suppose if I had successfully used Peter’s book I may never have invented the bread-proofing vent for our computer, which creates a perfect bread-rising environment for a bowl of dough sitting atop the computer tower.) Peter Reinhart explained key artisan bread making steps that internet recipes omitted entirely, and increased my understanding of the science behind bread making.
If only I had turned to this book, sooner. Free internet recipes are sometimes fabulous. But, often, excellent cooks reserve their best recipes and kitchen secrets for paying customers. Investing in these culinary gems is the quickest way to get reliable results! 

My favorite recipe repositories are epicurious.com and 101recipes.com. I also love to see what is going on in the online community homegrown.org. Where do you go for inspiration?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Daily Bread

In today’s world, countries are measured by their economic makeup, and individuals are measured by how much money they earn and spend. “Worth” defines financial value, in a consumer culture. Are you defined by your consumer habits? Of course not! You’re not just another consumer; you’re a thinker, a helper, a sibling, spouse, grandchild, and friend.
Read a news article, listen to the radio, or speak with friends, and the subject of contentment is unlikely to surface as a hot topic. Marketers excel at selling the idea that obtaining a certain type of food, clothing, and automotive will give us happiness. Yet, the temptation to stay current with consumer trends is an itch that can’t be scratched – it can never be fully accomplished, and its only result is to establish a basis of comparison/competition between our neighbors and ourselves. Happiness and contentment, however, may be found through knowing our true worth.
How do we know what we are worth? To answer that question, let’s start with the lessons of Jesus. In The Lord’s Prayer, Jesus gently reminds us that our divine Father is the King, and
instructs us to acknowledge that God supplies our needs on a daily basis. We are the sons and daughters of God! That is a rich inheritance, indeed!
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
--- Matt 6:9-13 - Life Application Bible, NIV
But is it wishful thinking to hope for our Father to supply our daily needs? Not at all! Jesus teaches, in The Sermon on the Mount, to look to nature for proof that God sustains us.
“Look at the birds,” he said. “Do they have barns where they keep their food? No, God feeds them.”
“And look at the flowers. They do not work. They do not make clothes to wear. God dresses them in clothes more beautiful than a king’s.”
“You are more important than birds. You are more important than flowers. So do not worry. If God takes care of them, he will take care of you.”
--- Matthew 5, 6 – The Beginner’s Bible
What, exactly, is this “daily bread” which Jesus promised that God provides? In the case of the birds, this supply is a daily source of food and sustenance. In the case of the lilies, it is an inherent grace and beauty that money cannot buy. Jesus describes God’s provision of daily bread that is suitable to fulfill our human needs, as well as our deep, spiritual needs. Six centuries before Jesus began his ministry, Jeremiah described how his countrymen had forgotten to rely on God for their needs. Instead, they looked to a political leader to provide them with safety, status, and material wealth. By losing focus on their power of their divine King and establishing a political king, the Israelites were overtaken by a stronger political force, Babylon, in about 400 years.
For my people have done two evil things:
They have abandoned me—
the fountain of living water.
And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns
that can hold no water at all!
--- Jeremiah 2:13
Why doesn’t Jesus instruct us to pray for our weekly supply of bread, or enough grain to fill our storehouses and last throughout the winter? Because Jesus knew that his Father’s supply is always available, so we shouldn’t waste our time and energy stockpiling material supplies for ourselves. Our needs are already provided, on tap, from God. By thinking that we are in charge of creating material wealth to supply our own needs only distracts us from the understanding that our Father richly supplies us.

How does God package his daily supply? It may take the form of a garden plot in which to plant vegetables, a job that allows one parent to work while the other is able to stay home to nourish and teach children, an opportunity to volunteer one’s time with a local charity, the kindness of a friend or stranger, or the beauty of nature.

How will we recognize God’s supply? Our Father has made us, and therefore knows exactly how to communicate to us. Sometimes God’s gifts are literally dropped on our doorstep! Other times, our calm, divine intuition tells us that a decision is the right choice, guiding our steps to this supply.

By seeing and acknowledging God’s gifts, our gratefulness results in happiness and contentment. Mary Baker Eddy wrote, “Who doth His will — His likeness still — Is satisfied.” Poems, p. 79. When we give to each other, we are actually experiencing and sharing God’s rich supply of love and abundance!

How are you loving and giving to your community, and finding gratitude in these changing times?