Friday, May 04, 2012

Hanging in there… just barely

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

- Theodore Roosevelt, “Citizen in a Republic,” Speech at the Sorbonne, April 1910 (my emphasis)

For those of you who’ve been following my tweets in recent weeks, I think it’s been fairly clear that, among the usual cheery and sarcastic tweets, there’re been signs that I’m feeling very down. It shouldn’t be too hard to figure out why.

I’ve been job-hunting for over 3.5 months now, after having been on a break for two months, and I haven’t really managed to find anything. Furthermore, the industry to which I’m applying – the financial services sector – is anything but robust, and hiring, which usually picks up after March following bonus pay-outs, hasn’t picked up all that much. I’ve gone over my CV, spoken to recruiters, spoken to my network, and, by all accounts, I’m doing all the right things, and I interview well too.

I know I’m a fantastic employee. This isn’t some kind of wilful assertion. It’s backed up by data, and we all know anything backed up by data is a fact, yes? I have lots of positive reviews from all the bosses I’ve worked for. I don’t just work hard and get the job done. I’m a great team-mate too, and have had great rapport with everyone I work with. I’m also not a push-over and don’t take crap when it’s not warranted. I’m intelligent, I learn fast and I ask loads of questions to make sure we’ve covered all bases. And it’s not just the work I do, it’s the fact that I am an all-round nice and happy person. I’ve been an asset to every company I’ve worked for.

But, I’ll admit, that not having been able to find anything, and to be bludgeoned by news of the dire economy over and over again every single week, does get to me. I’m not even going to touch on bills which have been piling up or my dwindling savings. No matter how cheerful a person I am, this still affects my self-confidence, and makes me question whether I’m in the right place. After all, if I’m doing all the right things, but still not getting anywhere, it’s down to two things: me or the place I’m in. And if it’s not me, then it seems the sensible thing to do would be to move to a place where I can find work, work which pays a sufficient amount for me to pay my mortgage and still live decently.

Still, I know that my last position (“the job from hell” as I call it) is probably working against me, as employers in my line of work love to take people who demonstrate linear progression, rather than someone who’s less conventional, although, arguably, those demonstrating the latter may actually be the kind of person who’d bring more value to the table. After all, they’re the ones who’ve taken risks, they’re the ones who’ve encountered unusual situations, they’re the ones more likely to be able to see something different than everyone else who’s come from the same cookie-cutter mould.

I’m tired of constantly having to justify that to recruitment agents and potential employers. I’m told it’s seen as a sign that I don’t necessarily not what it is I want, and, hence, they’d rather have someone who’s shown clear signs of wanting to continue down the path I used to be on. And, you know what? It’s not as if I didn’t do any due diligence. I asked everyone I could about that job, and satisfied myself with the answers I got. I didn’t enter into that role without any doubts at all, but I did the best I could to quell them.

Yes, there are times when I struggle not to consider that last move anything other than a mistake, even though, in life, there’s no such thing as a mistake, there’s no such thing as something I wouldn’t do over if I could go back in time. Yes, I learnt from it, but I do wonder if the price I paid for wanting something different, more interesting than the unfulfilling role I held before that was much higher than I anticipated.

But, during those moments of doubt, I remind myself that I threw myself into the arena. I wasn’t content to be a mere spectator, watching life go by without trying to live it. And, even if I’ve failed, at least I did so while daring greatly. It helps, but only a little.

I know that, one day, I’ll look back on this period as evidence of just how tough and resilient I’ve been throughout my life.

For now, I’m afraid I can’t quite see the light at the end of the tunnel, if, indeed, there is any to be seen. I don’t even know what else there is I can do. Instead, all I see are images of me packing up my life into dozens of boxes, just a few months after I finally unpacked the last of the boxes I brought up with me from Singapore over four years ago.

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