Diane’s Story: What I Finally Learned

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The meaning of the phrase “dream job” is completely dependent upon each person’s perception. From about the third grade, we are bombarded with the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?,” with the notion that we get to choose what—and for that matter, whom—we want to be one day. But the realities of grown-up life often keep us at arm’s length from our dreams and ideal employment.

After a good many years on a certain path—in my case, at the age of 53—some people find themselves suddenly struggling to provide even the most basic support for themselves and their families. An unexpected crook in the road can bring about instant, catastrophic change. That’s what happened to me. Without providing the gritty details, suffice it to say that I was a college graduate who hadn’t worked a full-time job in nearly 30 years, opting instead to be a stay-at-home mom and raise my family—not to mention moving overseas with my husband to his homeland in the Middle East.

Upon returning to the U.S. alone and in need of a way to support myself, I struck out in search of a job. My bachelor’s degree in liberal arts couldn’t cover up the gaping holes of time not employed or my lack of technological know-how. I was able to convince the IRS, and later a private college, to hire me, but I was woefully underemployed and underpaid. I was at a point of panic when I realized I would have to work until—well, forever, if my pacemaker held out—and be doomed to scrape by from one paycheck to the next. I was in need of a shoulder to cry on, wise and encouraging advice, and a real-world refresher course in how to make myself a desired commodity in the job market. That’s what I found at the LDS Employment Resource Center (ERC) and Career Workshop.

While I did have a decent résumé and could conduct myself with a modicum of professionalism in an interview, I had already gone unpicked for three “dream jobs” I thought would have been the perfect fit. When I met Sisters Olsen and Ball at the Fresno ERC, I was confused, downtrodden, and ready to accept my current lot in life as the best I could do. I think it was during the power statement exercise when I realized that maybe, just maybe, I really could do better. As a trained journalist, I’m supposed to be good at coming to the point and spelling things out clearly and succinctly. But try as I did, I couldn’t write a strong power statement about myself to save my life. “I am … , I can … , I will …”—the difficulty I had coming up with those three simple sentences confirmed that there was emptiness and fear behind all my false bravado in trying to sell myself to employers. Once Sister Olsen showed me how my past, however unconventional, was indeed valuable and that I truly was a viable candidate, I was able to finish those statements and actually believe what they said.

I went to the Career Workshop in search of something that I felt I was missing, something that was causing my current year-and-a-half long failure to find a better job. I thought I already knew all about résumé preparation, interview skills, and the importance of a positive attitude. But what I learned was so much more valuable than any of those things. I learned that we can all find our way to a “dream job” that is fulfilling and sustaining, regardless of our life experiences; that being a person of value extends far beyond what is listed on our résumé, and it does count in the scheme of things, even if it doesn’t seem so at the moment. With improved job search skills and, more importantly, renewed confidence, I stepped up my job search and secured a job that far exceeded my previous hopes. After the first three months on my new job, I realized that having the right attitude and the confidence to perform has made all the difference. Believing in our own self-worth, I think, is probably the biggest challenge when seeking meaningful employment. We must dare ourselves to remain open to new ideas and innovative paths and eliminate the nagging, negative voice of doubt in our heads. There are no outside forces conspiring to keep us from success—it is only we ourselves who do that. When we can state “I am … , I can … , I will …” and truly mean every word, there is no limit to what we can achieve.

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