There’s nothing like a job hunt to make you feel absolutely worthless. For those of you who haven’t done it in a while (or ever; apparently, there are those to whom jobs just come), take it from me, you’re not missing anything good. It’s as if your skills and years of experience mean absolutely nothing, especially when you’re changing industries. I had what I thought was a healthy level of confidence in my employability before two years ago but, boy, the job hunt has humbled me even more than God was already doing.
To put this in context for you, about two and a half years ago, the financial corporation at which I was a vice president made me redundant. A few months later, after much soul searching (I’ll tell you all about that soon), I decided to change my career path and get into international development, because I wanted to do something where I could travel extensively and serve people at the same time. It took me a good six months to land my Indonesian position, and then it was a volunteer position that I took in order to gain “experience in the field,” which most international development jobs require.
Even before I started seriously preparing for JEXIT, I was taking concentrated stabs at job hunting but after a while, I (stupidly) felt that my one year of experience in the field would make me less invisible to the international development people, and I thought that I’d land a job somewhere out in the wide world with fair ease once I got to Jamaica, relaxed for a little bit, and buckled down again to start looking for one.
Within a week of landing in Jamaica back in January, I started the hunt in earnest. Within two weeks, I had applied for fourteen jobs in international development. Only one of those organisations even bothered to respond to me, and it was a rejection. I started getting an inkling that my piddling one year of field experience perhaps meant just as little as my zero years previously had.
After about three weeks of searching, I paused the hunt and started thinking about my approach to it. I felt like I was wildly firing at an invisible target, just hoping that one of my shots would hit it; I couldn’t fathom how I would land a decent job in a timely manner in this way and felt that I needed to re-think my strategy. After contemplating this for a while, I decided that the likelihood of me landing an international development job was next to nil. The field is extremely difficult to get into because it’s so closed – they basically only want to hire people who already have a tonne of international development experience or under-thirties who have some type of international development degree. My corporate experience, rich as it is, means less than nothing to them. I finally decided to accept the feedback (or lack thereof) that I was getting and abandon that particular track.
So where did that leave me? Well, my criteria for happiness and fulfillment at this point in my life are pretty simple: travel and earn enough money to be reasonably comfortable (my expectations of comfort changed dramatically after my Indonesia experience – I realise that I don’t need as much as I thought I did in order to be comfortable), while serving people in a meaningful way. Then I remembered that I have a perfectly good Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certification in my arsenal and decided that I should put it to good use. I figured that I’m from a country that speaks English as its native language, I have a tonne of corporate working experience that speaks to a high level of professionalism, and I also have experience actually teaching English as a foreign language in a foreign country. Somebody would snap me up like a shot, right?
Wrong. I applied for ten teaching jobs before I even landed an interview. Interestingly, most of my TEFL applications, like my international development ones, went unacknowledged, as if they never existed. But I still managed to land two interviews, one of which resulted in an invitation to Chile, which I seriously considered but didn’t really want because the pay was so low that I would have to hustle to make ends meet; I don’t believe that working an inordinate amount of time each week in order to keep a roof over my head and food in my stomach should be my primary focus at this time. I held them off for a few days to see how my other applications would pan out.
A couple of days later, after what I thought was a pretty good interview for a position that I really wanted, I thought I had a job in the bag but they emailed me on the morning of my birthday to say that I was rejected basically because they didn’t think my classroom skills would be good enough for their school. Ouch! That stung and I was disappointed because, as much as I tried not to get too far ahead of the process, I could already see myself there. But I managed to not lose heart or have a bad birthday because of that rejection, mainly because I decided to ignore the details of why they rejected me until the next day. Once I stopped ignoring it, my feelings of worthlessness tried to choke me into dejection but I pushed them away and reminded myself that God had directed me to get this certification for a reason, so He must have a plan for me and all I had to do was keep doing what I knew to do (searching for a job) and He would do the rest (get me a job).
I jumped back into the saddle and started looking again, finding and applying for only one job that was located in a place that caught my interest. I seriously started considering Chile, and in fact I told them that I would come. Based on the pay, I knew that going there would be a total faith walk where I would have to trust God to provide all that I needed, including decent housing that was affordable. I started praying about it earnestly while trying to figure out how on earth I could make it work without depleting my savings. Then one morning about two weeks later, after still not finding peace about Chile but wondering if maybe that was just my flesh talking, I got an email from the place to which I had sent my last application. A few days later, they interviewed me by Skype, including having me conduct a mock lesson during the interview. I felt really good afterwards but since I couldn’t be sure until I heard from them, I tried not to get ahead of myself again. But I really wanted it.; it felt like it was the job I was supposed to have. Exactly one week after that interview, they offered me the position and I, after much screaming, jumping around, clapping, and prayers of gratitude, promptly accepted.
In all, I applied for twenty-four jobs over the course of about eight weeks. I know that this sounds like a cakewalk compared to what some people go through to find a job, but don’t forget that I was rejected through redundancy in 2014 then spent the entire 2015 being rejected as well before I found my Indonesian gig; my battered ego hadn’t forgotten those things and it took hit after hit until it was properly pulverised. I can definitively say that this career-changing job hunt, like so many other things in my life recently, has been a very humbling experience.
So in a few months, I’ll eagerly, excitedly and ecstatically be off to my new gig, as ready as I can be to do whatever it is that God is sending me there to do. I’ll tell you more about it next time.