The Art of Cover Letters

16 09 2009

Well I mentioned Funemployment is over. So that means I’ve been spending my days at Barnes and Noble, hiding in the corner on the third floor, sitting on the floor in the only spot that has an outlet. My laptop’s battery doesn’t hold power, so essentially I have a portable desktop as it has to be plugged in to use it. But it was nice. I was hidden next to a row of unused cashiers and therefore out of the way of most patrons, save an elderly couple looking for help and the random teen searching for the perfect journal in which to record their angst. 


Normally, I would agree when someone says “resumes should not take an entire day to update.” I mean really. Move some things around, take out the irrelevant, adjust the type font and save. Unfortunately I use a unique format for my resume. I use a table system that helps break up each section and helps make each task a bit easier to read. It’s nothing out of this world but it does look different than the everyday resume and helps make mine stand out a bit among the rest. (Note: I also offer all contact numbers directly on my resume. Potential employers love this. Not only do they NOT have to come to me to contact past employers but it shows an air of confidence: “Go ahead, call my old boss, I have nothing to hide.” This doesn’t mean they will hire you, but I’ve been told by multiple interviewers it put me ahead).  Through the years my mac has become ancient and I have had a system crash, losing all saved documents. I generally back up the most important documents on the internet via e-mail so I HAD a version on file, but for some reason the format was not translating to the new Word processor I have. SO, not only did I need to update, but I had to revamp the whole thing.  And had to keep it within a single page (Ugh, seriously?) No big. I was in B&N, I had my corner, I had dust bunnies for company, and really you do feel more accomplished when you leave the confines of your nest to get some work done. 


I returned home feeling pretty good. I had applied for some focus groups to make some extra dough, I not only updated my resume, but completely revamped it and found a few jobs I was potentially interested in (although one was taken down as I was looking at it – boo!). I decided to upload my resume to a few places, the first being with a major communications and paper distributor – when I saw the bane of my existence: The Cover Letter. 

My first thought was ugh. My second thought was, really? Not only does this need to be completely generic, but come ON. Just Hire me. Are you really going to get to know me as an individual with a page worth of forced bullshit. I take that back, with less of a page of forced bullshit. You want to get to know me? Talk to me, hire me, what will 2 to 3 paragraphs of exaggerated ambition tell you? And then I chided myself. The written word is my passion. Perhaps my grammar is off at times (ok, a lot of times, must work on that) and my spelling can be atrocious at times, but I love writing. I love reading. I joke that it is my addiction and that I  potentially spend more money on books a week than an addict on his or her drug of choice (an exaggeration of course, bills come first! usually). But really, if I can’t express myself within a page, at least to a certain extent, then what would I be doing trying to emmigrate from marketing into the other realms of communications. So I decided to be  abandon, for the most part, the normal structure of a cover letter. I was honest, blatant almost, with my thoughts regarding the silliness and constrictions of cover letters. I let my humor peak through. I threw in a few of the essentials but decided these poor recruiters read thousands of the same letter week in and week out. I tried to jump a little out of the box. 


Will this pay off? Who knows. We’ll find out… Stay Tuned.


Funemployment Part II

11 09 2009

Please See Funemployment before reading (previous post). 


I returned home, as ready as I could be to face my challenges. I was not, however, ready to go back to work. That anxiety had not faded. I worked diligently with my Cali Therapist, JM, for a week and a half before making the call. Or rather email. I knew I had to face the music and return to a productive life. We set a meeting for a Monday, exactly 30 days after my medical leave started, for my supervisor and the HR director. 


I would like to say my employers were perhaps more supportive of what was going on in my life than most employers would be. They were aware of the circumstances, I was honest with my condition (manic depressive) and they were forgiving of my decreased productivity and rooted for my well return. 


Life went on while I took my hiatus, as it always will, and regretfully budget cuts had taken place while I was away. I was not let go due to my ailement. Far from it. I will always have a friend with Lucky Strike and they are an amazing company. However, I was greeted on Monday with a promise of two weeks severance, a health insurance option with Cobra at 30% of the normal price and well wishes. I was officially Funemployed. 


To say I did not feel relief would be misleading. The job had created unnecessary anxiety and I could feel myself slipping from the determination I carried when I started. I enjoyed my job but it was becoming increasingly clear it was not the profession I was meant to be in. Have you ever reached a point in the day where you just know, no matter how hard you try, you will not be productive for the rest of the day? I had not experienced that for the first 5 months of my job. By the sixth that hour came sooner and sooner. I knew I was unhappy. I knew I needed a change, but I needed to pay the bills and that came first. By being let go I was forced to reevaluate my career choices and my goals. 


I have spent the past two weeks growing personally. I have looked at my options. I want to write, but I need to pay the bills. I looked at my passions – writing, reading (I read a book a day, two days if the book is longer than 500 pages), expression, creativity. What could I do with that? I could go into a career where writing was more prominent. But I realized I wanted to share my passion with those of a younger generation. In a world where TV and Video games are now the teachers of the young, I decided to go into the education field. In high school I was awarded with two amazing English teachers. The first perhaps moreso than the second (the second was young and inspiring in the way that attractive young male teachers are). Mrs Weyhe showed her students there was more to Literature than endless chapters and book reports. That Literature was a way of expressing one-self. She showed us not everyone was a star author, but everyone could take the creativity from a written work of art and express it in their own way. In that class I created sculptures, I wrote songs, i learned to read between the lines, and I found that reading could be much more than just a hobby. Because of her and Mr. Shanoskie I became an English Lit major. 


It had become time to make use of my degree. I began researching education programs and looking into taking the exams needed for my credentials. I was optimistic with my goals and thoughts but unmotivated. Whether it was my need for a break or the remnants of a depression that left me clawing for the refuge of my bed, I do not know. But reality hit home the day I was supposed to receive my severance check. I had looked into part time jobs and applied for unemployment, but with bills growing and life, being the sneaky thing life is, continued and I realized it was high time to get off my ass and get some work done. 


And that is where you will find me today. Working on my resume, searching for a job of any means (preferably in the education field, but I will use my skills to make some money) and contacting my University to send my official transcripts so that I can enroll in CalTeach for the Winter/Spring semester. 


Through my daily abuse of novels I have also realized my book will never write itself. Nor will I be able to sit and just write and see what comes out. I took the goal too lightly and disrespected it. Novels, whether fiction or non-fiction, memoire or novella, take research, time, care and a great deal of respect. It goes beyond wondering if my grammar will be shoddy, my spelling horrible and my creativity good enough. The first two is what “fresh-eyes” (friends and peers who can reread your work and catch what you cannot) and editors are for. The creativity is up to me. You either have it or you don’t. I’m sure I do. But as enjoyable as it may be for me to write, it is still WORK. It is about deciding on a topic, a plot, something to start from, and compliling research. It is hours, days, even months of putting together the necessary information needed. I thought back to all of the essays and works I was proud of. Even my creative pieces required some level of research and a high level of commitment. 


So I will teach. Even in this shaking economy I will work toward that goal, making money where I can while I attempt to reach it. I will find days to go to the library and research. I will try and blog more often. I will work at not hiding in my solitude. And I will put myself out there. 


Thank you to my loyal readers who continued to comment on whatever they felt like discussing and being patient. Thank you to two amazingly supportive parents who stood by me in my greatest hour of need. Thank you to my brother who has faced his own hurdles and is an outstanding person and one who understands the trouble I found myself in. Thank you to Kristy, the best big sis a girl could ask for, for understanding who I am at my core and for being there for me, regardless of what was going on. And thank you to Alex, for not running when times got tough, for staying home and taking care of our affairs and watching over our mutts when I could not, for loving me enough to see past the depression and to want to work with me on creating a good life. And of course thank you to my dogs. Because they are the most loyal creatures one could ask for, such as Mizz Laylay, who has yet to leave my side since my return. 


Photo 34


Dad and Me, Disney World tram, probably 1990



11 09 2009

About a month ago I went off the deep end. Perhaps the turn of phrase is a bit extreme as I was not admitted to any hospitals (I say I was not admitted… not that I did not visit – thank you Emergency Room Ativan for at least calming me down), I was not threatened with being carted away in a lovely white jacket (are those in this year? I do have a puffy white one! With detachable hood! Crazy may be crazy but at least I can look fantastic while I do it) and there were no interventions. At least no formal ones. 


I digress. A month, or is it two months, ago, I lost control of myself. I didn’t turn to drugs or alcohol – in fact I vehemently avoid use of recreational drugs and/or alcohol when I feel myself spiraling downward. In fact, my refusal of whacky tobaccy and beer is usually a great sign something isn’t right. Well, maybe not beer. There are times where I am just not feeling it. I am not a big drinker. I have learned that drinking and other usage tends to up my anxiety levels. 


So where did it all start. Who knows. But I do know anxiety and depression took a hold on my fragile temple and I needed help. This came in the form of a 5 a.m. (2 a.m. for you east coasters) phone call to my parents. I had been calling them multiple times a day to express my woes, my anxieties and a covered cry for help for weeks at this point. A few days prior I was taken to the emergency room at the urging of my then therapist to be prescribed a quick-fix for my ever increasing anxiety. I was no longer getting out of bed without a bucket of tears and gentle prodding by Unny and an email with an inspirational thought from my father. I could also not start my day without being physically ill. By the time I placed the early morning phone call I was at the end of my rope and cried out for real help. I mean literally.  I was no longer leaving my bed, I was not sleeping. The only solitude I found was in the form of tears. In short, I was exhausted and lost.


“Dad, I don’t know what to do. If something doesn’t change, well, I’m at the end. I can’t go on like this anymore. I want to be happy but I’m not, I need real help and I don’t know how else to say it but I don’t want to do anything dumb and I’m not seeing many other options.” 8 hours later my parents arrived in Los Angeles. I started seeing a new therapist, I was put back on medication – of which I had carelessly had stopped taking under the false assumption that I was just fine and could control my disorder without the aide of medication – and my parents were there. I won’t get into the details of what was going through my mind. As significant as they are for me to work through and grasp, they were superficial thoughts brought on by a severe depression, much more intense than anything I have ever experienced. I called work and used my vacation days for a week to regroup with the help of my parents, boyfriend and new therapist, the wonderful JM. I wish I could say it all got better at this point, that with the support of my family and loved ones I made a fast recovery. Realistically my recovery was fast, but the climb was just beginning and it was steep. 


Let me stop here for some author comments. 

1) My father is a survivor of Colon Cancer. He was diagnosed at stage 3B and underwent 6 months of chemo treatment (for those unfamiliar with Chemotherapy you can only be treated for six month periods and then a break before starting another session). My father also suffered a severe depression at the age of 29 – with a wife and two young children and a demanding career. He has said, given the two (chemo treatment – knowing that he would survive the cancer of course – and depression) he would take going through chemotherapy over dealing with depression again. There is perhaps few things less painful than a state of mind where you just cannot see the light at the end. With treatable diseases you know you will survive. You know you must endure the pain of chemical treatment, but you know it will end and you will come out stronger. With depression, it’s almost impossible to recognize this and it is only evident that you will be a stronger person in the end when you are finally reaching the end. It is a dark, dizzying place to be and something you cannot fully comprehend without experiencing first hand. This does not include teen angst or heartbreak. The depression I speak of is a real medical ailment of which medical attention is necessary. 

2) Some may turn their noses up at the idea of publicly recording a downward spiral into a box with no escape. Some may say I am committing a professional suicide. What happens when a prospective employer happens upon my blog and is put off by my experiences. I say I am embracing my experiences. That these experiences have made me a stronger more stable being. Whether by use of medical aide, by the power of the mind (more powerful than you can even believe), determination or all three, I am a better person. This does not mean I do not have my moments. I am human and to be human is to err. This does not mean I have not cried since coming out of it. Tears are a release for me. I hope that anyone reading this can take from my experience. And can see depression as something treatable. And can respect those who have gone through it. That anyone reading this, random reader, regular readers or prospective employer, can take away that I am stronger now than I ever was and have gained essential tools. Would I want to go back through what I have? Never. Will it happen? I don’t know. I can only work on being strong and learning. But would I take back my experience? No. It is molding me into who I am. And part of that is being completely honest with who I am – faults, experiences, the whole lot. 


After a week with my loved ones, I was still at a loss. Waking up was hell. When you wake up and anxiety and depression have taken over your life, you are at your weakest. Your defenses are down and you cannot always prevent being hit with a ton of bricks. After discussing my continued decline with the therapist we called my place of employment. The state of California, by law, states employees are guaranteed 30 day medical leave (payment is up to the employer, I was unpaid) without the risk of losing ones job.  I was legally protected. We then went over my personal options. 1) Stay in California and depend on my guy for the extreme moral, emotional, and at times physical support I would require. 2) Go to Florida, stay with my parents and they would take care of me while I went through intensive therapy with my long term therapist in Florida. 3) Move home. 


I chose the second option for a few reasons. One being I needed my parents. The second was more long term. Unny had been strong for me for weeks already and I could see it wearing him down. This did not mean he was not willing. In fact he was rooting for option 1. But for the sake of my relationship and knowing what I needed I went home with the intentions of returning to California and starting again. 


I had 30 days to recover. We decided I would stay in Florida for no more than 2 weeks. As daunting as that was for me, the idea of leaving my family was unthinkable, but I knew the only way to recover would be to challenge my emotional needs and learn to stand on my own (I had regressed to the emotional state of a toddler and separation anxiety had taken over my life – this is not homesickness, this is the irrational thought that something dire would happen if I was not with my family). For two weeks I went to a therapist, spent time with my family and waited for my new medication to officially kick in. My sister was by my side everyday, regardless of the fact that her board exams were taking place at the same time. I am forever grateful. No one will ever understand me as deeply as she. She is my soul mate and my best friend. 


The second wednesday of my “recovery” we bought a plane ticket back to California. I spoke to Unny daily. He was thrilled and proud. Everyone was. As deeply lost as I had become I worked hard and improved significantly in a very short period of time. Three weeks after reaching the end of my rope I was halfway back up and ready to be strong. I would not have been so fortunate without the most supportive family and significant other a person could ask for. (Side note my computer just shut off. THANK YOU auto save). 


There were a few deciding factors in my return. One being the need to face my separation anxiety and rejoin the world of emotionally mature adults. The next was knowing my future laid with Alex. Yes, the elusive name! I knew, if I wanted a chance at being independently happy I had to continue after my dreams and work on a future with a man who was all but laying in front of me screaming I love you, lets work on a life together. So with a sleeping pill, a one-way, non-stop ticket and the start of a healthy-tan I went home. (thank you Florida Sun and afternoon walks on the beach to dicuss life, love and all of the above with the worlds most Amazing and Supportive Father  – I use caps because that SHOULD be his official title – Sandy H, CPA name partner and Supportive and Amazing Father Figure – and Mom deserves the same, but inject Bookkeeper, Domestic Manager and Amazing and Supportive Mother)

(to be continued. immediately…)