One Thanksgiving, my niece — then about 8 — looked up at two framed photos on the wall in my parents’ dining room. She glanced curiously from the picture of my sister and brother-in-law — her parents — on their wedding day to a portrait of me. And then, without hesitation, she announced:
“Look. There’s Mom and Dad at their wedding. And there’s Aunt Jen … allllll alone.”
There was the year that I was so lonely that the mere fact that it was Thanksgiving made me even more lonely and, even though I was spending the day with family, I was inconsolable.
And let’s not forget about that memorable Thanksgiving 13 years ago. I was eight months pregnant (going on 800), about to become a single mom (and quite terrified about this fact), and feeling like I may quite literally explode.
Little did I know, I’d be a new mom less than 24 hours later. (We won’t even talk about how I nearly had to take a cab to the hospital that night, because all of my “people to call” were dead asleep.)
Last year, my mom flew across the country to spend the week with us. She taught my daughter — then 12 — how to make her signature stuffing and cranberry relish. I cried when she left.
And this year … this year our blended family is missing all three of our kids. It’s not our year for Thanksgiving. We’ll be having our traditional feast tomorrow night.
Tonight, we’ll gather at a tiny, dimly-lit Old Hollywood lounge and celebrate Thanksgiving proper over Vespers and truffle fries.
Through all these years — sad years, happy years, giantly pregnant years and vintage cocktail years — I’ve come to learn something very important:
Life is beautifully messy.
You envision how it’s supposed to be. You pine for what it ought to be. You assume that everyone is having some Norman Rockwell style day or existence, as you’re eating takeout Chinese in your sweatpants. You don’t have your dear ones around you when you really, really want them around you.
You drink Vespers instead of eating turkey. (Hell, yes.)
Wherever you are today, tonight, this weekend or this year — try and embrace it. The chaos or the solitude, the heated dinner table debates or the Netflix movie marathons, the pining for something else or hoping the moments will never end.
You are absolutely enough.
Your holiday experiences, as special or non-special as they may be, do not define you.
Your gratitude, your heart, your character and your dogged commitment to finding what it is you’re here on this planet to do?
That’s where the rubber meets the road.
Out of the ashes of what my life was supposed to be, I’ve created a life that is.
And, it’s pretty damned incredible.
I’m incredibly grateful for every one of you who has found your way here. Your business, your kind words, your commitment to being everything you were made to be are just everything.
So, whether it’s a dream Thanksgiving or one that you’re hoping will just end (for the love of it all) — or something in between — thank you for being here.
PROOF is an occasional series that showcases (and celebrates!) people who employed new job search strategies and landed THE job or promotion they wanted. Today, we feature Paul Wells of Boulder, Colorado. (Story by Emily McIntyre)
Paul Wells had built a great career working in machine design and mechanical engineering for equipment manufacturers in the food and beverage industry; think Pepsi-Cola, Anheuser Busch—the actual machines that package our favorite snacks and drinks.
Over the years, he’d moved into project management, finally landing in a consultant role in Chicago—a position he held for more than a decade.
“I was happy enough where I was at,” he recalled, “but I began thinking about getting back to my machine design roots in a way that would let me continue using my project management skills.”
With his last child reaching high school age, he was ready to consider what the next decade or two looked like in his career—and he had a hunch it might be a move that also got him away from Chicago’s killer winters.
Paul wanted to make sure that, if he did make a move, it was a good next step for him.
“I wasn’t interested in a lateral move,” he said, adding that he didn’t want to have to start over in his career. Without much idea of where to start he took his girlfriend Tamara’s advice and checked out JobJenny.com. (Tamara has used Jenny’s services more than once, with great success.)
What he chose
Paul chose the Whole Enchilada, a bundled package that provided Paul with both strategy and the marketing tools he’d need (resume, LinkedIn profile makeover, cover letter) to give this a solid run. Jenny and her team helped Paul articulate the experience he had, including directing a $500M yearlong facility expansion project and the redesign of a major bottling line for one of the world's largest beverage manufacturers.
Turns out, for Paul, that was all it took.
“The thing that was most surprising to me was that once we did the LinkedIn update and that went live, I had more traffic on than I could keep up with! I could pretty much cherry-pick opportunities from my contacts there.”
What he ‘cherry-picked’ was a Senior Director of Engineering position with Wild Goose Meehan, in Boulder, Colorado. His job hunt was successful—and he’d barely started!
How does Paul’s new position compare to his previous role?
As he’d wanted, he has hands in both the machine design and the project management sides of equipment manufacturing. Moving from working with equipment for massive companies to the microbrewing world, he finds he deals with similar considerations.
“On the big side, you’re focused the most on going fast and doing things efficiently. That’s important for small systems too, but the application changes. The big guys don’t care about spilling barrels as long as they keep moving. The small companies will be concerned about getting every single drop of that run of beer; every drop is valuable.”
Wild Goose Canning produces filling equipment for canning and bottling in the craft brewing, kombucha and cold brew coffee marketplace. Now, Paul says, even wine is going into cans, and he thinks the market will only increase for this type of specialized equipment.
As for location, Paul is loving his new city. In Chicago he was keen on the lake front, but now he’s “literally five minutes from actual mountains.” He enjoys hiking, biking, and running and has been exploring the local culture which he says has been extremely welcoming. A number of his long-time friends have recently moved to Boulder too, so he and Tamara have a built-in community.
Paul’s advice for anyone hoping to change their careers
“It’s really helpful if you can work without a timeline. For me, I was thinking it was take six months to a year, at least, and I didn’t plan to do much of an active search.” Taking the time to really fine-tune his LinkedIn profile and resume ended up paying dividends, and fast.
What was working with the JobJenny.com team like?
“It’s funny because Tamara had used Jenny’s services a while ago, I used her, and now because of this move to Boulder I think Tamara is using her again,” said Paul. “I love Jenny’s entire menu of offerings. The Whole Enchilada was a good choice for me because I was able to talk through my experience with her to make sure it was up-to-date and then she wordsmithed my roles in a way that pointed me in the right direction.”
What are Paul’s plans for the future?
Boulder is a kind of “ground zero” for the microbrewing revolution, which makes it a great place for Paul to plan his future. He says that one of his favorite parts of working for Wild Goose Meehan is that he feels he has input and influence into the direction of the company and a huge scope for his professional imagination.
“I think it will keep me energized for a while,” he concluded.
Do you have a success story that you’d like featured on PROOF? If yes, be sure and send us a note at email@example.com. We love hearing about the amazing things you’re doing!
Are you thinking about changing careers? If yes, then you need to know about Dawn Graham and her brand new book, Switchers.
Dawn is the Director of Career Management for the MBA Program for Executives at The Wharton School and one of the best-known career coaches in the U.S. She's also host of SiriusXM Radio's Career Talk show (we first met there!)
The following is a guest post from our Seth Seelye, JobJenny.com's 2018 summer intern and an Integrated Marketing Communications sophomore at the University of Mississippi.
They say diamonds are a girl’s best friend, but as a young boy, diamonds were my first love. My passion was born about 15 years ago on the baseball diamond, where I was introduced to America’s favorite pastime and the greatest sport ever created.
As a kid, baseball was the source of all my most vivid fantasies. I would lie awake at night dreaming of hitting the walk-off homerun in game 7 of the World Series or going down in the hall of fame next to Babe Ruth and Ken Griffey Jr.
Could anything ever be sweeter?
Over the years, those fantasies motivated me to take my game to the next level. After a few seasons, I was playing travel baseball against the best players in my area – as well as boys from across the country.
As a kid playing sports and dreaming about the big leagues, I thought my dreams would all just eventually materialize. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I really understood and appreciated the meaning of the hard work required.
Growing up as an athlete with a passion and commitment to a sport builds key qualities that carry over into every aspect of life. As a college student who will soon join the work force, I expect the experiences and skills I’ve built as an athlete will help me hit a home run as an employee. Among the most notable strengths I've gained?
Realizing that you have to train hard and grind your tail off to improve every aspect of your game is hard to accept at first, but it’s a necessity. If you don’t train, you’ll fall behind the competition. It’s a basic formula and, for me, a powerful motivator.
As my father always told me, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” It was a tough lesson to learn. It wasn’t until middle school that I realized there was no way I could compete with pitchers who are six feet tall and throwing 75 miles per hour naturally unless I trained myself to get stronger and better. The same goes in the workplace. There’s always another talented person waiting for their shot at the next great assignment or promotion.
Discipline and hard work are skills that will be evident to others and help keep you at the front of the pack.
Nobody wins – or loses – a baseball game on their own. All the work, all of the coaching, hitting, running, pitching in the world means nothing if you are a player facing a field of nine all alone. A strong team means everything – they boost you up, celebrate your victories and defeats, and most importantly, make it possible to achieve every good thing. Be the person everybody wants to have on their team.
Resilience and Humility –
You won a game? Good, now be humble and look at what mistakes you made and what you can improve on. You lost? Great, remember how this feels and work even harder so it won’t happen again. Just like you need to train harder to beat a strong opponent in sports, you must work harder and smarter in your professional life if you want a that promotion or coveted opportunity.
The parallels between sports and many real-life situations are endless. Just about every concrete lesson learned from sports can be applied to life outside of sports, and I look forward to doing so as I step out into my professional career.
With the amazing fun and lessons I’ve learned from playing sports, I know that whatever gets thrown at me in life, I can conquer it.
Have you sat down, maybe recently, to create or update your resume -- only to find yourself paralyzed because you're afraid to hard-angle it toward one particular type of role?
Maybe you're thinking, "I just want to keep all of my options open right now."
And that's understandable. Options are great. In fact, I'm on a plane as I write this and the flight attendant just asked me if I wanted regular vodka or grapefruit vodka. (YES, turns out grapefruit vodka is a thing. And, be assured, I went with it.)
My point -- You don't want to be so stringent in your mindset that you miss out on something unexpectedly great, just because you were locked in on that ONE thing.
However (You knew a "but" was coming) ...
If you try to keep piles of possibilities open for yourself ("I think I want to work in digital marketing, but I might want to go back into operations. And I really love teaching, so maybe I should be a trainer ..."), it's going to be incredibly hard to create a resume that makes it instantly clear to the people on the receiving end how and why you make sense.
And, if you don't make sense to the decision makers (very quickly), guess where your resume goes?
Into the big, fat NO pile.
And that's one option you for sure aren't aiming for.
The bummer reality is that, even though we all really wish that those reviewing our resumes would magically connect the dots for us -- and make the correlations between what we've done and what we could do? They're not going to.
They won't, because they don't have to. For every role you apply for, there's going to be one, five or 25 other people in the mix who have resumes that make it very easy for the reviewer to see an obvious skills and experience match.
These are the people who will land the interview first.
These are the people who speak directly to the target audience. They've studied what the jobs they're applying for require, and what potential employers value, and they're introducing themselves as a "smack-in-the-forehead" obvious match.
They aren't trying to cover all of their bases.
They aren't trying to keep all options open.
They understand that, when you try to speak to multiple, disparate audience at once, you dilute the power of your message across every single channel.
These are the people you're competing with, for every job.
So you've got to bring your A-game.
That said, if you've been trying to keep multiple options open (for fear of missing out on something), here's what you might do instead:
Choose an Avenue A.
What's the most likely or most desired next move for you? Consider making this your main focus for the next 30 days (or whatever time increment works for you).
When you do this, it becomes so much easier to craft a resume that speaks directly to your target audience, and illustrates how you line up with the most common deliverables for that type of job.
It will also simplify how you go about your search, because you won't feel completely overwhelmed as you look at marketing jobs, operations jobs, trainer jobs, etc.
But won't I miss out on something?
Probably not. Setting an Avenue A certainly doesn't mean you can't entertain other options should they present themselves (ahem, grapefruit vodka). Heavens, no.
Instead, it eases the process of creating or updating your resume, and will help keep you focused on a day-to-day basis.
You can always modify that core resume if an opportunity comes along that's a bit outside of your primary focus area. But, by having a target message, you'll make it a whole lot easier for people to "get" what you're all about.