Notes from the Void, Part 2

Run the Mile You’re In

I had to go for a run today. 

In my previous post, I referred to the void that is left when a person loses a job. Then, the job search process becomes the void. It is the dark, echoless expanse into which we send job applications and emails to HR reps. It is the space we occupy, wondering if we will ever find our way out again with meaningful employment that resembles our former position. 

It has been a gut-wrenching two days with three rejections from employers with whom I had interviewed, two of which I felt optimistic about. I needed the jolt of positive brain chemistry that comes from running, so as the afternoon set in, I changed into my running clothes, laced up my shoes, and headed out the door into the warm afternoon air. 

It has been 4 ½ months since my university communications director job ended, a casualty of budget cuts prompted in part by the COVID-19 pandemic. I have applied for dozens of jobs since then and have had 12 or so interviews, including a flurry of four in a recent two-week period. For the first time in a while, I was feeling confident this would soon be over, then came the first rejection at the beginning of this week, and the second, and the third. 

In spite of the two active interviewing situations that were still in play, I felt in many ways like I was starting all over—an endless cycle of hope and disappointment, playing out over and over. 

I cruised through the neighborhoods, the sidewalk rolling along under my feet, and at about a mile I passed a house with a plain white yard sign out front with a simple message in large black letters: DON’T GIVE UP

The sign has been there since the pandemic and its stay-at-home orders this spring, but it took on special resonance for me today. I read the other side on the return trip: YOU ARE NOT ALONE

It’s true. My family, friends, and loved ones have been there since the beginning with support and encouragement. Also, a handful of people that I have worked with and some that I have known more casually have taken an active interest in my job search, providing connections and endorsements, even going so far as to call their contacts and offer up referrals on my behalf. 

After one such person, whom I’ve only worked with indirectly, offered up a glowing assessment of my abilities to a potential employer (and not for the first time), I told her that I deeply appreciated her interest and support of my job search. 

“I’ve been there,” she responded.

If there is one thing I’ve noticed about this community, the job seekers, it is how supportive they are of each other, even when they aren’t job seekers anymore. 

I arrived back at home, drenched in sweat, kicked off my running shoes, stretched, and showered before getting back on the computer to check email, scroll through the job boards, and touch base with recruiters and contacts to let them know I’m still out there and available. 

In addition to the fact this experience has been like signing up for a 5K and discovering after starting that it was a marathon, it has shared more than a few things with running. A wise coach I know is fond of saying, “Run the mile you’re in.” Keep your focus where you are, and then run the next mile. The same is true with job hunting. Focus on today—the interview, the job applications—do the best you can and don’t obsess about a week or a month from now. Thinking too much about “what if” can only lead to more anxiety, as if there were not enough already.

To the void, I will say only this. 

I’m a distance runner. I’ve run through sweltering heat and stifling humidity, and I’ve run when the mercury didn’t even touch 10 degrees. I’ve run through injuries, and I finished a half marathon with my calf cramping up like someone was shoving an icepick into it—I got a personal record anyway. I’ve never quit a race. 

If you think you can intimidate me or make me give up, think again.  

Published by Chris Duggan

I am a seasoned communications professional, father, runner, and old-timey baseball player.

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