Having just moved to the Dallas/Fort Worth area, I recently met with a headhunter as I am (finally) seeking a full time position heading a creative services department.
“I see you have a background in management,” she stated after perusing my 3-page résumé, before adding, “however, I also see you haven’t worked in-house for a while. And your experience is all over the place. I simply don’t know how to fit you in a box.”
I seem to be running into this reaction quite a bit.
You see, as a military spouse, I’ve lived in six states in the past six years. Most of the towns in which my husband and I were stationed have been provincial to say the least, and the recent economy has been nothing short of prohibitive. This combination has made working full time in my field a challenge. So, even though I wholeheartedly support the military and am deeply proud of my husband’s choice to serve, in the past few years, my own career has taken a backseat. That is, at least in terms of how the rest of the world views a contiguous work record.
It hasn’t been easy trying to explain to civilians and potential employers how difficult it is to maintain any sort of linear employment when you move around as much as we have, let alone when that particular form of employment is in the creative arts. I am an Art Director, after all, and these types of jobs are not only scarce in small town America, by the time a suitable position does open up, it is usually time to move again. Sigh.
I assure you, it isn’t that I haven’t wanted to be gainfully employed. I enjoy working and my career is very important to me. Having a meaningful job these last few years would have really helped to stave off some of the stressfulness and loneliness that comes with constant change. And receiving a steady paycheck would certainly have helped alleviate a good deal of anxiety, especially around April 15th. But I digress.
So, I’ve chosen to freelance instead.
The nature of my career—and the persistent evolution of technology—have both afforded me the opportunity to consult for clients locally as well as virtually. While not being the ideal and traditional 9 to 5, I have managed to successfully cultivate and nurture a broad spectrum of clientele, which has helped to keep me attuned to marketing and technological advancements. And, while these freelance jobs haven’t always afforded the caliber of salary I would like or deserve, I have been able to supplement our income and keep us from proverbially sinking.
In other words, to answer the headhunter’s unstated question as to what I’ve been doing for the past several years?
Well, I’ve been surviving. I’ve been growing. And yes, I’ve continued to manage. From the personal and professional sacrifices that come with military life, to the day-to-day stuff that drones on in spite of upheaval. In fact, over the course of these six years, I have successfully and single-handedly built a marketing and creative services consulting business, which has required a consistent ability to solicit clients and maintain relationships, while developing and overseeing countless projects from concept through completion.
As to why my experience seems “all over the place?” Well, when freelance work has been scarce, I’ve done what all responsible and conscientious people do. I’ve dived in and… acted as a Press Officer for the World Baseball Classic, managed a commercial real estate office, created a bipartisan gun safety campaign, proofed grants for a university, volunteered as a family liaison for my husband’s squadron, and taught water aerobics. I also completed a course in WordPress, certified as a yoga instructor and co-owned a studio.
Now, I can tell you that many of these gigs didn’t pay well. Or bode well, for that matter, given my original life goals and actual career title. But, putting myself out there in ways I may not have expected, brought returns I never dreamed of. I stretched myself (no pun intended) and touched people’s lives as they did mine. Because at the end of the day, I did what I needed to do for myself and for my family. Even if doing so meant that my career, the one that headhunters scrutinize, slumbered impatiently in the background.
In closing, yes, I concur that my résumé may seem disparate and non-traditional. But, I do have to wonder how it is that “go-getting” is now considered a professional character flaw. And I do have to ask:
What type of creative agency would actually want an Art Director that fits in a box?
If you’re looking for a diligent self-starter (and an out-of-the-box thinker), please feel free to connect.
p.s. I’m pleased to say, we’re in the DFW area to stay!
“See the positive side, the potential, and make an effort.” ~Dalai Lama