October 30, 2013

Curiouser and curiouser

While getting ready for yesterday's job interview, I had an odd sense of calm. The 'little voice' (God's quiet nudges) kept telling me to not stay up too late, not stress too much. For the most part, I listened.

Even while getting ready, I just didn't have much 'juice'. I kept thinking, well, if I get this one, it'll be like the story of Gideon where God kept taking away all the props that would have let him say he won the battle on his own. My go-to outfit needed hemming, my backup outfit didn't seem right for the company. I got that sorted and arrived with about 7 minutes to spare before my appointment.

I'd been told there would be two people in the interview; there was just one woman a couple years older than me. She started right away with this, "I hope you don't mind that I went ahead with the interview. The position you applied for is already filled, but honestly, that wouldn't have been a good fit for you. I wanted to meet you and talk through your work. I thought about calling to let you know, but I didn't want you to opt out! Is that ok?"

What do you say to that?! I was gracious, but kind of bummed.

She wanted me to walk through my portfolio. I have it all set up on 'my' iPad (I plan on returning it within the 30-day window...cause I just don't want to own one.) For last week's interview and this one, I tried to figure out the five key stories they need to hear. Last week was all about the big, sexy, fun ideas. This week was more about my capabilities for corporate clients. It's nuts that I have to spend a few hours prepping a new document for each interview. (OK, OK, 'it's' not nuts, I am!)

Here are some of the snippets from our conversation:

"Your work and thinking are very strong. You know you're not really an art director, right?"

She'd worked in California, too, so I could ask her about that, "Yeah, I'm starting to get the sense that in Dallas an art director is just a glorified graphic designer?"

"Exactly. When I hire someone from design school, they are a junior art director. You're working at the level of at least an Associate Creative Director, but really, you could be a Creative Director without a problem. If I were you, I'd consider freelancing in town for a while. Speaking from experience, if you go straight from a California company to a Dallas company, you're in for a lot of culture shock. It's better to get a sense of the players before you commit to one place. I think you could stay very busy as a freelancer. Would you mind if I tell people about you if I hear that someone is looking?"

Of course! I asked her about the need to 'tone it down' as a woman leader in Dallas culture. She nodded emphatically, "You have no idea! Not only have I worked in LA, I'm from Chicago!" I cracked up as she continued, "They had no idea what hit them. Eventually they realized my assertiveness was all on behalf of the client, so they stopped taking it personally and got used to me, but it was an adjustment for all of us. It helps that only 10 percent of our company are Dallas natives."

In the end, it was a great talk, she wants me to keep in touch, seems like someone worth meeting for lunch every month or two, and I'm really bummed I don't get to work with her (yet)!

I'm also bummed that I need to rework the website and redo my business cards. My Dad wants me to pause and rethink everything. What would I do if I had $100,000/year for the rest of my life. If money were no object, what would you do? I need to think about it more, but I think I'd still do design; perhaps teach it in underserved schools (after buying computers for the class) or do design for non-profits, etc.

In the meantime, given that it's nice to be paid for my expertise, I'll likely spend more time thinking about how to retool my 'brand'.
What do you think about the presumption factor? I can easily claim the title of Art Director on a business card, but calling myself a Creative Director is a bit of a leap. Do I put my current title: "2D Exper1ence Designer" and explain that it involves art direction and creative direction and that I'm seeking a job as a CD?

This definitely helps explain why it's been hard to find a good fit, or even get interviews. I'm overqualified for the job title here. It's amazing to get such a strong vote of confidence, but I'm intimidated!

October 24, 2013

Keeping the balls in the air!

Thought I aced the job interview. I'd set up my portfolio as a Choose Your Own Adventure with the five key stories that applied to the company. All went well. Left on a total high. Loved the job and the group.

Hosted book club to discuss Breakfast at Tiffany's. Had a great talk, lots of fun.

Pulled an all nighter to catch up with all the work I'd neglected while prepping for the job interview. Had very little interest in my current work. Was practicing my resignation speeches/emails in my head.

Met for "Lunch L@b" with a group of folk trying to get protected pedestrian/bike baths put in throughout downtown. We meet once a week and are putting together a pitch document with the goal of meeting with foundations and donors in January. In Big D, you get the money first, then you loop in the politicians and the city. Money talks and it's a proven test of concept here. Got the outline put together and agreed to put it into a Keynote/PDF format.

Ate lunch with a grad student who's helping on the project. Did some mentoring/career advice.

Got home to an email that they'd selected an internal candidate. Total Depression. UGH.

Dragged myself out to pick up Brex, took him to Jrex's office for a networking dinner. They went home together while I dragged myself to a networking event for the area Big Design Association 'meet the board' night. Had some great chats and loved being around people. Left feeling less depressed.

Tried to get my head back into my current projects.

Got a call from another agency to come in for an interview next week. They're in the same building as the Tuesday group! 

Met someone for a networking lunch. Thought it would be more personal connection, less professional. Turns out she knows everybody and gave me ten people to contact. She'll be feeding me their emails. She worked with one of the people I interviewed with on Tuesday and told me to say hi. Even more helpful, I could ask her about the weird vibe I've been getting here that I'm 'strong meat'. I feel like I come across too forcefully. Stuff that's totally normal in the Bay Area (she lived and worked in San Francisco) is pushy here. There's enough Southern in the culture that I need to pull back, soften the approach and let there be a velvet glove over the steel. Also, contract negotiations take multiple steps, so I need to be less 'all cards on the table'. I HATE playing games, but if there's a game to play (and there seems to be), it helps to know the rules.

Now I have to do Thank You cards for the job I didn't get. Sigh. However, it's a small community here and everyone knows everyone, so it pays to do things well and honorably.

Small group tonight.

Oh, and I also have to finish revising my 'real' work deliverable by tomorrow morning.

October 18, 2013

Grooming Behaviors

I've always been a kid magnet. Without trying, in many social situations, I end up with children climbing all over me. So other people being friendly or enjoying playing with children never seemed like an issue until I worked in a residential treatment center for behaviorally disturbed kids. In English: they'd all been physically and/or sexually abused and had behaviors that resulted from the abuse.

One of the 10-year olds started dressing like one of the 9-year olds. She started making gifts for the other girl. One of the staff said, "We need to make sure those two are never alone together; those are grooming behaviors."

"What do you mean? Isn't she just being nice?"

I got a Look, "Girl, lissen up. If someone wants to abuse a kid, or anyone, sexually, they usually set them up. They get them to want to spend time with them: gifts, fun events, fun yard, stuff like that. That girl is setting up her friend to try something."

So much for innocence. Mine.

At church, Brex and I often share a pew with an older couple. At first I thought they were irritated by his antics, but they slowly warmed up. One Sunday they had a friend with them. He and Brex made faces at each other and did other cute interactions. I assumed he was just good with kids.

The next Sunday, the older woman gave me a new toy truck. "Our friend Big T wanted to give this to your son. He really had fun playing with him the other week. He just loved your kid and wanted to make him happy." I said thank you, and Brex loved his new truck.

A gift after one interaction sent up a warning flag. I usually wait for another data point before concluding anything, but I knew I'd never leave my kid alone with Big T.

Another data point came the next Sunday. During worship the older woman signalled she had something for me. I nodded. I took Brex back for Sunday school and then came back and sat in the back. After the service, the older woman gave the card intended for me to the pastor's daughter who was working in Sunday School. When the older woman saw me and told me she'd made a mistake and gave it to the wrong person.

"It's ok. I'll get it. Don't worry about it.

When I got the the Sunday school room, the pastor's daughter looked stricken, "I'm SO sorry, she gave me this and I opened and read it cause I thought it was for me. Are you ok?"

I was confused by her concern. The card was from Big T. In it he wrote that he's sorry he hasn't been able to come by church, but he's a missionary and travels alot. He's been praying for us and wants me to know that everything will be ok (I often cry during worship. Usually cause I'm just so struck by something about who God is that feels so big or amazing). He gave me his phone number and told me to call any time. Apparently my facial expressions reflected the same emotions the pastor's daughter had experienced.


I quickly explained the situation. I laughed ruefully, "Since Jrex doesn't come to church, he must think I'm a single mom. I thought Brex was the target, but it looks like it's me!" Of course, the terrifying truth is that there are men who target women with children in order to get to the children. How sad that if I were single and feeling unlovely and unloved, and if I didn't know about grooming behaviors, I might be drawn to someone who seems like a very nice guy.

Now, I don't KNOW that's he's an abuser, but two data points confirms my first conclusion: he will never be alone with my son. It also means I need to write him a note to thank him for the gift and let him know that I'm happily married, fine with interacting with him when he visits church, but not looking for anything else.

What truly struck me was coming home from church and telling a friend about it. "You mean people like that go to church? Surely not!"

Did she miss the whole thing with the Catholic church? Never hear about youth group leaders abusing kids? Many pedophiles and sexual abusers are charismatic,  compelling, friendly people who are great with kids. As much as part of me is sad that I need to be on guard, I'm grateful that I know some of the warning signs and know when to proceed with caution.

Real life incidents that I look back on and see red flags:
  • The nice policeman with the pool who was great with neighborhood kids and would take groups of them to his house for the afternoon. My brother and sister went. He abused one of their friends, or at least did inappropriate touching.
  • The discomfort I felt when our pastor treated me like a beautiful woman when I was a shy, awkward young girl. I thought he was being kind and I just didn't know how to respond. I found out later he was inappropriate with adult women in church; I suspect I was picking up an 'off' vibe.
Given that it was news to me in my 20's and was just news to my friend in her 30's, consider this my public service announcement for the day.

October 15, 2013

Reasons, shcmeasons

Why so little blogging?

As I've driven around town for various networking events or for the (rare) job interview, I've considered the issue. Most of my blog posts percolated during my daily commute. Since moving here, the only driving I do is to drive Brex to school or pick him up. That means half of the drive is filled with, "Ex-ca-va-tor! Mom!! Ex-ca-va-tor!"

"Yes, Brex, you see an excavator. Isn't that exciting?"

"I see it. Ex-ca-va-tor."

"Mom! No train on bridge. So sad. Un-da-neat!"

"That's right, buddy, we're going underneath the train track. No train, so sad!"

Let's just say, while fun, those drives aren't conducive to meandering thought.

The other factor, as I told a friend from the Bay Area recently is that each day is so filled with the little busyness of life that I just don't have much of an interior life. Sure, there are emotional issues I don't have time to delve. However, I'm not going out of my way to avoid them. Rather, I just don't have time to cry or journal or make art in order to process the emotion. There's nothing so overwhelming that it NEEDS attention, just some of my/our ongoing themes.

In terms of the one area that I'm working hard to change, lots of motion without much forward movement.

I've only had one job interview so far and I blew it. I was so intent on going through the portfolio I'd labored to set up that I didn't realize her main issue was understanding why I might be interested in working at her firm. Apparently my online portfolio is impressive and the fact that I'm coming from CA means most people are assuming I need an astronomical wage. I'm used to having to prove myself in a job interview, apparently now I need to convince a boutique agency that yes, I'd actually love to step away from the big career track and get back into a normal life.

In the midst of all that, I got a call yesterday from a recruiter. She works for a big market1ng agency downtown. On Thursday, I'd done an online application for an Art D1rector role and expected nothing from it.

I have an interview there in a week.

This job would not be a step away from a career, rather it would be a big step into a more responsible, creative, big picture role. I'd be the conceptual art d1rector running the team and the entire portfolio for Big Name Chip Company. This could involve helping do concepts for Super Bow1 Ads among other things. It's intimidating! From their website, and from a fun team video they'd just done, it looks like a team filled with skinny Dallas Millennial women and bearded, hipster Millennial men. That's also an interesting factor. Sure, I'd like to move into management, but it's a big leap to run a team of 25 people!

I think I need a new outfit...and an iPad. The last interview, I borrowed my MIL's iPad since she was visiting, but it would be nice to have one all set up in case there are multiple rounds at this same place.

Last night Jrex and I were both awake in the middle of the night. Me anxiously reviewing what I need to do for the interview, him thinking through what he needs to do to prepare for a Big Government Grant application. We prayed together for a while.

It's a good reminder that there is a place for me here in town and the right thing will open up at the right time.


I'm sorry for the long silence! I can't promise to be better, but at least I have a couple thoughts percolating in my head. Here's hoping I make time to write them down soon!