Creative Copywriter. Greater St. Louis Area. Two alumni from my university work there.
Normally when I get email notifications from LinkedIn, I hit delete without even opening them. But for whatever reason, as I sat in the school parking lot waiting for dismissal, I was curious to see what job picks were being suggested for me. My eyes immediately focused on the third listing for a creative copywriter.
I’m creative. I can write copy.
Fifteen minutes earlier, I had been at Home Depot purchasing supplies to make a New Orleans style lamp post for our school’s upcoming Mardi Gras themed auction. That’s pretty typical of where my head and my time have been for the last few years or so: firmly entrenched in things like PTO, school board, and squeezing every last bit of experiential juice out of our time in this elementary school community we love so much…time that seems to be moving more quickly each day. My writing, my book, my professional aspirations have been barely even percolating on the back burner, mostly by my own choice. And let’s be honest: I haven’t had what most would consider a REAL job in over thirteen years. But suddenly there I was, sitting in my minivan, still in my workout clothes from boot camp class that morning (because honestly, what do I need to dress up for?), feeling my heart balloon at the possibility of applying for a job. A real one.
Then just as suddenly, it deflated. Requirements: 3-6 years experience working in a creative agency.
I guessed they weren’t talking about me using my creative license to call the extra bedroom in our house where I have a desk and a laptop an “agency.”
I decided to check out several other listings, but that damn word – experience – kept popping up over and over and over again.
And that’s when it hit me.
I’m a 41 year old woman who has spent more than the past decade doing the most rewarding work of her life, and in doing so, has ironically rendered herself outdated, unmarketable, and seemingly unhirable.
My resume would likely get rejected by every job listing I looked at sitting in my minivan in my workout clothes. And not that long ago, I surprisingly found myself at an interview for a writing position after being recommended by a friend who worked at the company. My sweet friend knew I was capable and offered my name with the best of intentions. But alas, even with her endorsement, I just couldn’t seem to sell myself in that interview. And I know exactly why. My long hiatus from the workforce. My lack of “professional” training in many of the required skills. My self-created “experience” that existed mostly between me, my computer, Google searches, a mom blog, and a self-published book. I could feel it wasn’t enough, and my confidence buckled under the weight of not measuring up, even though I knew in my heart of hearts I could do the work, and do it well.
I don’t feel unhirable. I actually feel MORE hirable than when I was a green college graduate, bright-eyed and awash with easily recalled theories and textbook knowledge, punctuated by a strong GPA and energy for days. I also feel MORE hirable than I was when I decided to leave teaching in favor of being a stay-at-home mom. At that time I was a damn good teacher and would have been riding a wave of recent experience had I chosen to get back on the horse. Instead, I hopped off to feed the horse, rock the horse to sleep, clean up after the horse, cart the horse around to playdates and practices, volunteer at the horse’s stable, and spend a mind-numbing amount of hours watching Disney channel with the horse. Then I got another horse, and did it all over again.
But here’s the thing: I haven’t just stayed home and “mom-ed.” In these last thirteen years that have masqueraded as an unremarkable domestic status quo, I have been building a resume that never would have existed had I continued teaching after my first child was born. I have discovered and nurtured abilities there wouldn’t have been time for amidst lesson planning, grading, and caring for my own family. I have experimented and pushed myself to learn new things, because I had the room and grace to try and fail and try again with no one ever knowing but me. I have had the space and freedom to craft my writing voice, to test it online on the world’s cruelest stage, to have it rejected and accepted by editors, and to see it fall flat and be celebrated by people who know what they are talking about. I took a leap, chased a dream, and became an author, writing and illustrating my own children’s book. I stepped out of my comfort zone to set up my own publishing imprint, navigate sales tax and LLC mumbo-jumbo, build networking relationships, learn social media best practices, and develop strategies to market my work and myself (a.k.a. the most uncomfortable and awkward job in the world). I’ve taught myself simple web design and HTML code, basic video and audio editing, principles of graphic design, how to use Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator, and I can make a pretty impressive PowerPoint. I’ve designed logos and brochures and cataloges and t-shirts. I’ve headed committees, organizations, and events that have raised thousands of dollars. I’ve run meetings, created budgets, dealt with conflict resolution, and set policies. On top of it all, I am able to accomplish all these things with a mixture of confidence and humility I didn’t have thirteen years ago, because raising tiny (and now not-so-tiny) humans has shown me that I can do practically anything and practically nothing all at the same time.
I don’t have a lot of professional training in anything but teaching, and even those best practices have likely moved on without me. Most of the skills on my new and improved “resume” are self-taught through practice, risk-taking, and the power of Google because I had to do it that way. I didn’t have the resources to pay someone else because most of these things I also did for FREE, either to better myself and my craft or as a volunteer in my community. And I’m happy to continue doing them on a voluntary basis when feeling called to do so. But I also think I am capable of being a productive, effective, and valuable employee. Who gets paid. For a change. And hopefully for more than change.
So do I have experience in a “creative agency”? No. But I’ve moved and influenced audiences with my words. I’ve worked on marketing strategies that have persuaded new students to enroll in school. I’ve brought a book into existence almost completely on my own. I’ve raised $6000 with nothing more than my laptop, a knack for question writing, a stellar taste in music, and knowing a few good friends I could count on for help…and we made it happen in a the time span of a month. Are there things an employer will want of me that I may not currently know exactly how to do or may not be “professionally” trained in? Yes. But I’m a smart woman, and clearly, I am a quick and willing learner.
Now, I have also honed my Netflix binge-watching skills in the past thirteen years, which has trained me in one last valuable lesson. Were this a television show or movie, and I was applying for a job for which I appeared under-qualified on paper, I would simply give an impassioned speech about a resume built at a company called “life” instead of letting defeat tinge my words as I surrender to the preconceived notion I wasn’t up to task. And I’d probably get the job…
…unless it was one of those quirky, indie productions. In that case, the speech would end with the interviewer looking at me like maybe I was going to get the job, then cut to a scene of me on my couch wearing sweatpants, appearing happier to be eating Hot Pockets with my underachieving dignity in tact anyway.
Or in my case, in my workout clothes checking email on my phone in my minivan at school pickup.