Dec 27, 2021

It was April of 2021 and my boss announced we would all be coming back to the office full-time, right away. After a full year of remote work, we were now going “back,” and I was nervous about it. I had began to thrive in my remote office after purchasing a standing desk and a more comfortable chair. I don’t have kids and was single at the time, so I was quarantining alone. This made it easy for me to get work done in a peaceful, quiet environment.

I didn’t have to rush my mornings anymore to get to work by 8 am. Instead, I would drive fifteen minutes to the beach for a morning run and cold plunge and then head to a new coffee shop for a hot americano. I met new people being on that side of town in the morning and it was a welcome change.

When I arrived home, sometimes I’d shower right away, other times, I’d look at my calendar and plan to shower on my lunch break if my first meeting wasn’t until the afternoon. I’d begin work from the peace of my own home. I realize, I was missing greeting my colleagues in the morning at the office, but our leadership did not supply coffee and tea, or even a break room. So I didn’t feel like I was missing much. I organized a monthly staff meeting so our team could stay connected and I tried to make it fun by encouraging our team to share photos of new hobbies they had been picking up. It was fun to see colleagues starting gardens, trying new recipes, and participating in running challenges.

I started running on the beach, working out more, taking my computer around town to work from new locations, learning astrology, meditating online with a group and completing a life coach training program. I suddenly had more time for myself and I was using it wisely. I felt rested and energized and more present with friends and family.

So now that I was to go back to the office, would I loose all of this? That is what it felt like. It was jarring from the first week. I remember the first time I got up and got ready, made my lunch and rushed out the door. It felt so distasteful to me. I was rushing again and even so, I didn’t have enough time to do my morning health routine. It was rushing or maybe just moving fast. Either way, I had become unaccustomed to it. When I got to the office, few people were there, as many had health releases and were able to extend their remote work approvals. There was still no coffee, tea, or break room and it felt more isolating than being at home.

As my body picked up speed again, so did my mind. My mind began to fill up with thoughts that were not there during remote work. It was my busy, overthinking mind and it was back. I was analyzing situations with colleagues, and noticed I had had a respite from all of this internal chatter for a year. Instead of judging my overactive mind, I recognized that I had outgrown the job itself, the team and the culture I was working in. My mind was racing, and I could use tools to calm my nervous system, and that I did, but, there were bigger issues at play. I needed a change.

It became clear to me that I had new values post pandemic and I wanted those to be shared by the people I work with. If I am going to go to an actual building to work, I want the environment to be conducive to good health and the culture supportive and positive. I was also no longer interested in the work itself. I had been working as a fundraiser in non-profits for many years and it had been fulfilling at times. But now, I knew myself better and I wanted to advance my career in the direction of teaching, counseling, coaching and advising. I had already started working with a few coaching clients and was having a great time working with people one on one to help them improve their lives. With that, I began job searching.

There was a job at the organization I worked at that would help me move my career in the right direction. I could stay with the organization and transfer to the career and professional development department and work with students on their career path. So I began preparations to interview for the three open positions in that department when hiring was to start again in the summer. So for the next three months, I was gritting and bearing it, building my resume, and envisioning my future.

I would eventually get a job as a career specialist, but not the first one I tried for. I would have to do 25 job applications, 14 interviews, and receive 4 offers over 6 months before I found the job I that felt like the right fit for me. I had no idea what I was in for at the start of 2021. I have never put so much effort into making a change in my life. I had previously showed up for one, maybe two interviews and accepted a job without much preparation. The stakes were different now though. The jobs were higher level and I was transitioning fields. I would have to draw on transferable skills and interview with confidence.

Somewhere in the middle of this process, I noticed I was improving. It can be discouraging to continue to show up for interviews and not be selected. But, on the flip side, my resumes had undergone a massive redesign and my interview skills were improving the more interviews I did. I began to feel I had a leg up on the interviewers since I had been delving into the process for so many months. By the last one I had practiced my answers to the dreaded behavioral questions many times over and had a handful of situational stories to tell about my experiences with bosses and coworkers. Throughout this process I learned that having a growth mindset is critical to success.

A growth mindset can be cultivated in every area of life, be it career, relationships, family or school. It is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you and cultivate through your efforts, strategies, and help from others. Alternatively, the fixed mindset believes your qualities are carved in stone and one is compelled to prove themselves over and over again. Fixed mindsets leave no room for failure or mistakes since that would mean one is not well endowed from birth. Check out Mindset, The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck to delve deeper into these two mindsets.

The good news is…..we get to choose which mindset we adopt as we move through life. Choosing a growth mindset will orient you toward learning.

Throughout my job search process, I also learned how to show up as myself, be calm and natural so we could feel each other out in a real way. I began to see the interview like a date, where we are all deciding if we are a fit. I am choosing them just as much as they are choosing me, so I don’t have to worry about rejection. If we don’t end up choosing each other, I’m probably better off and don’t have to spend the next few years of my life in that story.

Here are eight things I learned re-entering society this year:

  1. There is no going back to what I was doing before the pandemic

  2. The team is as important as the job

  3. Leadership values must align with my own

  4. My work must change to accommodate who I am now

  5. Authenticity enables connection

  6. Rejection is redirection

  7. My morning routine is essential. I need 2 hours for me before I start doing things for others

  8. A growth mindset is essential to success