This is the year

I’m a single girl. And I’ve done my fair share of dating over the years. Over the years, many of my friends have told me that I should be writing about my experiences. I always meant to, really I did. But just a few short weeks ago, I turned 40. If you had asked 18 year old Jen how long it would take to find her soul mate, I’m sure she would have said it would happen sometime in her 20s. If you had asked 28 year old Jen how long it would take to find her soul mate, she probably would have said it would definitely happen in her 30s. So here I am, 40 years old, and still looking for someone to love, to travel with, and to come home to. So this year, I’m finally going to start writing it all down. My goal: 40 first dates by the time I’m 41.

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Networking for the rusty (or introverted)

One way that I’m trying to step up my job search is by networking at industry events in and around Boston. In a burst of activity and optimism, I signed up for five or six events in one day. At the time, I was really excited at the prospect of getting out there, learning new things, and meeting new people.

Then, the big day arrived, and suddenly the last thing I wanted to do was go to a networking event. I hemmed and hawed. I looked at the list of potential attendees, wondering if a potential employer might be there. My friend invited me to go to trivia night at a local Irish pub, and that sounded 10 times better than going to this really cool networking event called Wonder Women (my apologies to the organizers, I really did have the best of intentions and am sure the event was terrific). Ultimately, trivia night won out. And then I felt guilty for not going to the event. What if I was meant to be there and would have made a connection that lead to my next job? What if I could have found a mentor there? What if?

So, a few days later, another potential networking event was looming: Ultra Light Startups: The Future of Web Advertising at WorkBar Boston. Again I found myself looking for an excuse not to go. Then, quite abruptly, I stood up, changed my outfit, jumped in the car, and got myself down there. I figured this one would be easy–a panel discussion where I could find a seat and get acclimated without having to make conversation with anyone right away. I took a seat, and pulled out my trusty Blackberry–a handy prop to look busy and not feel like such a wallflower.

As I’m sitting there, checking out the room while reading the headlines on CNN, I notice a woman in the row in front of me. She starts talking to the person next to her, asking questions, introducing herself, shaking hands. Then she starts talking to another person, and another. I’m amazed that she’s doing this with such ease.

Ultimately, I join in the conversation and even tell her how impressed I am that she’s engaging all the people around her. Turns out that she is also job hunting, having just graduated from MIT’s Sloan School of Management. We exchange cards and she offers to connect me with a recruiter she’s been talking to. Even better, she mentions that she attends a lot of similar networking events and suggests that we try to team up and go to some of them together.

The next day, I receive a lovely email from her with a treasure trove of information about upcoming events in Boston. Thank you, Kristin, for being my guardian angel at my very first networking event (or at least, my first one in a really long time!)

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My Social Media Job Search

The last time I had to look for a new job was in 2002. At the time, I pretty much relied on Craigslist and Monster.com. Lather, rinse, repeat. I went a little bit stir crazy because I was living at a friend’s house out in the suburbs and didn’t have a car. It was a 3-mile walk to town, just to get to a Starbucks. I got lucky–eventually a friend passed along a solid lead and I got the job at the custom media company, which lasted for the next 8 years.

This time around, my job search has been all about social media. When I found out I was getting laid off, I immediately asked my colleagues for recommendations for my LinkedIn profile.

The first interview that I landed happened when a friend of a friend sent me a message on Facebook to tell me about an opening at her company. My second interview? I reached out to someone at my target company on LinkedIn, and he kindly passed along my resume.

Craigslist does still seem to have some decent job postings. LinkedIn has helped me find some recruiters in my field. After reading The Zen of Social Media Marketing, I decided to focus more on Twitter and start this blog. I’m also planning to start attending some networking events around Boston to make connections face to face, including FutureM.

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Brave little tomatoes.

I’ve been a little obsessed with tomatoes this summer. I’m growing my own, thanks to the  Topsy Turvy upside-down tomato planter. My little crop of tomatoes is doing fairly well, although some of them have been splitting open. I’ve probably been watering them a little too enthusiastically. But mostly I’m just amazed that I’ve managed to keep the plant alive for this long.

My recent addiction is to heirloom tomatoes. There’s this great little farmstand in Wenham, MA, that I drive by on my way home from the beach. They have had the most amazing heirloom tomatoes all summer. I can’t drive by the place without stopping and buying their tomatoes (and their corn is pretty darn good, too.)

I found this recipe in Women’s Health magazine for Drunken Little Tomatoes, which I made for my friends the other night.

baby heirloom tomatoes marinated in vodka

These were so incredibly good, and such a great conversation piece.

I also tried the Heirloom Tomato & Peach salad recipe, which was equally delicious.

green zebra heirloom tomatoes and yellow peaches

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How far I’ve come

Nine years ago today, the San Francisco Chronicle published an article about me.

At the time, I was a laid-off dotcommer doing freelance data entry work for Hotwire.com by day and helping my friend Patty host pink slip parties by night. I remember being so excited about the article, and was thrilled when the paper sent a photographer to follow me around for the night. Little did I know that the editor would choose that photo out of the ones taken that night. Seriously, couldn’t they find one where I looked normal?

So yeah, the article was published on September 9, 2001. Two days later, my friend Tyra (also immortalized in that lovely photo) called me in tears while I was getting ready for work and told me to turn on the TV.

It’s funny how much your life can change in two days. I was so sure that I was going to stay in San Francisco. And then something terrible happened that changed everything. I needed to be back in the same time zone with the people I loved.

I moved back to the Boston area in October of 2001. The job market wasn’t any better here, and it took me a while to find full-time work. When I just needed to do something and get out of the house, I took a waitressing job at a country club.

After a long search, I found the position with the small company on the North Shore, and that’s where I was for the next 8 years.

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Figuring out what’s next.

For some professionals, when they start looking for a new position, the job title that they’re looking for is fairly cut and dry. For me, not so much. I started my career on the agency side, which had a very structured career path. Then I worked for an internet company where we were allowed to create our own job titles. At one point, I think mine was “Click Chick”. For the past 8 years, I was working for a small business with a fairly flat structure. Our titles didn’t really change that much, and nobody really seemed to mind.

It was all well and good, until it was time to update my resume. I don’t think my last title reflects my level of experience or tenure with the company.

Now that I am actively looking for a new job, I’m thinking that there are many different job titles that could apply to me:

Account supervisor. Marketing manager. Senior account manager. Marketing project manager. Online producer. Managing editor.

This begs the question: is this working for me, or is it working against me?

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It’s time to go back to school.

Labor Day. I think it’s rather appropriate to give life to a new venture today. Even though I haven’t been in school since 1995, I still associate the first weekend of September with getting organized and getting back down to business.

I’ve had the summer off, you see. I was laid off from my very comfortable job as a senior account manager at a custom media company right before Memorial Day weekend. After eight years. This is significant because I have had the luxury of not having to look for a new job for eight years. It has also made an impression on me because before I found this last job, I was laid off and out of full time work for a really long time.

So I started looking for new work right away. I’ve been interviewing, but no offers yet. I’ve also been going to the beach a lot. And going on impromptu, almost-free vacations. Every offer to tag along on someone else’s trip, every invitation to someone’s family member’s beach house, I have gratefully accepted.

This summer has been a gift. A slightly uneasy gift, but still really wonderful. I’m tan. My herb garden has never been happier (or more consistently watered). I’ve been doing a great deal of yoga, and am doing my best to be zen about my situation.

Suddenly, yesterday, I got a few flashes of inspiration. In the last 24 hours I have:

  1. Started this blog
  2. Registered my own domain name (jenodonnell.com)
  3. Signed up for a cooking series at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts
  4. Registered for a few media and marketing events around Boston

So I’m thinking this blog will be about finding a new job in this economy, educating myself on social media, and becoming a better cook.

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