Written by Kristine Ward
“If you were a kitchen appliance, which one would you be and why?” asked the woman that could soon be my new boss.
“Oh, that’s easy,” I said, “a blender. Because most appliances have only one function, but a blender is versatile. And it has more than one speed. If you go full throttle all the time, you’ll burn out your motor. Sometimes, you just need to mix gently.”
The two women conducting my first interview in over 20 years looked thoughtfully at each other, smiled and nodded.
Although I left my full-time career after my firstborn’s compromised immune system wouldn’t tolerate daycare, I hadn’t sat around eating Bonbons and watching soap operas for two decades. Okay, I’ll admit in the late 90s at 4:00 p.m. Oprah kept me company while I made dinner.
I’d been productive while raising my two children. I volunteered at their schools and our church and saw to the physical, spiritual, and mental needs of my family, as well as myself. I obtained the college degree I’d always regretted not having, began and completed my memoir, and launched a freelance writing career.
Still, the resume was looking rather thin. My psychology degree wasn’t a particularly employable one without further education, even though I had an impressive student internship and won several awards.
But what I desired for the second half of my life was something many, more impressively-credentialed candidates seek—to break through the intricately-coded gate of traditional publishing. I believed in my soul that this was the path I was meant to take, and that all my accomplishments and experiences greenlighted me toward this intended purpose.
But no writing jobs were coming-a-courting, at least none that could pay me.
While I was in the middle of applying for a writing position at a large media conglomerate, the job vanished. Literally. I had uploaded my revamped resume and was in the middle of tailoring my cover letter when, poof, I received a message explaining the job had been filled. I wasted an entire afternoon on this application process.
I reacted by looking upward and shouting, “Come on! Really?”
I’d already applied for a few positions at the college I’d just graduated from, but they weren’t responding either. Then, a professor friend of mine called to tell me about a support position for a director who knew me from my internship at my college. She encouraged me to apply and then contacted the hiring manager to let her know I was interested. I wasn’t desiring a staff position that wouldn’t use my creativity or communication skills, but I applied anyway. They called the next day to set up what would be my first interview in over 20 years. I slayed it with my insightful blender response.
I’m a big believer in reading the signs that are all around us: Winding Road, Do Not Enter, Exit Now, Lane Ends, Merge, Danger, One Way – they’re everywhere. It takes thoughtful discernment, honesty and self-knowledge, however, to interpret the signs meant just for you. This is the main message of one of my favorite movies, Silver Linings Playbook.
I cheer its beautiful conclusion. I don’t like re-watching movies, but when it came out on DVD, I bought a copy. This movie resonates with me. The main character, a bi-polar man, is released from a long stay at a mental institution (this is not the part that resonated with me . . . just saying). His goal was to win back his ex-wife. He is convinced they are forever soul mates and that he’s accurately interpreting signs from the universe. Actually, his singleness of purpose stems from coming off his much-needed medication and, therefore, he cannot decipher fantasy from reality. The tunnel vision caused by his illness prevents him from reading an obvious sign that is directly in front of him.
So the question I put before you is how do we read signs accurately so that we can take necessary action and lead others to do the same? Unfortunately, there is no cookie-cutter answer. If there were, publishers would be in a bidding war for my words of wisdom.
None of us know the future and how to avoid unnecessary pit falls. But the signs that surround us will never mislead us; if we ignore them, we best prepare ourselves for the steep road ahead. Here’s some insight into 5 signs that I’ve run into many times and maybe you have, too:
- Merging Lanes. Do your actions speak so loudly that people can’t hear what you’re saying? If your words and behavior merge, you are living authentically. If not, you’ll never see the signs around you, let alone interpret them accurately.
- Yield. If you come to a complete stop instead of yielding, you might cause a pile up. Slow down, notice if there are people and opportunities that you must yield to, then proceed. Do not treat a sign to yield like a stop sign. You will never progress.
- Do Not Enter. When your lane is barricaded, is it possible you are being protected from what’s beyond it? Obey and you will be saved from danger or, at the very least, distress.
- Intersection Ahead. This one is tricky. Do you stay straight, turn right or turn left? This is when self-knowledge, quiet discernment and seeking honesty from mentors will serve you well. We are born with an internal compass, I believe, that always points to truth. Get in touch with yours.
- Detour. You will see signs that’ll slow you down and may even cripple your momentum, but do not interpret them as dead ends. Remember times in your past when you were taken off the beaten path and how exhilarating it felt to be in unknown territory. Glean lessons from these detours that you can use to help others. Move with enthusiasm in that unexpected direction.
Yes, it’s scary when the route you’ve programmed into your GPS (Goal-Positioning Sign) takes you into unfamiliar areas.
Yes, we all want to know exactly where we’re going and when we’ll arrive.
Yes, it’s uncomfortable when we hit road blocks and detours and lions, tigers and bears, oh my! But the silver linings are there—somewhere over the rainbow.
By the way, I accepted the offer my first interviewer in over 20 years made me. I read and accurately interpreted the signs placed before me, I believe. I pray the same for you.
Mentoring Opportunity: What helps or hinders you in your decision-making process?