“I Will Adapt” [en]

A few years ago (don’t ask me exactly when), I started watching Star Trek as my “goodnight” TV series. I chose it because it was entertaining enough but not so fascinating that I would stay up watching episode after episode. Well, that worked out pretty well for TOS and the early seasons of TNG, and completely broke down with DS9 (do watch, if you haven’t yet). But still, by that time, I’d gotten better at “just saying no” to “just another episode”. I’m currently making my way through Voyager and am hugely enjoying the developing character of Seven of Nine.

Hence the title for this blog post: “I will adapt”, which I have heard her say many times these last days.

What will I adapt to?

For the first time in my life, I feel like I have a hold on my future, instead of being swept this way and that by the whims of life. Two major life changes explain this:

  • ADHD diagnosis and treatment – seriously, this is like finally getting admin rights to the operating system my life
  • a stable (employed) job for the foreseeable future – something I haven’t had in a very long time, between self-employment, short-term “this’ll do for the time being” positions, and unemployment.

I’ll probably get more into this in a future post, but one of the effects of ADHD for me is that I was caught in a “permanent present”, slave to immediate gratification and impulses. I definitely harnessed this way of functioning to make the most of it. I built a 10+ year freelance career out of it, a huge network, knowledge, expertise and skills in all sorts of fields, and more. I have been (am) an expert at seizing the opportunities that present themselves. Having a long-term objective and doing things to reach it was, however, pretty much impossible. Short-term planning, yes. Project management, yes – because I have to “project manage” pretty much everything I want to do. So my career went where the winds took me, and my personal life and ambitions lacked a sense of direction – though I always did know what I found interesting and what I didn’t.

This means that now, concretely, I am in a situation where not only do I have a pretty clear vision of what available time I have “for myself”, but making plans for these moments is a lot less daunting. I have 5 weeks of holidays this year: I’ve put them down in the calendar, and thinking about what I want to do/where I want to go for each of them does not fill me with dread. This kind of exercise used to.

I have week-ends, too, and the ability to make plans for them. This week-end I’m at the chalet. Next week-end I’ve saved a day for a hike. I write these things down in my calendar and I follow through, with way less effort than it used to take.

That is the positive change I’m adapting to. Being able to make plans. Even for next year! I’ve been wanting to go to Thailand for a long time, and now, between the job stability and my new-found ability to project myself in future activities, I can say things like “hmm, in 2024 I’m going to use two of my vacation weeks to go to Thailand”. For example.

The more difficult changes I’m adapting to is how “little” time I have outside of work. One of the aspects of my hyperactivity is that I am never short of ideas, projects, people to see or new things to discover. Previously, I had more available time, but my ability to actually use that time for things I wanted was impaired. Now, I am able to be much more productive with the time I have, but… there are a few buts.

First, I’m working four days a week, and work does tire me (surprise). So, I need to rest (another surprise). I have evening activities (judo, singing) 3-4 days a week. Does that already sound like a lot? I’m just getting started…

Basically, my “new life” is very clearly confronting me to the fact that I have to make choices and that I cannot do everything I would like to do. This is life, it isn’t news, of course, but for me, in my “old life”, this wasn’t so much of an issue. In a weird way, because I was pretty much always stuck taking what was in front of me, I didn’t have a clear view of how unrealistic my aspirations were. I was always failing, but also always doing-or-trying-to-do, and on the forefront was a state of constant frustration and overwhelm that I wasn’t managing to do where I really wanted. I was, generally, quite unhappy.

So, now I can see clearly: if I’m doing judo and singing four nights a week, and managing a very busy support community on Facebook, and trying to go to the chalet and ski in winter, hike and take the boat out in summer, in addition to working 80%, managing my household and admin obligations, and getting the rest I need… that doesn’t leave much time for keeping up with people I’m not otherwise seeing through shared activities.

RIP my social life.

This really sucks. I’ve always had a huge social life, lots of friends, and already before, too many lovely people I want to keep in touch with on a regular basis. But now it’s worse on a whole different level. I already struggle to keep to seeing my family from time to time.  But I have to accept that with the choices I’ve made and priorities I’ve set, I have less time to socialise and maintain friendships, less time to “hang out”, less time to dive into new exciting projects, less time for the unexpected.

I will adapt.

Life as an individual has its challenges, but despite all, it definitely beats being a Borg drone.

RIP Erica [fr]

Ça peut finir comme ça
Une vie de chat
Au Tierspital
Le jardin a fait place
A une cage à oxygène
La liberté
Aux machines
Tu n’es déjà plus là
Même si ton coeur bat
Tu as fait de ton mieux
Et nous aussi
Mais ça n’a pas suffi

Entre mes larmes
Un festival de “j’aurais pu”
Le doute toujours
On aurait bien pu faire autrement
Mais au final

Tu n’as pas juste fait mieux que rien
Me dit-elle sagement avec amour
Tu as été splendide
Tu as donné tout ce que tu pouvais
Quand il en avait besoin
Sans pour autant te griller complètement
Au point de ne plus pouvoir être là pour toi
Ou pour d’autres qui ont et auront besoin
De ce que tu pourras leur donner
Ce que tu fais est suffisant
Et parfait
Parce que tu l’as fait
Les hypothétiques et les regrets
Feront toujours pâle figure
Face au vrai
Face au réel
Face au fait

Ça peut finir comme ça
Une vie de chat
Pas comme on voudrait
Jamais vraiment comme il faudrait
Avec des regrets et des doutes
Des larmes plein le coeur
Et des nuits sans sommeil.

Erica nous a quittés au petit matin, malgré l’excellente prise en charge dont il a bénéficié nuit et jour toute cette semaine au Tierspital de Berne pour un abcès au foie.

Looking at 2022 [en]

[fr] Un récapitulatif de mon année 2022

I haven’t written in ages (a familiar refrain) and figured I would use the pretext of 2022 coming to a close to jot a few things down. No particular order, just follow my brain.

I’m still listening to a lot of podcasts. Here are some: Meta de choc, On The Media, This American Life, Vethologie, Radiolab, Conspirituality, Atlas Obscura, The Moth, Hidden Brain, The Ezra Klein Show, NPR Politics, Short Wave, Science Vs, The Pulse, TWiV, Planet Money, Vacarme, Fresh Air, 99 Percent Invisible, The Daily (NYT), Brian Lehrer, Consider This, Hacking Humans, Trade Offs, Throughline, My Cat’s Tale, Gates Investigates… and Sleep With Me when I can’t sleep. Just realised writing this list that I’ve dropped a lot of Gimlet shows now they’ve gone Spotify-only (I use overcast to listen to my podcasts). In the “serialised investigations” department, The Trojan Horse Affair (Serial), Will Be Wild (Trump, Inc) and The Disappearance of Nuseiba Hasan (Conviction season 3).

After finishing Star Trek The Next Generation, I’m deep in Deep Space Nine, which is absolutely wonderful. I’ve also picked up (intermittently) the last books of the Foreigner series, that I’ve been reading for years now and highly recommend.

This has been a year of managing to do judo reasonably regularly (of course, still also regularly absent because of injuries), singing, hiking. Not much sailing and just a little skiing, but I hope to do more next year. I tried stand-up paddling and to my surprise, really enjoyed it and am planning on taking it up this spring. Along with snow-shoeing this winter. I figure that with 50 on the horizon, I should make sure I also have physical activities available that are a little less “rough” than judo and skiing.

The big event of the year has been starting a new job. It’s with the national train company, in the field of energy maintenance, near Bern. Quite a change from what has been my professional life until now, in a way (and I’m glad about it), but also a perfect continuation for my interest in management, strategy, and basically, how a business runs. I’m learning a lot and improving my German – at the same time, discovering what it is to function in an environment where I’m linguistically challenged, not something I’m used to. I’m really enjoying the environment I’m in and super happy about my new position.

2022 is the first complete year I’ve been through since my ADHD diagnosis and treatment (end 2021). And I can really say that it has changed my life. I finally feel alive and not surviving. I started being able to accomplish things I wanted to again. I stopped feeling overwhelmed all the time. My life felt like it was like it was supposed to be, instead of feeling like there was something horribly wrong with me all the time. Despite the stress of not having a job during the first part of the year, I was able to enjoy my life and learn more and more about how I function and how to manage myself. I already had quite a lot figured out (or I wouldn’t have made it this far), but the tweaks I started putting in place really made a difference. Long-term personal projects didn’t seem like something out of reach anymore. I even felt up to inviting my family over for Christmas.

Starting my new job has of course been a big change in the way I organise my life, and I do feel I have temporarily backtracked in some of my progress (personal admin and projects, social life). But it’s pretty normal and I’m not too worried that I’ll catch up again with myself over the coming year.

During 2022 I also lost 10kg – on purpose, of course. I’d been slowly putting on weight over the years, and it sped up these last couple of years. Coming close to 90kg on the scale got me serious about doing something. My ADHD treatment also helped, certainly (better impulse control). I was followed by a nutritionist who really helped me tweak my food habits for better balance and more reasonable portions. I have never been on a diet in my entire life and didn’t intend to – I just knew I was eating “too much” and probably not making the best decisions regarding what to eat, and when (I never looked at the calorie count on food, so for example had no idea cheese was so… energy-dense). Overall the effort required was minimal, I feel better in my body (mobility) and fit in my large collection of 14L trousers again.

I’m still active managing the Feline Diabetes community I founded nearly 5 years ago on Facebook. 2022 is clearly the year the community for veterinarians took off (1.2k members and counting). I was even invited to give a talk on the occasion of the annual veterinary congress in France. An accomplishment I’m pretty proud of!

I still have my coworking space eclau, but have really had trouble getting it going again after the pandemic. I’ve also kept a small independent side-business in consulting, but I’m keeping it very minimal right now as I want to focus my energy on my new job and my personal activities and projects first and foremost. I continued my training in the Palo Alto brief therapy approach, and that is also on the back burner until next summer, when I’ll be going to Paris for a course in hypnosis and brief therapy. I should have gone this year but I got covid just before I was supposed to leave.

Overall, 2022 was a really good year for me, and I can’t wait to see what 2023 has in store!

Twitter Exodus and Mastodon [en]

My online world is abuzz with people leaving Twitter, discussing Twitter, discussing what Elon Musk is doing with Twitter and its employees, and how Mastodon is going to deal with the influx of Twitter refugees, in a September that never ended kind of way.

Clearly, my Twitter usage has seriously dwindled over the years. I joined early – December 2006. A few internet lifetimes ago. Facebook has clearly taken over my online presence, and if I’m making an overt effort to be present elsewhere, it’s here, on this blog. TikTok makes me feel old, and miss the good ol’ days we had with Seesmic.

So I’m not “leaving” Twitter. I honestly rarely saw the point of ever “leaving” anything. I tend to fade away. But I’ve had a mastodon account, on octodon.social, since April 17th 2017, my mailbox tells me. It was the first time in a long time that a new platform started showing up on my radar and it felt worth trying it out. I even wrote about it in my newsletter (looks like this is a post I forgot to import here… note for later). But I didn’t use it much. I’d drop in every now and again to see how things were, like I was doing with Twitter these last years.

Given so many people are joining Mastodon now, I looked for an easier way to find the people I’m following on Twitter there: fedfinder really helped (tip: add your Mastodon handle somewhere in your username or description so that scrapers such as this one can find it) and allowed me to follow a good hundred people or so I knew on Mastodon, in a few clicks and a few minutes of patience. So, now my Mastodon news feed feels a bit more like a familiar place. It still has the feel of the social media platforms of old, in the early days, but I’m not sure it will last.

What is happening with Twitter is making me think of other social situations where the good people leave because bad things are happening, and the only ones left in the room at the end are the bullies or the extremists. That’s one of the reasons I’m not leaving. I’m not fighting for the platform either, but I don’t want to remove myself and contribute to creating the void into which ugliness can freely pour.

I feel sad about what’s happening. The sadness of the favorite park or field of your childhood being bulldozed to build apartment blocks. The sadness of a restaurant you used to hang out with changing owners and becoming unrecognisable. The sadness of the world changing, whether it’s leaving you behind, or you leaving it behind.

I honestly don’t think Twitter will survive this, at least not in a form that will be recognisable as the Twitter we knew and loved. But it’s not time for me to pull the plug on it yet.

Traitez d’abord les mails récents au retour de vacances! [fr]

Quand vous revenez de vacances ou d’absence et que vous êtes devant une pile de mails, traitez les mails les plus récents en premier.

Je réalise régulièrement que cette façon de procéder ne va pas forcément de soi. C’est vrai qu’on a tendance à penser chronologiquement, ou bien commencer par le début, et donc se dire qu’on va faire les choses dans l’ordre.

Mais la réalité c’est que le mail d’il y a trois semaines a bien des chances d’être caduque, surtout s’il était un peu urgent. Les urgences d’il y a trois semaines ne sont plus des urgences, par contre les urgences d’aujourd’hui le sont encore. Il vaut donc mieux commencer par elles.

Ce mail d’il y a trois semaines a peut-être aussi été suivi par un mail il y a une semaine qui dit “laisse tomber, j’ai trouvé une solution”. Ne vaut-il donc pas la peine de voir ce mail-là en premier?

A plus forte raison si vous êtes en copie d’une “discussion mail” à plusieurs, il vaut mieux voir l’état de la discussion aujourd’hui (qui est peut-être close) plutôt que de répondre d’abord au premier mail, puis au deuxième, etc. – pour ensuite découvrir que nos réponses sont inutiles parce que la situation a évolué entre-temps.

Il arrive aussi que l’on ait tellement de mails qu’on n’arrive pas à tout rattraper. Dans la plupart des cas de figure, ce n’est pas un désastre, pour autant que l’on traite d’abord les mails récents! Si un mail envoyé reste sans réponse et était important, la personne va se manifester à nouveau et donc se retrouver en haut de votre boîte de réception, et son mail sera traité.

Il vaut aussi la peine, avant de passer beaucoup de temps sur une ancienne demande, de vérifier avec l’expéditeur si celle-ci est toujours d’actualité.

Bonne reprise!

Paradoxe ou punition? [fr]

Que faire quand on a tendance à “zapper” des choses qu’on devrait faire, quotidiennement par exemple? La vaisselle, se doucher, préparer ses affaires, passer le fil dentaire, répéter son voc allemand…

Généralement, on tente par tous les moyens de se pousser à “faire”. On met des rappels. On construit des habitudes. On essaie de se motiver. On se récompense. Mais des fois ça ne suffit pas. Et si on a un TDAH, la difficulté est encore augmentée, car le passage de l’intention à l’action présente un challenge particulier.

L’autre jour, je mentionnais qu’une approche “paradoxale” pouvait aussi fonctionner pour ce genre de problème. C’est d’ailleurs grâce à ça que j’ai mis en place l’habitude (maintenant solide) de faire ma vaisselle au moins tous les soirs. De façon très résumée, l’approche est la suivante: si je “zappe” ma vaisselle, alors je n’ai pas le droit de la faire durant 4 jours.

A mon étonnement, cette façon de faire a été comprise comme punitive. J’aimerais expliquer ici en quoi elle ne l’est pas.

La situation de départ, c’est que la personne ne fait pas la tâche X. Elle ne fait pas sa vaisselle, ou ne se douche pas, ou ne prépare pas ses affaires. Elle aimerait, ou pense qu’elle devrait, mais n’arrive pas. Elle se dit “il faut que je le fasse! je vais le faire! je veux le faire! je devrais le faire!” – bref, tout va dans le sens de “faire”.

Le grand et simple enseignement de l’approche systémique de Palo Alto (à laquelle je me forme) est que si une situation indésirable persiste, malgré nos efforts répétés pour y remédier, c’est de toute évidence que ce que nous faisons pour tenter d’en sortir ne marche pas. Si ça marchait, le problème serait résolu. Si me dire “promis, à partir de maintenant je fais ma vaisselle tous les soirs” marchait, je ne me retrouverais plus jamais devant une pile de 4 jours de vaisselle. On croit souvent avoir “tout essayé”, mais notre “tout essayé” va toujours dans le même sens. Il y a un thème commun à toutes nos “tentatives de solution”. Ici: “je peux et je dois faire”.

Pire que de ne pas résoudre le problème auquel on se confronte, ces “tentatives de solution” participent à l’entretenir. (Ça, c’est un peu complexe à expliquer simplement, donc je ne vais pas le faire ici, mais ça a à voir avec la théorie des systèmes.)

Un moyen “punitif” d’essayer de se pousser à faire serait: “si je ne me douche pas aujourd’hui, je n’ai pas le droit de regarder la télé”. Mais on reste toujours dans le même thème “je dois faire”. Alors qu’en réalité on est (souvent activement) en train de ne pas faire.

L’approche paradoxale, qu’on retrouve dans l’idée de “prescrire le symptôme”, cherche à nous sortir de ce thème du “je dois faire”. Le but, c’est de changer la dynamique “énergétique” (pas au sens ésotérique, hein vous me connaissez) de notre posture face au problème. On sort de “je dois faire” et on va vers “en fait non, je dois pas faire”. Ça ôte la pression. C’est OK de ne pas faire. Et d’un autre côté, ça en met (et donc ça change la motivation) car on va dire: “c’est OK de pas faire, mais si tu fais pas, c’est sans doute que pour le moment c’est trop pour toi de le faire, donc prends un break et ne fais pas pendant x jours”. On prend la logique de ce que fait la personne (elle dit qu’elle veut faire mais en réalité, dans ses actes, elle ne fait pas) et on la met à plat sur la table, on dit “OK”, alors voyons ce qui se passe si on va dans ce sens, si on pousse cette logique plus loin au lieu de lutter contre. Ne faisons pas! Et voyons où ça nous mène.

L’autre levier qu’actionne cette approche c’est que ça neutralise le discours qu’on se tient souvent quand on “ne fait pas”: on se dit “bah, tant pis, je fais pas aujourd’hui mais je ferai demain; aujourd’hui j’ai pas le courage; je saute juste un jour, c’est pas grave, un jour.” C’est en se racontant cette histoire, qu’on va se raconter également le lendemain, qu’on se retrouve à ne pas avoir touché son voc allemand pendant une semaine. Parce que sur le moment, à chaque fois qu’on renonce ou abandonne, on se dit “c’est juste une fois, c’est pas grave”.

Mais si on dit “tu peux ne pas faire, c’est OK, mais alors quand tu ne fais pas, vas-y à fond quoi, ne fais pas pendant 3 jours”, alors on ne peut plus se dire “je fais pas aujourd’hui mais je ferai demain.” Ça devient: je fais aujourd’hui, ou bien je saute les 3 prochains jours? Les deux sont OK. Il n’y a pas de punition. Ne pas faire, c’est la situation par défaut. C’est ce que la personne fait déjà. Donc au pire, elle est pas moins avancée qu’avant, avec le bonus qu’on déculpabilise le fait de ne pas faire. Et au mieux, ça marche.

Vous aurez compris que le succès de cette méthode dépend de la logique interne qui sous-tend la procrastination. Elle ne peut donc pas s’appliquer à l’aveugle. Mais si vous sentez que la pression que vous vous mettez à faire a plutôt tendance à empirer le problème que l’arranger, c’est peut-être une piste à envisager. Mais je vous préviens: il faut du courage.

Heatwave [en]

It’s 9am, Sunday morning. I’m back in my flat to check the temperature. It’s creeping up already. I close everything up and shed a tear.

I got the temperature under 27°C this morning. Downstairs, in the coworking space I’m lucky to be able to hang out in, it’s nearly 1°C cooler, but also rising. At 8:30, it was already too hot to have breakfast on my balcony, like I usually do.

Lausanne is hardly the worst-hit place. I guess the lake helps a bit. Other parts of the country are suffering way worse. France, Spain… India of course.

I’ve dealt with worse heat than now when I was in India, of course. But buildings here aren’t designed for heat. My flat covers the south side of the building. Even at night when the temperature goes down (not that far down) the walls are still packed with heat they ate up during the day. The bathroom downstairs is close to 30°, though it’s on the inside of the building, because it shares a wall with the heating room.

The heating room is an oven. Now I understand (maybe) why in India we just heat the water we need when we need it, instead of having permanent hot water running around in the taps. But that’s not all of it: a few days ago I realised the radiators weren’t cold. I’d turned of the central thermostat, but clearly, the central heating was still keeping them warm. I turned them all off manually, of course, but WTF. Shouldn’t central heating be turned off in June when we already had troublesome heat in May? SMH.

I remember my first real heatwave here, back in 2003. I was writing (dictating) my dissertation. I was living and sleeping on my balcony. It was exciting.

For a few years now, we’ve had these “exceptional heatwaves” every summer. They are not exciting at all now. It’s clear they are not going away. I bought a portable A/C two years ago. I have a bunch of fans. I’m seriously thinking about putting up a ceiling fan in my bedroom. I’m wondering if heat will drive me up in the mountains ten, fifteen years from now. The fact that this will not get better is sinking in.

Until recently, I’d managed to not feel too panicky about climate change. Not that I was in denial that it was happening, but rather that I had other stuff to get worked up about. I know that solutions to a global problem like this are not individual but collective, and there are people fighting the fight. But it’s not working. I read an opinion piece the other day that actually helped me understand Extinction Rebellion – particularly the “unauthorised demonstration” part that I previously looked upon rather disapprovingly. Governments and institutions need public pressure to prioritise climate change. It’s sad, but that’s how it is. Those whose interests do not go in the direction of protecting the environment have their own ways of putting pressure on governments, and they are not shy of using them.

So today, as I closed the windows in my flat to keep the heat out, some of the hope I used to have rolled down my cheeks.

Regarder passer le monde [fr]

En anglais, on dit “watching the world go by”. J’aime beaucoup cette expression. Elle sent les vacances, le repos, la sérénité de celui ou celle qui peut se permettre de s’arrêter un moment, perdu dans ses pensées, regardant sans vraiment regarder ces instants de la vie des autres qui défilent devant soi.

J’ai fait ça aujourd’hui. Je suis allée au parc, me poser sur un banc. L’idée m’est venue après un repas sur le balcon d’une voisine, qui habite plusieurs étages au-dessus de moi. Depuis son balcon, on voit la vie du pâté d’immeubles, les gens qui vont et viennent, les voitures qui passent, s’arrêtent, repartent. Depuis le mien, j’ai plutôt une vision un peu myope de ce qui se passe juste sous mon nez, dominée par un grand arbre plein de feuilles.

Regarder passer le monde. Regarder défiler la vie. J’ai réalisé que j’avais peu d’opportunités de faire ça. L’oisiveté ne me vient pas facilement, et je me rends compte qu’il est important pour moi de cultiver des “temps morts”, pour me reposer, me ressourcer, récupérer.

Même quand je ne fais rien, quand je ne veux rien faire, je suis comme tractée vers l’action. La vie numérique dans mon téléphone, évidemment, mais aussi lire, écrire, photographier, documenter, observer attentivement, cogiter… Ça m’est arrivé, dans le parc. D’abord, j’ai éteint le podcast que j’écoutais en marchant. Après quelques minutes de rien, j’ai voulu enregistrer mes réflexions et impressions. J’ai pensé à quelque chose qui nécessitait l’envoi d’un message à une connaissance. J’ai fait un effort explicite pour ranger mon téléphone dans mon sac, et juste regarder autour de moi. J’ai eu rapidement envie de prendre mon carnet pour écrire. Je me suis retenue. J’ai regardé passer les gens et les pigeons, regardé les bateaux minuscules sur le lac, humé l’odeur de l’été, et laissé mon esprit vagabonder.

Je me suis dit qu’il fallait que je revienne. Que peut-être, une fois, je fasse le saut de venir sans téléphone, ni cahier, ni appareil photo. Ce n’est pas évident comme idée, surtout de venir sans appareil photo.

Ça s’est plutôt bien passé, en somme. J’ai pu apprécier d’être là et de ne rien faire. C’est assez étonnant pour moi, de pouvoir faire ça. Toute ma vie, j’ai été courbée sous le poids de cette longue liste de choses à faire que je n’arrivais pas à faire. Un poids coupable qui venait appuyer sur mes rares moments de répit, parce que je devrais plutôt d’abord faire ceci ou cela. Et me reposer ensuite. Mais je savais bien que je ne pouvais jamais en voir le bout, de cette liste de choses à faire. Je n’arrivais même pas à entamer le début.

Depuis six mois, tout a changé. Je “gère” enfin. La liste existe toujours, elle est toujours longue (et le sera certainement toujours, merci hyperactivité). Mais j’avance. Les choses importantes et urgentes sont faites. Et même plus. C’est sous contrôle. Je n’avance peut-être pas aussi vite que je voudrais, mais j’avance, je vois où je vais, et je sais qu’il n’y a pas d’horribles mauvaises surprises qui m’attendent au détour d’un chemin. J’arrive maintenant à prendre du temps pour moi, du temps de repos et de plaisir, sans mauvaise conscience. C’est une libération.

Mais voilà, je suis encore en train d’apprendre à faire ça. C’est nouveau. Malgré moi, je me retrouve souvent un peu automatiquement à faire. Et mon cerveau a besoin de passer plus de temps en mode par défaut, j’en ai conscience. Juste là, me poser sur un banc au parc semble être une bonne piste.

The Job Market: Finding Where To Fit In [en]

I’ve been looking for a new job for a while now. And with time – and a few interviews – and rejections – I’ve come to an understanding of one thing that is making things tricky for me. Any good problem has multiple causes, so this is of course just one of them, but it’s the one that has to do with me, how my life played out, decisions I made, my experience, my skillset.

It’ll be a surprise to no reader of this blog that I have a rather atypical career path. Just having been self-employed for over ten years does that to you (and there is more). I don’t know about other job markets, but here, although everybody will tell you that having an atypical profile is an asset, recruiters are not readily going to pounce on you to hire you. And honestly, I don’t blame them: if you have interested and motivated candidates that ideally fit your “persona” for the job, why take a risk with somebody who doesn’t, however promising? We don’t like risks that much.

It quickly became clear to me that there was a big difference between jobs I would be capable of doing and jobs I had a chance of being hired for. There are many jobs I could do. But not that many where, in comparison with all the other candidates applying for that position, I would seem like the best person to hire.

Most of the time, it boils down to experience. Especially at my age and seniority level, they’ll often be looking for somebody who has “occupied a similar position for 5 years or more”. I haven’t, obviously. I have the skillset, but I don’t have the indicator in my career path that one would expect to confirm it. One of the reasons is that I have been self-employed most of my career, and the other one is that I learn fast. My experience goes a long way. But that’s not a very convincing argument on a job application.

The corollary is, of course, that when I apply for more junior positions, where less experience is expected, I don’t get in either, because I’m overqualified.

Now, where do I stand the best chance of “fitting the profile” when it comes to work experience? The answer is, as far as I can see, in digital communications/communication strategy, as this is the core of the work I did while I was self-employed, and the first two years after that. Digital transformation also fits the bill, but most positions in that area require more enterprise/organisational change management than I can demonstrate. So, I’ve been focusing my efforts on Communications Manager/Digital Communications Manager positions.

The problem seems to remain, however. Other candidates for the same positions often have more formal management experience, which is reassuring for a recruiter. I have to say this is starting to seem more and more like a catch-22. And knowing the value that I can bring an employer, not being able to get a foot in the door is quite frustrating.

Whether you’re in recruitment or not, I’m interested in your thoughts about this. Am I onto something, or am I “finding excuses” and I just need to try harder – or try differently? Have you found yourself in a similar or parallel position? What am I missing?

I’d like to add (because people who see me as The Freelancer, which I was indeed for most of my career, sometimes have trouble coming around to this) that I really want to find an employed position. I don’t particularly want to become self-employed again. I guess this is something I might detail in an other article!

I’m also aware that networking is the key. And I’m starting to think that in my case, it really is the only key.