Like I mentioned in my very first post on this site, the purpose of this blog is to share the behind-the-scenes moments that oftentimes don’t get disclosed during public “wins.” And by that I mean: the trials leading up to the testimonies. The everyday moments that make someone (or at least me) successful.
On a couple of occasions, I’ve posted a completely different narrative on this site than what I post on my professional portfolio (JessicaSmithMedia.com) about the same event. [Compare: “Familiar Faces and Spaces” to “Junior Achievement Celebrates 100 Years: Local Chapter Hosts ‘Leading Ladies’ Event” and “Keeping up Appearances” to “U.S. Small Business Administration Names Women’s Business Center of Northern Virginia as ‘Women’s Business Center of Excellence’ (Region III)”]
So, to keep that same energy, I’m going to do a similar post about my most recent professional success. [See: “Baltimore Nonprofit, Women in Transition, Inc., Prepares Foster Kids for Employment”].
I was recently invited to participate in a career development workshop for young women who are transitioning out of the Baltimore City foster care system with an organization called Women in Transition, Inc. Over a dozen professional women from the community came to the event to lead the ladies through mock interview questions that they would typically encounter when seeking an entry-level job.
I found out about this opportunity through a family friend and figured it would be a good opportunity to not only volunteer, but to also reacclimate me to the whole interviewing process as well. (Because a job is coming. Claiming it!)
This also seemed like a more suitable way for me to mentor young girls than the Leading Ladies event I had volunteered at during the spring because I would actually get facetime with them.
Anyway, as the story goes, I felt a little unqualified to give these young women advice because I was a “woman in transition” myself. I didn’t have all the answers. I don’t have the perfect story when it comes to searching for jobs or starting an entry-level job with a progressive wage that leads to a career.
But what I had was enough.
Sitting down with the girls, I was reminded of how much I love one-on-one coaching. It makes me come alive! I love pouring into people (even if my energy gets drained along the way).
What made the interaction so impactful was that we were encouraged to coach the girls through the interview questions instead of just asking them the question and expecting a perfect answer.
So, for example, I asked one girl a question and noticed that her answer veered off into a completely different topic. I took it upon myself to make her aware of her answer and to focus on the question at hand.
[I’m now realizing this is a powerful metaphor for life in general. Stay focused, Jess!]
And because of the informal style of the interviews with us, the girls raved about how much they enjoyed the experience and felt better equipped to face a real-life job interview.
For most people, this would be considered a job well done.
But you all know me by now. I’m not “most people.” I go the extra mile!
During the luncheon after the mock interviews, I took it upon myself to get to know some of the girls who I didn’t have the chance to meet beforehand.
Upon learning about some of their interests, I had friends/colleagues in mind to connect them to. I love connecting people to resources, and that passion of mine came to the surface as well with this volunteering gig.
All of the girls had resumes prepared, so I asked for them to send over to my contacts. They probably thought they were just making the resumes for the sake of the program and didn’t expect for a real connection to come out of it. Good thing they were prepared!
I was just so excited to know people in my network who could help, so why wouldn’t I offer to introduce them?
It makes so much sense on this end, but sometimes I don’t see it on the flip side. Meaning: there may be times when someone wants to connect me to an organization but I may be slow to follow up on or accept the help because I want to do it on my own. (Because: Superwoman Syndrome).
Not anymore! People don’t have to extend a hand to you, to me, to anyone. So when they do, it’s a blessing. It’s not a hand-out. It’s not an act of pity. It’s the grace of God!
Anyway, moving along with the story…
That could have been it, too. Interview, check! Connect girls to women in my network, check!
But I didn’t stop there!
Something in me kept pushing.
I had more in me to pour out, so pour out I did.
I knew that this was an event worth writing about. I wanted to share the great experience with more people and to give the organization some press coverage on my website.
Initially, I thought I would take some pictures at the event, so I brought my camera, but I was told I wasn’t able to photograph any of the girls, due to the sensitivity of their backgrounds and stories. #Noted.
I told my family friend, the Board President, how much I enjoyed the event and wanted to interview some of the girls for a write-up on my website. She and the CEO encouraged me to do so. I just wouldn’t be allowed to share names or faces.
As much as I wanted to push through and go the extra-extra mile to conduct these interviews for my website, I felt myself getting tapped out.
I didn’t have the energy in me to do anything else. Having been in such a high-energy environment during the day and giving so much of myself, I was drained.
I said to myself, “I can’t do this.”
I heard the Lord whisper to me, “You can’t or you won’t?”
And He was right. In my own strength, I didn’t have the capacity to move forward. I was exhausted from the activity of the day. Yet I’ve been learning how to lean on Him in my weakness.
I felt like it was going to be a missed opportunity if I didn’t try.
So, I took a break.
Yes, a break. Imagine that! Shocker.
Because I knew that people were still going to be around for another hour or so, I slowed myself down. Nobody said I had to do the interview right there in that moment.
I decided to go to my car to decompress and came back in the building 10-15 minutes later, feeling FULLY recharged.
I even took my heels off and came back in flip flops, lol.
When I came back and asked some of the girls if they wanted to be interviewed, some of them declined because they were tapped out, too. Completely understandable.
But some figured they had nothing better to do, so they obliged!
I wanted to get a balanced perspective, so I also interviewed one of the women who had been volunteering all week long.
To my surprise, after our interview, she flipped the role and asked me some of the same questions.
I told her it was easier being on the other side of the interview, but it was good for me to hear my own thoughts about the experience in real-time, versus a private reflection in my journal later, for instance.
We ended up chatting for a while and I stayed behind to hear more about the ins and outs of the organization as some of the leaders were debriefing.
When it was time for me to go, I felt it. I knew that I gave my all. I didn’t leave anything on the table.
I thanked the leadership for their time, handed out my makeshift business card and told them to expect an email from me when I was finished writing up the story.
I even asked for feedback before publishing the story to make sure it met their approval. It turned out that the CEO had a few additions to make to paint a fuller picture of the program (since I had a limited scope of everything that was going on, having just volunteered one day.)
The article can be found here.
But imagine if I would’ve stopped too soon– when my body and mind were a little (a lot) tired.
Several months ago, I would’ve. I would’ve taken that as a sign to disengage and go home.
But now, I give myself permission to take breaks when I need them. Even if no one else is tired or needs a break, I know my body well enough to adjust when needed.
It’s really as simple as that.
This is another metaphor for me. I’m encouraged to keep going. Keep pushing forward. To not stop just because I may grow weary.
The verse that I’ve been clinging to this week and will continue to cling to moving forward is this:
“Then Jesus said to him, ‘Get up, pick up your mat and walk.’” (John 5:8)
I may go into my revelation from this scripture a little deeper in another post, but suffice it to say that I’m ready to take steps forward by resting in Him and not waiting for my strength to return on its own.
Another verse that comes to mind is the following:
“but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:31)
I hope this was encouraging to someone who needs to know that the journey is allowed to be messy. Nobody is perfect. The picture-perfect moments are an illusion. Real life isn’t filtered.
I honestly like the behind-the-scenes stories more than the polished ones. I feel like more of an authentic writer this way.
I’ll keep playing around with both on my sites, but I’m interested to see what doors may open when I stick more to this rawer (is that a word?) tone of voice.
Until Next Time,