Monday, September 7, 2009

Coping on getting some work

I've got to get myself financially in the black this year. It is Monday morning, a week after I've put the kids in school, and, I've got to get my act together. No more leaning on Ma (thank you!), no more leaning on the French State (generous as it is), it is time to land on my feet. This was a far easier task fresh out of University, 22 years of age, with no kids. I just popped around and got temp jobs or whatever. I paid my bills, lived in a tiny apartment, ate minimally. No biggie.

However, I am now 43, divorced with two kids, and have a large mortgage on my house. I'm also living in a foreign country where I feel the permanent disadvantage of a not-complete mastery of the language (particularly the written aspect). And, just in case we weren't all aware of it, there is a world-wide economic crisis going on. Hirings are few and far between for many many industries. Will I succeed where others are struggling? At least I know I'm not alone.

Last year I spent time talking to a counselor appointed by Pole Emploi and also at the Nîmes-based CIBC-- Centre Inter-Institutionel des Bilans de Compétences, a hub of trained psychologists put on this earth to help you figure out where your strengths are and how to put these onto a visually punchy résumé and get it out there to potential employers. I took full advantage of this marvelous socialist system and its free (FREE!!!!) employment and life direction advice. I've been counseled for over ten hours (8 sessions) by professionals. So, I should have a clue.

Problem is, I've actually never gotten a job based on a CV and an interview before. People practice these things. They master interview techniques, self-presentation, key phrases, etc., Call me spoiled or blessed, but I've had many work experiences, but none difficult to obtain: I've worked for my mother helping to run a summer arts festival (great fun and very busy); for Princeton University Press (I was at school next door); for a photography gallery (I walked in the door and admired the Japanese photography on the wall, having written about it in my senior thesis); for a Japanese university (nepotism via Ma, though I must say, I was a good employee to them and they kept me on stipend for two years after my original job was finished, ostensibly to correct English text, but I think also to say thank you); for a Parisian editor -- this grew out of my internship at the Centre National de la Photographie; and then, I created the cooking school and b&b with Erick where I spent most of the past 14 years. Résumé? CV? nah, they were never necessary. I was told to just come in on Monday ready to work. OK.

And now, my means of earning a living in the most recent past, tourism, is not the powerful market it used to be -- which isn't such a bad thing, as much as I loved my clients and touring Provence, I don't miss spending from 7AM to 11PM caring for people other than my children. I'm still carrying around a serious guilt complex concerning my abandonment of my little boys to the care of others for nearly ten years. So, I'll still tour occasionally, but I'll fit these tours into the kids' school schedule, and keep them to a reasonable minimum.

I am facing the need to earn a living along somewhat normal lines, though excluding 9 to 5 in preference to being available to the kids (including my four boarders).

What to do when you're an ex-pat living in France? Well, I've always been told I write well, and thanks to my highly verbal and doctorate-educated parents, my grasp of the English/American language is something I can proffer to a potential employer. I enjoy teaching, I enjoy reading. I enjoy challenges. So, I'm seeking to do what I proudly did not do in Japan -- teach English. But I'm also hoping to get some more translations like the wine tasting notes I did last year, web sites, and hopefully some more cook books.

To this end, I'm polishing up the CV and writing letters -- which are then re-written by more eloquent girl-friends, as the art of writing professional letters in French is not yet a skill of which I can boast.

I've already had one interview with the Wall Street Institute in Avignon to teach English. Apparently I'm on the short list, but more than that, I won't know for a time. And today, I've sent off two CVs to the Rencontres d'Arles de la Photographie, a place I've interned in (that's how I met Erick in the first place) and where I've occasionally served as an interpreter for Japanese photographers. The second I sent to Harmonio Mundi, the editor of classical music based in Arles. I underlined my love and minor-mastery of the bassoon (I'm ok in a teen age orchestra, and playing chamber music with amateurs), and my participation in a singing group at school, hoping these little extras might catch their attention.

Thus, a somewhat profitable Monday morning. Pay bills, cope on jobs, care for Filou's hurt foot. Check.


nathalie in avignon said...

You know Madeleine, if you need help with proof-reading and the odd re-writing of a CV or "lettre de motivation" you can always ask me, I'll be happy to help.
My mastery of written French language is equivalent to yours in English and I'll be happy to help.

I don't have the time to turn myself into your ghost writer but checking a letter and changing the odd "tournure de phrase" only takes a few minutes and I'll be happy to give you a hand.


Connie said...

Hello Madeleine, We met some years back at a IACP conference when Jonas was just a tiny baby, I knew the Carpitas. I live near Tours, married to a Brit. Saw your blog link on Robert Reynolds' site, thought I'd send a note. Another ex-pat from the world of food, would love to be in touch with you, I'm also teaching English at home, for instance, and leading culinary tours when the economy isn't tanking. I'll send you a Facebook friend request to facilitate. Cheers! Connie Barney Wilson