About 99% of the job descriptions I've read in the last twelve months stipulate that applicants must be able to multitask and manage competing priorities. My cover letters tend to outline ways in which I’ve succeeded in doing both those things in a professional environment, but secretly I always want to include a sentence or two that says something along the lines of, “Of course I can do this—can’t you tell that multitasking and prioritizing are a way of life for me right now?”
My résumé shows clearly that I’ve been working four part-time jobs for the past few weeks and that, since August 2008, there’s never been a time when I’ve worked fewer than two jobs. What it doesn’t show is that I’ve worked all these jobs while searching for and then moving into an apartment, learning to navigate an entirely new city, making new friends, shopping for groceries, applying for jobs, volunteering, keeping up (for the most part) with current events and old friends, cooking dinner at least four nights a week… I think you get the picture. None of this feels like a big deal while I’m in the midst of it—in fact, I usually feel like I really ought to be doing more things with my time—but that list looks pretty impressive when it’s written out like that, right?
By now you may be wondering why I put a photograph of a tomato plant at the top of this post. That’s my big, beautiful tomato plant, which I got months ago from the free farm stand when it was just a tiny seedling that could be housed in a single-serve yogurt container. Managing not to kill a single tomato plant--and also a couple of basil plants, a fuschia, and some thyme, sage, and rosemary (the parsley went to seed, thereby preventing us from having a Simon and Garfunkel song on our front stoop)-- may not seem like much of an accomplishment. But think about it: when I decided to grow these plants, I took on responsibility for the lives of seven other living things, and I've taken that responsibility seriously. They aren’t sentient beings and don’t require as much attention as, say, a toddler, but they are still gloriously alive and still dependent on me to make sure they that stay way.
I’m not saying anyone should hire me solely because I’ve managed to keep myself afloat and my plants alive on a messy schedule full of freelance work. What I’m saying is that I’ve managed to keep myself and my plants not just alive, but also thriving in the midst of what I sincerely hope will turn out to be an anomalously turbulent time in my life. Imagine what I could do if I wasn’t spending so much time and energy on the job search.