Lessons about job hunting from my mom: The brownies
Exploring new paths in the SF Bay Area.
October 25,2019 at 8:54PM UTC
Brownies. Gooey, warm, chocolate brownies. Well, they should have been.
My aunt and uncle had stopped by for a long visit. And I wanted to make brownies for everyone to show off my baking talents, you know, like 10-year-olds who have supposedly mastered boxed mixes do. Unfortunately for me, I used the ingredient and mixing instructions for regular baking, but the heat and timing instructions for high altitude. If you’ve ever wondered what happens when you do that, the answer is at hand.
It bakes them solidly into the pan. Let me say that another way, the brownies and the pan become one. They fuse together in a way that welders would envy.
When I presented that pan, and the knife would not even dent the surface, I started to cry. And it got worse. No other knife could cut it either. My dad went and got a mallet and chisel and only succeeded in chipping away bit and pieces of the top. So, we put the pan in a sink full of soapy dishwater overnight, and the next morning …. we wiped about ¼” of soggy, brownie mess off the top, but the remainder was still cemented in the pan.
So we had to THROW THE PAN AWAY.
I started crying all over again. My mom hugged me, and said, “Well, you do owe me another pan, but I think you could work that debt off in brownies.” I looked at her like she had just said she was a unicorn. “But I can’t make brownies. Look what happened!” She chuckled, “Oh, no! You aren’t getting out of it that easy. When you’ve made a decent batch of brownies, your debt will be repaid, and not one minute sooner.”
And so, I was determined to make the best brownies I could. My first, post-cement try was too lackluster to satisfy my mom; “Too dry,” she said.
The second batch was not baked enough; imagine Gordon Ramsey screaming, “These brownies are RAW!”
The edges of the third were “...too hard.”
And the fourth was again not baked enough, but not as uncooked as Batch #2.
But Lucky #5 was “Just right!”
If you haven’t caught on yet, let me share with you what I have since figured out. My mom didn’t really care about the pan or the brownies (although I will tell you, she did not turn down eating them, and I still wonder sometimes if every one of those batches was better than she let on). What she did care about, however, was making sure that I didn’t just give up after one attempt failed. She knew I had it in me to make a pan of delicious brownies, all I needed was practice and to not give up.
When you’re job hunting, your first application may not get a reply, and the responses to your third and 20th applications may still be silence. But you have to keep trying. Just like figuring out the right formula for making perfect brownies in your oven, you may need to adjust some things with your job search. Several things may need tinkering:
1. Your resume may need a revision.
2. You may need more practice with interviewing.
3. One company’s culture may clash with your values, so you need to find one that fits.
4. Your personal website or your LinkedIn profile may need a revision, too.
5. Your work samples may need updated, if you have them, or you may need to gather them if you don't have them and your role/industry now requires them.
6. You may need to expand your network to find jobs that aren’t posted.
7. You may need to add or improve your skills in a certain area.
The point is to keep at it; don’t stop fine tuning that recipe because eventually, your hard work will pay off. My mom showed me that practice doesn’t just get you to Carnegie Hall, it gets you to all kinds of places. Don’t let a setback hold you back.
My family still teases me about the Cement Brownies, even now, and that’s okay. It’s a reminder of how far I’ve come as a cook and a baker, and of how the importance of practice and perseverance applies to many areas of life.
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