I don’t think it occurred to me until I was a few months into freelancing that I was turning into a perpetual applicant. I realized from the start that as a grant writer, I’d be in the applicant role while seeking funding for the organizations I was representing. But it caught me a bit by surprise to recognize that I was essentially applying for a job every time I met with a prospective client.
It makes perfect sense. Just as I would if applying to work for a full-time employer, I have to sell myself to the decision-makers searching for the right freelancer. I have to confidently convince them I’m the best person for the job.
While I admit to experiencing some jitters before interviews, I think I’m getting better and better at them. I also feel that being interview-ready all the time has been good for me.
Why? Because I’ve never been more in touch with my own strengths. I’ve never been more comfortable telling others what I’m good at, skilled in, passionate about. The more I write for hire, the more my portfolio grows and the more opportunities I have to stretch myself.
Having been in my previous two jobs for a dozen years each, I didn’t often have occasion to ask myself if I was the best possible fit for the job or if the job was still the best possible fit for my life. Now, as a freelancer, asking those questions is routine.
I think this awareness has made me a bit of a job snob. I’ve passed on assignments with a turn-around time that is too quick for my comfort. I’m being intentional about avoiding unnecessary stress or working more hours than is healthy for me. I’ve turned down writing jobs about topics that don’t inspire me, and I’m skipping right over those that don’t pay what my time is worth.
See? It makes me sound a little snobby, huh? That’s okay. It’s one of the benefits of being my own boss. Having the opportunity to set my schedule, control the pace and span of control of my work, and say no to anything that doesn’t align with who I am or what I want to do is worth more to me than any amount of money.
Not only have I become a job snob after discovering I’m forever an applicant, I think I’ve become a job hog, too. Last week I met in person with the Executive Director of the local non-profit that I’m writing grants for this year. She’d found an excellent opportunity that she was excited about pursuing, but the application deadline was less than a week away.
Because I believe in her organization’s cause and quickly caught her passion for the excellent work this grant could fund, I would have been willing to beg to have the opportunity to write this grant for her, even though I knew the timeline would be tight.
Over the past two weeks, I’ve had the chance to write several LinkedIn articles for a brand new client, and they have been so fun to work on that I practically did beg for more topics and similar assignments.
You see, being ever an applicant, being interview-ready all the time, has made me hyper-aware of my skills and abilities. I’m comfortable and confident sharing what I bring to the table in my work interactions. I’m fiercely protective of the boundaries that allow me to thrive in my professional life without interfering with my personal life.
For all of us, knowing our strengths and our limits is a good thing. Setting boundaries is wise and healthy. Even if you don’t plan to apply for a job anytime soon, being interview-ready is still valuable.
Know what you’re good at, skilled in, passionate about. Be confident about all the things you bring to the table in your professional life and personal life. Be ready to fight, or beg, for what you’re well-suited for and be okay with passing up anything that falls short of what your time is worth.
There’s something about living in that perpetual state of expectation, of preparedness, of being ever an applicant, that helps keep you sharp and focused and aware of how incredible your gifts, skills, and abilities really are.