“You’ve got to have a different mindset.  You are not unemployed, but self-employed,” my English friend Michael said after I told him about my first ‘Tilting Head Episode’ a couple of years ago.

A tilting what? Let me explain.

The episode happened when The Englishman’s Ex came over to drop the kids off at his flat for the weekend. On this day, she turned up so early that I didn’t have time to dry my hair or take the undies off the radiators.  I tried to pretend that only wearing one of the Englishman’s big t-shirts and scrubby uggies was a deliberate style choice, but I don’t think I pulled it off. I might have been ‘between jobs’, but I didn’t want to attract any sympathy from the Ex as much as I kind of got on with her.

She smiled, taking in every detail of the chaotic scene, while I rushed around getting dressed and making coffee. When some semblance of order was restored, we sat down on the sofa and tilting her head, she asked me the dreaded question that I had grown to hate.

“So how’s the job hunt going?”

There was a pause as I considered how to answer.  I am a crap liar, so I ended up filling the awkward silence with utter gibberish: “I am waiting to hear…”, “it’s been a bit tricky…”, “lots of things were in the pipeline…” Dear God, the Pollyanna clichés just kept spurting out of my mouth like an out-of-control printer with no off button.

Having listened to my whinge-fest, Michael, who had always been a freelancer, decided that my mind needed some goal mapping. Apparently it was a mixture of “ancient wisdom and accelerated learning techniques woven together with success principles.”  Instead of using the left part of the brain, Goal Mapping used imagery, the “language of the subconscious.”

He sat me down to do some exercises to visualise my future. I nearly clapped with delight when he opened a box of Derwent pencils with a dramatic flourish. I was suddenly transported back to Our Lady of the Rosary Primary School in Brisbane. I saw myself in my bottle-green uniform trying very hard not to go over the lines in a colouring-in competition.

When Michael eventually got me back in the room, he asked me to draw myself followed by my life goals. I even drew like a six year old.There I was, a girl with a big round head and rugby ball eyes surrounded by six floating bubbles which contained my aspirations. This was all very nice, but the trouble with theories like “if you do what you love, the money will follow” is that they don’t tend to work in a recession.

When I was finished, I was instructed to put the map on my fridge so that I could remind myself every day of my objectives.

“Now to help you achieve your goals you need a business card,” Michael said sternly.

Deciding on the look and feel of my first business card caused me much anxiety. I knew that there were quite a few fonts out there, but not quite as many as we went through that afternoon.

“I always think that Arial looks slightly mean,” said Michael who had entered a strange font zone. “Monotype Corsive just can’t be taken seriously.  Doesn’t say corporate, doesn’t say business.”

As for the actual content, my card was looking pretty empty. There was my name written in rather large letters to fill the space, my email address and a mobile. That was it.

“Okay, you need a line about what you are about like ‘something witty for every occasion,'” he said looking at me expectantly.

I had no idea how to answer that one.

“Let’s look at it this way…. what do you feel is your purpose, the reason why you are here on earth?” he asked.

Shit, there was no way to wriggle out of this one. I desperately tried to divert him by asking whether he was going to plant some cheery daffodil bulbs that year.

And then there are all the colours to pick. Did green always signify recycling or would it always say pharmacist? Can purple ever be acceptable?

After three hours, I wanted to climb up onto Michael’s kitchen counter, lower my head into his blender and press the pulse button.

We met up with some friends for dinner and the mock-up of my sparse business card was passed around. There wasn’t much they could say, but they did like the Calibiri font we had chosen.

As we started our entrees, I consoled myself that at least I had made a tenuous start and just hoped that my slacker of a subconscious had been taking some notes.

Amanda Austen is a television and website producer who also writes articles for newspapers and magazines and is currently writing a book. Check out her website here. Follow along with all of Amanda’s tales of being Redundant in London here.

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