As a 40-year-old yogi interested in studio management, I recently attended a YogaWorks job fair.
Like Sutton Foster on TV Land's Younger, I wore sensible heels and a suit. I thought that's how professionals dressed for interviews. But my attire made me appear less nubile than fellow applicants -- perky Millennials with windswept hair and compression tights.
As one of about 60 candidates -- some of whom didn't carry pens -- I stood in line, inching toward a twenty-something gamine who doled out applications at the front desk. I was uncomfortable but not intimidated.
Having been in the yoga world since 2003, I myself had once been a peppy, fashionable girl at the front desk. Later, I taught vinyasa from Brooklyn to the Bronx. Through the years, I attended teacher trainings and workshops. I was ready to move up. I wanted the pay and responsibilities of General Manager. While I had never been a "manager," I was currently a recreational coordinator at a senior center -- a disorganized nonprofit where I ordered and maintained equipment, taught multiple daily exercise classes, and hired and sometimes fired teachers. In short, I was a manager without the salary.
I summarized my story on my resume: "Self-starting team player who leads by example. Seeking career opportunity as General Manager of YogaWorks. Excellent client relations with strong sense of procedure, overall ease of workplace." I included a bulleted list of skills, which I cut and pasted directly from YogaWorks' job description.
But when I got to the front desk, the wrinkle-free gamine scanned only the keywords.
"You'd make a great teacher!" she said.
"I would make a great teacher," I agreed. "Because I am a great teacher, but now I'm applying for General Manager."
"But you have so much experience in teaching," she said. "Unfortunately, we're only interviewing for sales and managers today, so I'll put your resume on file for teaching."
"Excuse me," I said. "Would you mind giving me feedback? What is it about my resume that says 'teacher' instead of 'manager'?"
"Well, it says here you are a recreational therapist and coordinator," she said. "That's not a manager."
"But you can see I have management experience," I said, speaking in italics. I admitted sounding desperate, possibly crazy, to a gal who could be my biological child.
"We'll keep you on file," she said.
Demoralized, I stepped out onto Broadway. The entire procedure -- from waiting in line to having my aging ass handed to me -- took 20 minutes.
Over a mojito, I wallowed over past career decisions. Too many teacher trainings, I thought tearfully. Too much time earning a meaningless masters degree. On the walk to my apartment, my dark mood broke as I considered my previous reinventions, all of them painful: from dancer to teacher to full-time professional. In those awkward transitions, I sometimes heard marching orders telling me what to do next.
More often, I shaped direction out of what no longer served me. While I didn't know how to mature in the yoga biz, I did feel increasing angst when taking orders from budding superiors who promoted peace and love over protocol. Yes, I needed to leave my current job that was altruistic but paid like a hobby -- a position that brought joy but also left me permeable to impoverished, distressed clientele and a filthy work environment.
No, my body couldn't handle schlepping from private clients to faraway studios, via subway and bike. Nor was I willing to have roommates or a move to my parents' basement in Indiana. Certainly, I couldn't shoulder the financial burden of opening a studio, nor the stress of becoming a mini yoga-lebrity through Instagram and Twitter. So then what? After all this yoga, who was I?
Instinct suggested a shift toward leadership, but I was confused how to do that. I had spent more time learning anatomy than savvy. That's when I got mad. On a personal level, my efforts to study this ancient practice had an actual monetary value. I had spent thousands. Nationally, yoga was now a respected panacea for chronic pain, a commodity. Yet within this $27 billion monster of an industry, practitioners like me weren't asking enough questions. Someone was getting rich. Like most of my colleagues, I was getting hosed.
So I decided to break a yama. If lying allowed me to earn a living wage in the thriving field of mind and body, I would fudge my title and embody its strength. From now on, I was a manager on my resume. Ultimately, this promotion reflected truth.
-- Middle Age Yogi, Bent, Screwed and Still Hunting