Saturday, November 27, 2004

Book excerpt - Blown Job: Chapter 5

Nearly three years ago, I was fired from my job; a casualty of the post-9/11 economic downturn. After 18 months of looking for work without success, I sat down to write a book, entitled, "Blown Job: an unemployment odyssey." Here's an excerpt from Chapter Five. (See "Past Posts of Note" for earlier chapters.)
Chapter 5 - The Boys of Winter

My most surreal unemployment experience came about because I was too broke to buy a computer.

During my first Unemployment Winter, on sub-freezing days, I simply couldn’t endure schlepping to the Career Center in Manhattan (two trains, a bus and a five-block walk.) I had to find a way to access the Internet closer to home. This proved to be a neat trick because, in the outer boroughs, where the population is 95% Luddite, computer access is hard to find.

One day, when I was window shopping on a main thoroughfare, I happened to look up and there it was, above a 99¢ store: Internet Terminals! Computer Games! Yu-Gi-Oh! While I wasn’t sure if that last one was a religious service, a type of vegetable, or a Nipponese curse, I understood the first term well enough. I climbed the rickety staircase, pushed open the door, and came upon what can best be described as uncontrolled prepubescent male mayhem.

Seated in front of 10 computer terminals and 5 large-screen TVs was a gaggle of boys; yelling, cursing, scratching, picking, punching, - did I say cursing? – and otherwise making a cacophony unheard since the detonation of Fat Man and Little Boy. Luckily for me, one terminal was available.

After I learned the terms of the arrangement – the hourly rate, and the charges for printing and faxing – I was good to go. I sat down between a sullen 16-year old and an amped-up kid of 12 or so. The 12-year old apparently was suffering from an advanced case of Tourette’s syndrome, because every other word out of his mouth was a variation of the F-word, which he managed to use spot-on, in all of its grammatical splendor.

To say that it was difficult to concentrate on my job search in the midst of this mayhem would not be an exaggeration. As I tried to mentally block out the noise, my peripheral vision was bombarded with stimuli impossible to ignore. It appeared that mothers' little darlings on either side of me were locked in a life-and-death battle; controlling their gun-toting avatars with furious mouse clicks and strong verbal encouragement. I couldn’t help but notice that people and things were being blown away in profusion, as invisible superheroes raced down alleys and around corners. It was all so utterly realistic that I feared the blood spatter and mangled viscera would leap off the screens and onto my forehead.

When it finally occurred to me that this distraction was costing me money as my computer time ticked away, I tried really hard to focus on my own screen. I actually was able to get some work done, but I knew that I would have been better off if I had hopped a train to the city.

This place was Nirvana for three groups of people – the mothers of these foul-mouthed brats, who were happy that their kids weren't on some street corner shooting up (little did they know!); the games manufacturers, who were adding steadily to their customer base; and the owners of this emporium, who were vacuuming allowance money right out of the kids’ wallets, not only on computer time, but also with the sale of medallions, collectible miniatures, and trading cards (ohhhh, Yu-Gi-Oh!)

The only one who didn’t fit into the equation was me. I pretty much decided after that day that I would not return. But, the next time it snowed six inches, I found myself making my way up the stairs once again; only this time, it was in the dark, as the 25-watt bulb that had lit the way previously had blown. This didn’t seem to deter my boys, who raced past me as I hung on to the banister for dear life, gingerly feeling for each broken step as I made my way up.

This time, I came prepared. I brought my Walkman to drown out the sound and I came before school let out. So, the place was home only to me, the kids who were cutting class, and a scattering of Comic Book Guys – unshaven, unwashed, and eternally unemployed.

There is nothing so incongruous as a serious female trying to work in a room full of young, rude, crude, smelly, loud, icky boys. I felt like I was back in Public School 238, except then I was pre-menstrual and now I’m peri-menopausal. Here I was -- Aunt Bea, just chillin’ with The Bowery Boys.

I came back about a half-dozen times throughout the winter, but I knew that I had had enough when I made the mistake of showing up on a school holiday. It was a Monday of a three-day weekend, and the fellows were bursting with way too much energy. One of the guys, who appeared to be the designated kibitzer, bounced from one terminal to the next, giving a play-by-play of every game, like a junior Marv Albert, if Marv began every sentence with the word “fuck.” Every few minutes, the proprietor would scream, “Shut up, Gary,” but the kid was in the moment and was thus undeterred. After a half-hour of this, the owner threatened to throw Gary out, but that proved to be toothless. I was getting ready to toss out ol’ Gar myself, when his mom called him on his cell and told him to come home. That was the last I saw of Gary, or, as I like to think of him, America’s future.

That was my final foray into computer games central. I cannot look at a young boy today without wanting to slap the crap out of him, just on principle. Forget about what drugs and guns and booze can do to young males. Put a joystick or a mouse in their hands and sonic booms in their speakers and be afraid. Be very afraid.

Friday, November 26, 2004

High Sticking


Did you hear about the newscaster in Cleveland who stripped nude for a story? I'm just praying Ted Koppell doesn't get any ideas.


A hockey player in West Virginia was suspended for dropping his pants. I guess they got him for high sticking.


An armor-plated, supposedly theft-proof Mercedes Benz belonging to the company's CEO was broken into by thieves. Watch for their new ad campaign: "Mercedes Benz. We feel your pain."


A man stabbed several of his relatives because they criticized his table manners during Thanksgiving dinner. I guess he thought the holiday was all about giving shanks.


The newly reopened FAO Schwarz toy store in New York is selling miniature luxury $50,000 Ferraris and $30,000 Hummers. And that's without the optional Corinthian leather juice box holder and gold-plated Ritalin dispenser.


In Holland, homeless people are receiving free winter coats, as long as they're willing to have advertising displayed on them. Ben and Jerry's was the first to sign up; probably to promote their new flavors: Chocolate Bark-a Parka; Almond Joy Corduroy and Anorak CrackerJack.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Book excerpt - Blown Job: Chapter 4

Nearly three years ago, I was fired from my job; a casualty of the post-9/11 economic downturn. After 18 months of looking for work without success, I sat down to write a book, entitled, "Blown Job: an unemployment odyssey." Here's an excerpt from Chapter Four. (See "Past Posts of Note" for earlier chapters. )

Chapter 4 - ’Net Work

From the moment I was axed to the present day, I have been looking for work. At the Career Center, before and after class, and up to an hour ago, I have spent part of every day doing some job-seeking activity. Those of you who might be unfamiliar with the current marketplace may wonder why, then, haven’t I been able to find a job in a year and a half? There are more of you, I’ll venture, who understand precisely why I’m still unemployed.

At the start, I networked among friends, colleagues, friends of colleagues, colleagues of friends, distant relations, neighbors, acquaintances, my pharmacist, my doctor, his receptionist, my hairdresser and people I sat next to on the bus. Networking has been such a complicated and wholly unproductive process that I’ll save the details of my experiences for a later chapter.

This is where I want to recount for you my adventures in ’Net working, or, searching for work on the Internet. The ’Net has made it easier than ever to find employment openings, but it’s also made it much harder to find actual work.

It may not surprise you to know that once upon a time I earned my living as a writer. I worked for corporations. I have experience in marketing and the non-profit sector. I’ve freelanced and worked as a consultant. I’ve written business communications and edited books. I am open to all writing, editing, (and now) desktop publishing opportunities.

And here is where the process gets complicated. Type the keywords “writer” or “editor” into a search engine and you come up with umpteen possibilities. You need to comb assiduously through them all to find the jobs that you actually can do.

As a result of many, many searches, these are but some of the jobs that I was qualified for and responded to:

Senior Writer/Editor; Grant Writer; Senior Strategic Communications Specialist; Editorial Assistant; Proposal Writer; Foundation Officer/Grants Manager; Marketing and Research Coordinator; Production Assistant; Media Analyst; Major Gifts Development Associate; Associate Director of Development for Corporations and Foundations; Communications/Public Relations Assistant; Manager, Client Development; Communications and Pursuit Strategist;

Editorial Assistant; Business Writer; Business Development Writer; Employee Communications Coordinator; Marketing Assistant; Marketing Associate; Marketing Administrator; Corporate Communications Specialist; Training Content Writer; Development Manager; Presentation Specialist; Associate, Capital Campaign and Government Relations; Publishing Manager; Publications Manager; Proposal Coordinator; Proofreader/Copyeditor; Associate Editor;

Advertising Copywriter; Fashion Copywriter; Copy Coordinator; Marketing/Promotions Manager; Graphic Designer; Investor Relations Writer; Education Writer; Project Manager; Associate Writer; Publicity Assistant; Program Coordinator; Communications Associate; Desk Assistant; Desktop Project Coordinator; Manager; Internal and External Communications; Grant and Donor Stewardship Manager; Executive Assistant; and, the only job title that everyone seems to recognize, Administrative Assistant.

You will note that these positions run the gamut from some kind of Assistant up through Associate Director. The titles are meaningless; it’s the job responsibilities and experience requirements that count. There are some Assistant jobs that are really Manager jobs in disguise, for the simple reason that employers can get away with paying assistant-level salaries to people with manager-level experience.

Most of these jobs, despite their highfalutin’ titles, had the same basic requirements: writing and computer skills, attention to detail, ability to work and play well with others.

Yet, there are lots of little landmines contained within the job descriptions, and only the savvy jobhunter will be able to navigate them without suffering abject disappointment and severe eyestrain. Here’s a sample of what appeared to me at first glance to be a perfect fit:

Marketing Coordinator/Writer/proposal preparation/public relations for consulting firm. Requires writing, editing and proofreading skills; an eye for color and design; sound judgment.

Sounds good.

Must be detail oriented, organized, and computer literate. Capable of handling deadline pressure. Occasional overtime.

I can deal with that.

Must speak Japanese.


This kind of thing happens all the time. You muddle through a job description only to find one requirement that you absolutely cannot fake. Wouldn’t it have been ever so helpful if the ad writer thought about it for a moment and used the phrase “’Japanese-speaking’ Marketing Coordinator” at the beginning of the ad, thus saving me and about 5,000 other people some precious time? Boy, I’d like to have that numbnut’s job. (I’ve probably applied for it already.)

Another thing that ticks me off like crazy is when employers require applicants to possess years of experience with a veritable smorgasbord of software programs. Beyond the holy trinity of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, many employers expect the ideal applicant to have not merely “knowledge of,” but also “expertise in” such programs as Access, Page Maker, Word Perfect, Quark, Photoshop, Illustrator, Corel DRAW, HTML, Dreamweaver, and Flash. I’d like to meet the one person in America who has even 50% of such knowledge; that is, if his head hasn’t already exploded like one of Gallagher’s watermelons from too much information.


Some job descriptions seem like they will never end. The ’Net gives employers the freedom to prate on endlessly; a luxury they would not enjoy if they were paying by the column inch for ad space in a print publication. This is an actual ad that I answered. (I’ve deleted the name of the firm, to protect it from the teasing likely to ensue:)

QUALIFICATIONS: This is an entry-level account service position. An assistant account executive must possess good interpersonal and communication skills in order to work effectively with a variety of account service staff within a specific set of accounts. S/he must have excellent organizational skills and the ability to adapt to new conditions, assignments and deadlines. S/he must have solid knowledge of MS Office Suite. S/he must pass a writing test and demonstrate the ability to become a strong writer. The assistant account executive is expected to hold a bachelor's degree in a related field and have interest in pursing a career in public relations. Previous internship experience in the communications field is desirable.

RESPONSIBILITIES: The assistant account executive is responsible for supporting the account executives, senior account executives and account supervisors in day-to-day activities. Day-to-day responsibilities include: solid understanding of basic principles of PR; familiarity with key client contacts and clear understanding of clients' organizational structure; general account service administration; trafficking jobs and project coordination; preparation of client status reports; compilation of media coverage to client; read and identify media clips from clipping services and on-line resources; reactive and proactive media relations; press tour pitching, scheduling, and logistics; prepare press kits for distribution; schedule booth appointments at trade shows and ensure appropriate follow-up; understand clients' top-tier media and be able to identify appropriate trade and business editors for upcoming pitches; support product reviews process; initial speakers bureau research and coordination; call downs to Media for pitching; assist in writing press release or press kit pieces (fact sheet, tip sheet, bios, etc); participate in brainstorms; knowledge of AP style; write memos to vendors; write creative and accurate new releases and headlines; research, outline, write and edit media advisories, bios, conference reports, pitch letters and/or email pitches and product fact sheets; basic understanding of key client information, including general business strategy, industry issues, products and services, key customers and competitors in the marketplace; research brand information; understand research and media list building tools (Factiva, Edge, etc.); work with and oversee interns, particularly in the area of project management; work within established account budget parameters and notify supervisor of any potential cost overruns; compute timesheets and expense reports; live the firm’s values (quality, integrity, respect, entrepreneurial spirit, mutual benefit); demonstrate professional behaviors and pursuit of excellence in all operations.

I want to point out to you, in case you missed it, that the very first line of this ad explains that this is an entry-level position. Scary, isn’t it? Imagine what they’d require of someone with experience.


Deciphering the hieroglyphics in job ads means reading between the lines. For example, “occasional overtime required.” What does this really mean? Is it a few extra hours at the end of the month, before a report is due? Or is it midnight three times a week, after which you drag your butt home; fall asleep on the couch, too tired to remove your makeup and shoes; and haul ass back to the office after what can only be qualified as a nap?

How about this one: “Work for two Senior Vice Presidents.” Oh, that’s bound to be endless fun. Anyone who has ever worked for two people at the same time knows that you forever are engaged in a tug of war, forced to determine whose swinging you-know-what is bigger. Both execs are bound to give you work that is due the day before yesterday and each will hound you to your grave with the mandate that his project takes priority. Two words, folks: career suicide.

My favorite phrases are the banal expressions that have no real meaning at all, but are included by employers who likely feel that such buzzwords lend some legitimacy to their offerings: “be a self-starter,” “think outside the box,” “be proactive,” ”have (in no particular order) team spirit,” “a positive attitude,” “a sense of humor.”

In other words, don’t be a lazy, dour jackass. Got it.


Time is critical, especially for those who do not own a computer and who must rely on public access. At busy metropolitan libraries, one is usually allowed 30 minutes. That’s just enough time to sign in, open a job website, type in a keyword, find a raft of jobs, choose one, and start a cover letter; at which point the librarian yells, “Time!” and you’re forced to relinquish your spot to a 10 year-old who’s writing a paper on the natural wonders of Czechoslovakia.

Of course, you can go to a retail outlet that charges by the minute for computer usage. That won’t be too anxiety producing, waiting for your web pages to download as dollar after dollar is sucked into the abyss. Add to this the costs of printing and faxing, and you’ll be mesmerized as your unemployment check magically disappears.


I really hope that I haven’t discouraged you from using the ’Net in your quest to find a job. I’ve actually garnered some interviews as a result of this method (about which more later.)

In closing, I suggest to you what’s been suggested to me: the ’Net should be but one of several methods you use to search for work – the others being networking, nepotism, and, my personal favorite, parading down Broadway with a sandwich board reading, “Will think outside the box for food.”

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Someone is Reading My Blog!

Oh, happy day. Someone is actually reading my blog.

Here's what a nice fellow named Dan had to say about one of my earlier posts:

I'm a friggin' desktop Michaelangelo!
(from Blown Job: Chapter 3)Posted by Hello

Book excerpt - Blown Job: Chapter 3

Nearly three years ago, I was fired from my job; a casualty of the post-9/11 economic downturn. After 18 months of looking for work without success, I sat down to write a book, entitled, "Blown Job: an unemployment odyssey." Here's an excerpt from Chapter Three. (See "Past Posts of Note" for earlier chapters )

Chapter 3 - Look Ma, I Can Draw!

When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to get out of school each day. The longest half-hour of my life was the one between 2:30 PM and 3:00 PM. I used to make myself nauseous, following the second-hand as it moved 1,800 times, Monday through Friday, September through June, kindergarten through college. And I was a good student, too. I was just restless.

As an adult, I took all sorts of continuing education classes, deluding myself that I could change careers based solely on one three-hour course taught by someone who was clearly so disgruntled with his own chosen field that he moonlighted to keep from going insane.

So, when I learned that I would be able to obtain up to $5,000 in grant money through the Career Center to attend classes to improve my skills and make myself more marketable, I was conflicted. This seemed like an offer too good to pass up, but in what direction should I point myself? And could I control my short attention span long enough to pass an adult version of a pop quiz? I decided that I’d be crazy not to try.


I’d long been curious about the field of desktop publishing. It seemed like a cool kind of a career; creating and printing newsletters, brochures, reports, ads, and all manner of publications right there on the desktop. Kind of like publishing Poor Richard’s Almanack on a Mac.

I did my research and found out that I could earn a certificate in computer graphics at one of the institutions approved by the program. I completed all of the necessary paperwork and was awarded my grant. Look out, Ben Franklin, here I come.

I signed up for QuarkXpress, a page layout program; Illustrator, a drawing program; and Photoshop, a photo manipulation program. If I could master these three courses, I would be well on my way to finding a job in the glamorous world of desktop publishing.

Each course consisted of six three-hour classes. I found out later that some schools offer each program over the length of an entire semester, or even two. And for good reason. The brochure neglected to mention that mastering the programs was analogous to learning Latin, Greek and Tagalog in three weeks. Each program had its own nomenclature, rules, and set of icons. A good sense of design is absolutely required to be a desktop publishing pro, though this was omitted from the course prerequisites.

This, I suppose is the nature of crash courses; to lure unsuspecting students with flashy brochures and the promise that they, too, will attain mastery of esoterica in no time at all. I gave it my best shot and I found that, though it was a struggle, I was able to absorb enough of the curriculum to actually enjoy putting my new-found knowledge into practice.

Once I got a handle on the icons and rules of page layout in QuarkXpress, it was on to Illustrator, with more icons and more rules. This is what I learned to do in Illustrator, after only three classes:

I'm a friggin' desktop Michelangelo!

It may not look like much to you, but I cannot begin to tell you how proud I was of myself for creating this. I was the kind of student who got my best friend to do all of my art projects in elementary school in exchange for me writing her term papers. I am the one you’ve heard so much about; the one who cannot draw a straight line with a ruler. I was an A student in everything except those classes that required some kind of manual dexterity, like art and cooking and sewing. (By the time I finished my 8th grade sewing project, a blouse, my bust had grown three sizes and the darts were up near my neck.)

So, when the instructor showed us this palm tree project, I nearly keeled over with the familiar fear I hadn’t felt in a hundred years. If he thinks I can do this, he’s crazy. But, once he broke it down for us, and showed us how to use the scissor tool and the knife tool and the swirl tool, and color it with gradients, and use the warp feature to make the flowers and the paintbrush for the butterflies, I was a frigging desktop Michelangelo.

I really fell in love with this program and labored far too long and unnecessarily on projects, because I went bananas over the zillion permutations of color and typography. All the while, I was thinking, am I ever going to get to use this in a job?

Illustrator was a kick, and then it was on to Photoshop, where fun went to die. I know there are lots of people who have wonderful and no doubt, well-paying jobs in digital imaging, but I will never be one of them. I just could not get the hang of it, though, believe me, I tried. I was not good at adjusting colors. I couldn’t crop photos without lopping off at least one important feature. I couldn’t outline an image. I’d forget step two of a procedure by the time we got to step five. I was working on a photo of Martha Stewart and I made her skin look like she’d been out of the sun for twenty years, which may have been a premonition, but at the time seemed to be merely an abject failure to grasp the fundamentals. The person sitting next to me, who seemed to be doing wonderfully well, confided that this was the second time she was taking the course. Somehow, I found this heartening.

I was able to practice what I learned in the school’s lab, which was outfitted with a half-dozen computers, a scanner and one printer. The lab was supervised by a boy genius, who seemed to know every single thing about every single program that was taught at the school. I was in awe of his knowledge, because I never once heard him lobbed a question that he couldn’t answer. Not only did he know everything about computer graphics, but also he was well-versed in Web design, video, and multimedia. While it was always necessary to endure his sarcasm whenever he answered a question, it was worth it in order to get through a sticky situation. The programs were anything but user-friendly. You’d be halfway through a procedure when you’d find that you didn’t have a clue as to what to do next. That’s when this fellow became your new best friend. Many was the time when I wanted to give him a big sloppy kiss for getting me out of a jam, but I didn’t want to traumatize him, Oedipus-wise.

I ran into difficulty with him when it came to the issue of printing. I like to print out my work, because when you’re working with lots of colors and fonts, what appears on the screen is not quite the same as what will appear on paper. As I didn’t own a Mac, I could either go to a commercial printer, where printing cost about a thousand dollars a page, or I could use the lab’s printer. Unfortunately, students were limited to printing four pages a session. (I didn’t understand the parsimonious attitude at the time, but I found out later that it was tied to the cost of color cartridges, which, for the price plus a little extra, you could buy a MINI Cooper.)

I changed my color and type combinations about 10 times a session, so the print limit didn’t work for me. Worse, I brought my own photo-quality paper to the lab, so it was obvious whenever I printed, because I had to walk over to the printer, feed the paper in manually, and stand there until the page printed. This seemed to eat at my lab maven. I’d try to print when he was busy with someone else, but the very last time I was there, he noticed that I had printed beyond my limit and cut me to the quick by sneering, “This isn’t Kinko’s, you know.”


I signed up for one last class, in prepress and production, because all of the foregoing would have been meaningless without it (though no one put me wise at the outset.) It means nothing to create newsletters, brochures, ads and the like if you don’t know how to print them. The course was very interesting and very involved and today, I remember very little about any of it.

And there is the miserable rub. I learned tons of things about hue, saturation and opacity; about gradients and layers and formats; about leading and tracking and trapping and overprinting and chokes and spreads; about calibrating and moirés and process colors, but, other than to amuse myself and my classmates, I haven’t been able to do a damned thing with any of it. Of course, I read the want ads with a religious fervor unseen since Mother Teresa. The problem is, there isn’t an employer alive who doesn’t want an applicant who already has years of desktop publishing experience by the time she walks through the door. I’d dearly love to meet a boss willing to take on a bright beginner. (Wouldn’t you?)

And so, I’m glad that I had the chance to acquire new skills and find out that I have some design talent. Going to class mitigated, for a while, the anguish of being out of work. And I absolutely know that my elementary school art teacher, Mrs. Barnett, is looking down on me from heaven (if she’s dead) (she’d be about 100 by now) with a mixture of surprise and pleasure.

Hey, if nothing happens soon, at least I can design my Last Will and Testament (but where, oh where, will I print it?)

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Nutkin Rules


A 57-year old woman gave birth to twins. I wonder if post-partum depression trumps menopause.


Ex-"Catwoman," Julie Newmar and Jim Belushi are feuding neighbors in California. Sound like the plot for a TV show? Well, it's true, and he's suing her for harassment. Watch for the new CBS series, "I'm Has-been, You're Hack, starring Eartha Kitt and Drew Carey.


A wild squirrel named Nutkin can live indoors with his owners, a judge ruled in an 11-page opinion. All the felons patiently awaiting trial gave Nutkin a thumbs-up as he darted victoriously from the courtroom.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Smart Cookies Don't Crumble

I don't feel so bad now that it took me almost three years to find a job. In Bulgaria, a woman with an IQ of 200 and five master's degrees is on the dole. She said, "In Bulgaria, employers don't want clever employees." Take it from me, lady, they're not so crazy about them in the U. S. of A., either.

A few months ago, I received in the mail a full-color brochure that touted the offerings of a big cable company. I was going to toss it immediately because at that point, I could barely afford dinner, let alone anything as frivolous as an entertainment package. However, something made me take a look. I was appalled by the sloppy writing within. There were typos, misspellings, tortured grammatical constructions, and factual errors. My immediate reaction was, someone's getting paid for this dreck. I could do it so much better; so much more professionally. I decided to take action.

Maybe, just maybe, I could create a job for myself. This has always been my hope. I've had little luck applying for jobs through Monster, Hot Jobs, and the like. Maybe this could be my chance.

Coincidentally, I had a contact at this company; someone whose name I had been given by a friend months before in my tortuous attempt at networking. I sat down and wrote this person a letter, tactfully explaining that the brochure was not up to the organization's usual high standards. I documented all of the problem areas and let this person know that I was available, if the firm needed a diligent copywriter. I ended my letter by saying I would be calling within the week.

Two days later, this person called me. She said that she and her colleague, the vice president of the department that produced the brochure, had a good laugh about the subject. This was more than a little surprising to me. I didn't think that this badly written brochure was anything to laugh about, but I went along. She said the production VP would be calling me. An hour later, she did. She seemed a little distant; a little put off about having to call. Nevertheless, she asked me to come in and see her, and I did.

At our meeting, she told me that the copywriter who wrote the brochure (rather than being fired) had just left for a job with a major advertising agency. There actually was a job opening here!! What fabulous timing! I was thinking this at the same time I was absorbing the fact that that talentless copywriter had landed another job. I bet he didn't show his new employer that piece-of-crap brochure!

You know that feeling you get when you realize that someone hates you before she even lays eyes on you? Well, welcome to my world. I knew from the moment I sat down that this woman hated my guts for pointing out to her colleague the failing of her department. I cannot imagine how this woman let a sloppy marketing piece be mailed out to thousands of customers, but she did, and now she was having it shoved under her nose by an upstart like me. I knew for sure that it was hopeless when I showed her my writing samples and she glanced at them for a minute before she handed them back to me. I said that she could keep them; that they were copies that I had made for her, but she said no. I might as well have walked out of the office at that moment, and saved myself a little time and a lot of aggravation.

Why was she telling me about the job when she seemed to show no interest in me? In retrospect, I think she had to see me; that the colleague who recommended me had put her in an awkward position. Refusing to see me would have cast her in a bad light; having to deny that the brochure was a problem. No one likes to have their failings brought to light, even if it's good for the company's reputation.

At the end of our discourse, I asked her what the next steps would be. She said she was just starting the interview process. I asked if I could call her for an update, and she was annoyed. Annoyed! That clinched it. I knew I'd never see her again. Another wonderful interview experience. I should have stayed home and watched Oprah.

In retrospect, I'm not sorry for what I did, and I'd do it again. I don't think anyone should get away with sloppy work. I thought I handled myself well. I was tactful and polite and I never said a negative word about the company, the writer, or the brochure. I presented myself as a positive alternative. In short, I wasted a lot of time.

As that smart cookie from Bulgaria said, "employers don't want clever employees." But that's not going to stop me. And, if you're looking for work, it shouldn't stop you, either. Somebody, somewhere has to appreciate smart cookies. To those of you who can appreciate this, I say, persevere, and don't crumble.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Book excerpt - Blown Job: Chapter 2

Nearly three years ago, I was fired from my job; a casualty of the post-9/11 economic downturn. After 18 months of looking for work without success, I sat down to write a book, entitled, "Blown Job: an unemployment odyssey." Here's an excerpt from Chapter Two. (See "Past Posts of Note" for earlier chapters )

Chapter 2 -Now What?

When you open your eyes on the Monday morning following the Friday you’ve been canned, for a millisecond, it doesn’t occur to you that anything has changed. Your alarm clock hasn’t even gone off; yet you awake at your usual time, because that’s what your mind has been programmed to do. You’re all set to leap out of bed; to shower and dress and grab your briefcase and a breakfast bar and dash to the train, when BAM, it hits you that you have nowhere to go. No more leaping and grabbing and dashing for you. Now, the best you can do at 6:30 in the morning is to watch the Powerpuff Girls or do yoga with Kiki or learn how you can earn $1,000,000 by buying real estate. You have the sense that nothing will ever be the same again.

It’s okay to spend the early hours of Unemployment Monday feeling abjectly sorry for yourself, but you can’t let that feeling overtake you or you’re lost. So, I showered and dressed and dashed, but this time I was headed off to a career center, about which I had been tipped off by a former co-worker at what I now can refer to as my last job.


It turned out that going to the career center day after day saved my life. The Center helped me to focus, it provided me with computer access, it offered me educational opportunities, and it put me together with like-minded professionals. If I hadn’t gone there, ultimately I would have been found on my couch by the police, buried under stacks of Burger King wrappers, packs of Salem Light 100s, and empty pints of Rocky Road, the remote still in my hand.


At orientation, I was surrounded by the walking wounded. Most of them had lost their jobs due to the aftereffects of 9/11. Each face wore a hollow expression, brought on by the double whammy of the shock of the tragedy and the experience of personal downfall. Everyone had a story to tell and all of the stories sounded pretty much the same. I was not a freak here.

We learned that once we were accepted into the program, we could access computers; talk to an assigned career counselor; apply for grant money for training; and take classes on networking, interviewing, and Internet job searching. There were no assurances that we would actually find work if we did all this, but on Day 1, it sure sounded good to me.

I took advantage of everything that was offered. Once I was accepted, I showed up every day to surf the ’Net. Every day, I looked at HotJobs and Monster and Career Builder and a half-dozen specialized job sites. Every day, I wrote cover letters and printed out résumés and envelopes and mailed, e-mailed, and faxed pages to potential employers. I took the classes and applied for the grant money. I went back to school. As you know by now, none of this has paid off, but you cannot say that I didn't try.


There was an interesting dynamic at play in all of this. I could see that the people who showed up at the Center day after day were going through their own stages of grief. The longer that they were out of work, the more their behaviors changed.

You could tell who the newly shafted were. They came into the computer room very businesslike. They were well-dressed and moved purposefully -- laying out their newspapers, pens, legal pads and diskettes at their computer stations; clicking on site after site, job offer after job offer; making copious notes. Others who had been there for awhile were more laid back, sauntering to the computer stations, dumping their backpacks on the floor, stretching out on their chairs, turning their baseball caps backwards, and checking their e-mails. Hard-timers, who had virtually given up on looking for work at all, used their terminals for purposes that were not intended – trolling for porn, playing solitaire, bidding on eBay, and searching for mail-order brides.


An unspoken camaraderie developed. Someone would yell out, “I’ve got to print an envelope,” and forty people would pause, forty fingers poised over forty PRINT keys until the envelope snaked through the communal printer.

At the same time, there was a palpable amount of tension in the air. Many of these people were absolutely desperate, already having spent down their resources and now hovering on the brink of financial disaster. For them, looking for work was a deadly serious proposition. This is why little fights broke out daily over such things as mistakenly removing someone else’s page from the print tray, overstaying by two minutes the allotted two hours at a computer, and talking too loudly to one’s neighbor. I heard more than one argument like this, among jobseeking clients and the computer room proctor:

Client #1: The guy next to me is printing 100 copies of his résumé.

Proctor: I’ll have to cancel that print job.

Client #2: (to Client #1) Bitch.

Client #1: (to Client #2) Asshole.

So it wasn’t all beer and skittles. But we managed to coexist, each in our private hell, not one of us able to help another. Of course, we did offer each other advice and encouragement, but the bottom line was that no one here was able to get anyone else a job. There were no hierarchies, simply a horizontal line of unemployed, desperate people.


I would still be attending the Center today, if their funding had not run out and if they had not unceremoniously closed me out as a client without informing me. I cannot complain, however, because for more than a year, going there kept my life going. I accomplished a lot. My interviewing skills improved. I discovered many new things about the ’Net, just by listening to others. I met lots of other unemployed people, which kept me from feeling alone. And I was able to go to school, to learn new skills.

Now all I have to do is find a job.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Art Bras


An F-16 fighter plane shot 25 rounds of ammunition into a New Jersey public school on Wednesday night. Casualties include eighteen frogs, three lab rats, and Corky the salamander, who is missing in action.


On the Left Coast, a supposed golf tournament turned out to be an excuse for men to hook up with hookers in tents on the green. I guess that's what they mean by "the California Open."


In Arkansas, a man escaped from jail twice in the same week. Is this what is meant by "revolving-door justice?"


A woman cut off her boyfriend's penis and got rid of it. She won't say where. I'm guessing eBay.


A man tried to rob a bank that was still being built. He had a gun, which was said to be loaded with six handkerchiefs labeled "Bang."


A tanker truck spilled 45,000 pounds of liquid chocolate on a highway, which then hardened. Watch for Mars' new promotion: M&M's –now with gravel!

In North Dakota, women are decorating bras and displaying them at an art center. The D cups have their own wing.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Sore Feet, Bleary Eyes, and a Big Fat Smile

I am pleased to announce to the world, that after two and a half excruciating years, I finally found a job. I have been working four days and I am ready to take a vacation. I forgot what it's like to stand on the train for an hour and take my meal break when somebody tells me to and stifle a yawn while my boss is giving me directions. But it's wonderful! I have a boss! I have a place to be! I'm bleary-eyed from working, not because I stayed up late to watch Letterman!

Next week, I'm going to see something I thought I'd never see again – a paycheck! I've already spent a piece of it on a new pair of shoes, and for the first time in ages, I don't feel guilty about buying something for myself.

If anyone reading this knows the feeling of desperation that comes from receiving endless rejection, I encourage you to hang in there. I was thisclose to calling it quits, when nothing short of a miracle happened. I didn't think it was possible.

It all came about through a temporary job. I would encourage anyone who is out of work to pursue temporary employment. It's the best way for an employer to get to know you, and it doesn't carry anywhere near the heavy baggage that a permanent job interview does.

I have to go to sleep now. I have somewhere to be tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Today's Monologue


A man with the surname "Murders" was arrested for (guess what) attempted murder! Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy. That's why I'm always after my friend, Betty Burninhell, to change her name.


Don't you just love dumb criminals? A guy walked into a bank with a ski mask over his face and was busted before he could make a grab for the cash. He didn't even get a chance to unfurl his 6-foot long, "THIS IS A HOLD-UP!" banner.


A pollution control worker tried to kill his boss by poisoning his coffee, just because the boss forbade coffee-drinking at workstations. Imagine if the boss took away his parking spot. SPLAT!


A guy bought a Porsche with a $91,000 personal check. Problem was, he only had $900 in the bank. Then he bought a house and a boat – before he got caught. Is this what they mean by "worry-free checking?"


The woman who won big bucks from Bill O'Reilly in that sexual harassment suit complained about the cost of a cup of Starbucks coffee. The barista's lucky she didn't sue him for extortion.