Posted in Life

Notes From the Unemployed

I went for a job interview today. It was a second round interview. The first I had hit out of the park a couple of days ago with the CEO. He said he wanted to hire me, but he wanted this other guy to meet me first.

So, I went to the second interview with a little more assurance and rehashed my winning talking points from earlier. This second guy wasn’t as easily impressed. By the end, I shook his hand and left with a sinking, “Good, but not great,” feeling in my stomach.

I’ve been unemployed for months. It doesn’t help that my resume is all over map. Professionally, I’ve been a writer, a teacher, and an administrative assistant. At this point, I don’t care what I get hired to do, as long as they pay me. (Actually, come to think of it, that’s not true. I have a lot of standards. Most of them come from being self-aware enough to know which jobs I would suck at and end up getting fired).

Getting ready for a job interview, at least for a woman, is like getting ready for a first date. All morning, and even all the day before, you are planning. What will I wear? Does it need to be laundered/pressed/hemmed/starched? Then, you have to make a run to the store for starch and that wonderful invention that all petite women must be made aware of–the iron-on hemline adhesive. If you don’t know about this, and you are under, say, 5’3″, pay close attention.

You fold over whatever you want to hem, and then insert a strip of this magic paper in the crease, and iron for about two or three minutes–and voila! The dress slacks fit! So, all night, you’re ironing, starching, hemming. Unless you give up and decide to buy an entirely new outfit, which after three hours and four stores you may emerge with the perfect outfit. Or you may emerge with just a headache, and decide to just buy the damn starch and wear that stupid shirt you hated earlier today.

Once you have selected said attire, you may have to make a trip to the nail salon for nail care or waxing. After all, nails must at least be polished, if not professionally manicured. If you will be wearing open-toed shoes, a pedicure, even if self-administered, is mandatory as well. And you begin to stress out because it’s getting late, and places are starting to close and you’ve been getting ready for this interview since lunch.

In the morning, you wake up to shower, and spend an hour with the blow dryer and flat iron. Then, another ten to fifteen tediously applying cosmetics and beauty products to both face and hair. You skip breakfast (who can think of food at a time like this?!) You take sips of coffee in between strokes of the flat iron, and perhaps a few bites of a muffin. Finally, you slip into your carefully selected sexy-but-not-too-sexy heels, and start to gather your supplies.

During my last job search about six years ago, you needed to print directions via MapQuest, and bring a fresh copy of your resume on high quality watermarked paper. This may have required a trip to the local print shop, depending on if you had the nice paper on hand, and the ink levels in your printer. (I could never keep ink in my printer for some reason).

Thankfully, technological advances have largely eliminated this step. Smartphones give you directions, and most employers prefer to reference your resume from their laptop/iPad anyway. Although, having been caught out once with the terrifying question, “Do you have a copy of your resume?” and having to answer, “Uh, no, I’m sorry, I don’t.” I am now paranoid about having my resume.

I arrive to the office, on time, looking effortlessly professional, resume in hand, and smile. He shakes my hand and has no idea what I’ve already been through for this job. If he did, he would hire me just on the effort.

Instead, we have a pleasant thirty-minute meeting, and he thanks me for my time. That’s never a good sign. Being thanked for your time, or being told it was nice meeting you. This is an unconscious clue that they don’t expect to see you again. And that’s it. I go home.

There’s nothing quite like the anti-climax of a job interview. They say to send a Thank You note, but to me it just screams desperation. Maybe I just don’t do them properly, but I’ve never gotten a job I’ve sent a Thank You Note to. Even when I was sure that I had the job.

So, in the end, I went home, changed clothes, and walked around Office Max for an hour wishing I could buy a really cool printer and print out my book and work on it some more.

I guess I shouldn’t complain. Today’s job search strategies are much more efficient than previous generations who had to keep a running supply of resumes, cover letters and letters of reference on hand, and then send them via postal mail. They then had to wait for an answer to arrive the same way, or perhaps by home phone, which may or may not be equipped with call waiting and certainly had no form of voicemail.

Although, I can’t say I agree with this new trend of inviting people to interviews, and even offering jobs, via text message. I get that it’s a valid form of communication now and for many, just as natural. But it still seems too casual for formal business communication to me. These things should be done via e-mail or phone call.

Recently, I applied to a major international oil company, and received a nicely formatted rejection letter on company letterhead, delivered as a PDF file attached to an e-mail. It was slightly weird, but did have something of an archaic charm.

I do think I miss the sort of formal business world that I never inhabited.  In that world, experience and education would actually mean something.. In that world, I could actually get a damn job.

Posted in Writing

Short Poem: Abandoned House

The old abandoned house

Sweat beads perspiring on my forehead and running down my back.

Walls of dark paneled wood and floors of broken linoleum and bare concrete 

Cobwebs with corpses of insects long since devoured sprawling across dingy windowsills.

Indigenous dust and the remains of a recent rain thick in the air.

The hum of cars in the background giving way to gentler buzz of cicadas in dead summer heat.

I have finally made it inside–the lone traveler sent to tame the land.

 

Posted in Writing

Poem: The Ode of Captain Hook

The Ode of Captain Hook

The ticking clock inside my head
Hurries on without consent
Despite my efforts to will it hurry, wait
With cold impartial hands, it doles out human life.

(Timeless)
A mystical entity beyond ourselves
Commanding eternal guards
Of light and dark, sun and moon
Never changing
Never faltering
Never missing
A single stroke

Forever locked in time
In time I will remain
A mortal prisoner to its ancient beat
Toiling through each day
Each beat bringing me closer…to the end.

And when time has had its way with me
Made my light grow dim and dimmer still
And slowed my hurried pace to a grinding halt
What awaits me on the other side?
Angels? Devils? Stony grey sleep?

Too eternal not to fear
Too human to comprehend

I am haunted by time

Posted in Life

You’ve Been Scam’d

It started out innocently enough. It was an ad on Craigslist:  “Creative Writer Needed.” Or at least that’s what I think it said. I’ve answered so many job ads, I can’t keep them straight. It was a short ad stating they needed a creative writer to write articles.

I had seen that sort before, usually the pay is mere pittance for these types of jobs (See Pay Writers What They’re Worth). So, I read with skepticism. The grammar and punctuation weren’t that great, but I figured maybe that’s why they were hiring a writer. Then I saw the pay: $550/week.

I was impressed. That was a small fortune compared to some of the other ads I was reading. But, it wasn’t out of the question. When I had worked as a telecommuting writer for a local news site, I made about that much. I shrugged, shot off a resume and cover letter and moved to the next ad. Two days later, I received an e-mail from “Tawler Jenkins.”

Hello,
This email is to confirm your appointment as our writer.

What? Without an interview or even phone call? Besides, don’t I have a choice in this?

We are not an established company already otherwise we wouldn’t be
looking for our first writer online.

OUCH! I was turned off by the insult. But, perhaps they were not native English speakers, and their culture was just more direct in its expression. Tawler explained they were four ex-Microsoft game employees creating a social and urban magazine. At present they didn’t have an office or website, but they were working on that. Okay, I thought, maybe they were just a disorganized start-up. Tawler went on to explain that I would write articles on whatever I wanted but spent several paragraphs admonishing me that:

As our only writer, you must be hard working, extremely creative and
flexible in order to make our work easier. You can be sure that you will be dully compensated as time goes on.What we expect from you is a job professionally done by ensuring you pull through with your experience and skill.

My spam meter was going off at this point. Sure, I sent you a link to my online portfolio in my cover letter, but you want to hire me as your only writer without even speaking to me? I’m flattered, but uh…I don’t buy it. I kept reading simply for amusement.

We have no experience in writing articles and we are not interested in
it so it is your business to make a great impression of yourself with
your first and other jobs for us.

What?! You want to start a magazine and you have no interest in the articles? Definitely spam. Not only that, a Google search on Tawler Jenkins produced no results, and he flat-out stated they didn’t have a company name yet. But, what were they getting out of this deal?

It seemed the worst they could do was not pay. But, they were talking about two articles a week. If I wrote them and they didn’t pay,  I will have written two brand new well-researched pieces. I’ve still got them on my hard drive and could quickly publish them somewhere else.

What would they get out of the deal? Was there that much of a black market for original web content? Really, if they wanted to steal articles, it would be much easier to copy and paste.

Remember we are new to this and want to take the world by surprise.

I was starting to see the picture here. You’re a little band of gamers that saw an opportunity to make money in advertisement. You decided you would use an online magazine as your vehicle. You got some investors, and have spent all your time and energy making a super cool website that’s still not perfect enough for you, so you haven’t launched it. In the meantime, you have given no thought to what you actually wanted to put on the site—which is where I come in. I could actually see that happening and I kinda felt sorry for the guys.

I also realized it could be a genuine opportunity for me to write whatever I wanted, and get paid well–at least as long as the investor money lasted. I sent another e-mail asking specific questions to nail down some details. If they were spam it would come out. The next day, I got a weird response beginning with:

We have just finished reviewing your email and we think you might be
the writer we would be working with,so here is the deal in detail.

Wait. I thought you already hired me. I’m confused, but it does make more sense. He went on to describe the required length of the articles, a couple of guidelines (no porn related, and had to have questions at the end to keep the readers engaged and hopefully commenting). He talked about insurance and raises and that it was work-at-home until further notice. He was starting to sound more like an employer. My skepticism slowly began to fade.

Please attach specific articles that you have written that incorporate
what we are looking for so we can be sure to reach an agreement with
you.

Okay, then I haven’t been hired. But the guidelines were so vague, it was hard to figure out what samples to send. It’s my personal standard that sending Word attachments as writing samples is bulky and not very professional. Your best articles should already be published online anyway. So, I linked three articles I had published online and hoped for the best.

The next day I received an e-mail with no comment on my samples, but telling me they only wanted to communicate by e-mail, and that I would be paid via certified check unless I wanted to give my bank information for direct deposit. My scam alarm went off at all levels. Certified check?!

I have written for many legitimate online-only companies, and the standard protocol for payment is PayPal. And There was no way I was giving my bank account number to someone who refuses to speak to me.

On the .001% chance that this really was just an amateur start-up run by gamers lush with investor money but low in common sense, I sent them a final e-mail kindly but firmly insisting to be paid via PayPal. I also pointed out that surely they understood how bad this looked. I explained that I was fine with an e-mail only relationship, but I needed a phone call to verify legitimacy and to ensure that all of my questions were answered to my satisfaction.

I never heard from them again. I’m not happy that they have my resume, but it had an old address and the one-page summary of my employment history largely consisted of freelance publishing credits. I don’t think they could do too much damage with that. They didn’t get any writing from me. Everything I sent them is publicly available online and has been for years. if they wanted to steal it, well, anyone takes that risk publishing anything online.

The only other thing I can think of,  is that they were trying to create actual work, so that I would readily give them my bank information. I have since Googled around for this type of scam, and found that Craigslist is rife with job scams, and that job hunters should beware. What a shame, when unemployment is so rampant to take advantage of the desperate.

Posted in Life

Subduing the Earth and the Concrete Jungle

I like to think I am a citizen of the concrete jungle. A sophisticate-in-training, who can wear stilettos and navigate through complex social maneuvers more or less with ease.

However, I have found myself this summer in a very odd situation. Through a series of long and detailed choices not really my own, I am now living on this property deep in the country. This property has been empty for a decade, but it has “potential.” There are three houses on it, only one habitable (and very crowded), 

I have spent most of the summer cursing my wicked lot, wishing I could go back to apartment life, where they had someone handle the lawn, Starbucks was across the street, and the only nature I ran across was while jogging through the well-maintained hiking trails.

But, I have to accept the things I cannot change, at least for now. In the interest of “bloom where you are planted,” I decided to embark on a renovation project. Granted, the only thing I know about home renovation was the one time I painted my bedroom. But, in the age of YouTube, and Ikea, how difficult could it be?

So, I found this gorgeous one room apartment/studio in the Ikea catalog, and decided the dilapidated one room building on my property will eventually look like this. Armed with the motivation of the naïve, I strapped on a pair of boots and a tank top, and headed to assess the situation.

Only I couldn’t get there. Even the pathway was covered in weeds, some taller than me. These weeds, most certainly housed all manner of wildlife, of which the mere sight would send me running back to the house with the shrieks of a mezzo-soprano.

But, being unemployed, and marooned in the country without technology, I didn’t have much else to do. So, I eventually found myself with a machete, and began wildly hacking away at the weeds.

And something happened to me. It was as if my spirit were connecting to something deep and primal inside of me. And it was good. It was healthy. Decades of civilized behavior, and the need to adhere to cultural expectations and protocols, seemed for a moment irrelevant. I allowed myself a primal scream, as I wildly conquered the earth.

“I am human,” my inner voice screamed. “All dominion of the earth has been given to me! You must be subdued.”

It was a validation of my humanity, and how free I could be when stripped of my veneer of civilization. Then, I wiped my brow and surveyed the damage. Not much. But, I was proud of myself. Then, I took my machete, and went back to my house to take a shower and check Facebook.

I think everyone needs this experience now and again. To step out of civilization and embrace the primitive human inside of us. It is a glorious and empowering moment. Now maybe I can get a job.

Posted in God

On Faith and Hope Deferred

I don’t understand faith. Yes, I know that if you have the faith a mustard seed, you can move a mountain. I understand that faith requires action, and that faith gives you the grace to make things happen…whatever that means. But, the problem I have with faith, comes from its very nature.

In order for faith to work, you have to believe with your heart, that the thing you are believing for will happen. This leaves no room for you to hold on, and protect your heart, should it not happen. Then, it also requires you to put it into action your belief. So, you are believing for something, and you put those things in action, and then…what happens if whatever you are believing for, doesn’t happen? Then you are crushed. And there is no way to avoid this crushing blow, because faith requires your genuine belief.

Take, for example, the couple who believes God will give them a baby. They believe in their hearts that they will conceive. They take…ahem…action. They may even tell their friends and family that they are believing for a baby. They may even set up a room the baby, and even buy furniture for their…”faith baby.”  The months and years go by…no baby.

What of the cancer patient who believes that God will heal them? They make positive confessions, and their families believe with them. They plan for a long a prosperous life, and reject the doctors’ increasingly distressing reports. “I’m believing for healing,” they say. Then, the healing doesn’t come, and the family mourns at the gravesite. “But, we believed,” they say.

What of the couple facing financial ruin? They pray for help, and believe God is going to provide the help they need. They make calls, searching far and wide pursuing every possible avenue to stay afloat. But, in the end, they still lose everything. And, as they drive away from their foreclosed home, they say, “But we believed.”

In these cases, how do you protect your heart from crushing disappointment?  Holding any part back, is not genuine faith. But, then it becomes hope deferred making the heart sick. I have never understood this part of faith. It is dangerous ground to question the Almighty, but after living a lifestyle of faith, my heart hurts from all of this up and down.