Thursday, August 28, 2008

Benefits...who needs benefits

I read an article in the job section of the paper. This guy-lucky him- had been laid off a few years back and now found himself in the same boat again. (Due to economic circumstances and the fickle fortunes of corporate work.) This time he was laid off only a month or so. How did he create this miracle? He applied for short term contract work. He said in the article that he'd learned from the long 18 months of unemployment last time.

Something about this hit a cord with me. On the surface it makes no sense. If you are contract you have no benefits and you are basically putting yourself out of the job race for the length of the contract. But looking deeper I see that being employed anywhere is better than sitting at home. Sometimes contract work can lead to permanent employment or contacts into permanent employment.

So I applied for a job listed as a 6 month contract. The recruiter called me two days later. Told me I was perfect for the job (as if I haven't heard that one before...) and asked me to send a clean copy of my resume. So I agree with him that I am perfect for the job-Creative Manager-overseeing the creative department and editorial- and I sent him a word doc of my resume. Now I sit and wait.

I'll keep you posted on what happens next.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Filling Endless Saturdays

For the record, I have applied for 30 jobs so far in the month of August. I have had no calls for phone screens and no interviews.

I feel as if the world is looking at me like-what are you doing wrong-which is why I took the time to count this month's job applications. No, I'm not on unemployment and the only person I have to report to is myself. I am concerned. If no job is found in the next 90 days it will be February before things get back to speed. That would be 18 months of job hunt and humiliation...I hope I'm jumping the gun.

To fill the endless days-when I'm not surfing the web for any new and interesting job board or job- I have decided to use this time to write a new book. This one is a different genre than my published books. So far I have been able to write ten pages a day on the book. (Yes, this is a lot.) When asked how I do it...I simply shrug and say, "I have NOTHING else to do." Emphasis on nothing.

I recently read, "The List" by Steve Martini. In it the "hero" is a frustrated writer who takes to blowing up piles of rejection letters. Or simply using them for target practice. This made me smile. It's probably best I don't have a gun. (She says with a wink and a smile.)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

My dirty little secret

Here's the deal-as insane as this wrong as this is...I don't want to get a job. I don't want to get a divorce. I don't want to move yet again. I want the life I thought I had-damn it!

I sound like the little girl in the Pedisure commercial- I don't like broccoli...

God, no wonder women stay in bad marriages. No wonder people live in miserable lives. they want to live those lives- they-like me- keep hoping that those lives will magically become the lives they want. But there is no magic. No amount of therapy will change a man who says he is who he is. I know this. I know I'm supposed to take care of me. I know I deserve a relationship where I can trust the other person. Maybe even count of them in a pinch. But here's the deal- I grew up in such a way that I think those things are as unreachable as going to the moon. Great fairy tales but no where near real life. So it's really freaking hard for me to leave-especially as the job hunt drags on...

Same with jobs- I've had one miserable job after another. Worked for more than my fair share of horrid bosses. So much so that, when I step into an interview and smell the copy machine and bad coffee, I get PST flashbacks and am grateful that they don't call back because I just know it's horrible working there. (All three of the places I interviewed with last month have ads back in the paper with slight variations of job title but the same description. No- they never did call back.)

My experiences have taught me to be cynical and bitter. Life is the office-an endless pit of bad bosses, crazy assignments and low pay. Relationships suck.

So much better to hide in my office and create novels-worlds where thing happen the way they do in fairy tales-where even murder seems cool. Sigh. If only I could make a living doing that...

But that doen't pay the bills-so, I send out endless rounds of resumes-always imaging how cool the job could be-when I get a call I plaster on the "Interview Barbie" personna and take a pill to keep the flashbacks at bay until I get out of the interview....then I come home-shower off and reveal the deep rage that the world is not the way I want it to be- and I may have to go down to Walmart and get a job-to live in a trailer if that's what it takes-all in the pursuit of a happier life.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Waking up is hard to do

I'm losing faith in the job hunt. Only applied for three jobs this week-after having gone through 160 pages of jobs in Careerbuilder, 60 pages of jobs in hotjobs, pages in Monster. My last interview was a month ago. It was for a company that makes lab supplies. Again the job title was Marketing Services Manager, but the woman who interviewed me (The Marketing Director) had my credentials... (I had more experience than she did at this particular job having worked for a similar company years back.) She was looking for someone she could impress. (She had only been at her job three months.) I was not impressionable enough....sigh.

As an aside, I think I applied for her job and didn't get the call...hmmm.

On an interesting note: I read an article on three actresses in Parade Magazine on Sunday and was surprised to see that Meg Ryan also said she "woke up." Her marriage was undone for the same reasons mine was. Only she had the entire world picking on her-from America's sweetheart to mention of the man who she propped up for years through addictions to drugs and booze. Anyway-it was interesting to see she used the same words I did-she "woke up."

It took her years to get work again. Let's hope my not-so-famous self can find work a bit faster...and let's hope I don't need a scary face lift to accomplish the job.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

It's not's me

I received a call for a healthcare publications manager position with a large healthcare insurance company downtown. After a 15 minute initial interview, they set up a face to face interview. I pick up the suit from the dry cleaners. I go over my presentation. This is stuff I know. I've been doing healthcare publications for nearly ten years. I take the train an hour and a half into town. I walk ten blocks-change shoes in the park. Slip on my jacket and enter the glass skyscraper. I go to the front desk with my printed out e-mail and tell them who I'm supposed to ask for. They photograph me and create a badge. My escort will be right down. I wait. Ten minutes later (Is waiting a power thing? I think so...) my escort shows up. A lovely older woman who is breathless and chats about how she has worked for the company for over forty years. We go up to the 27th floor. She walks me through the glass halls-all secure as only a badge can open the doors-to a conference room where the person before me is running over time.

I chit chat about the construction going on above them-seems the building will go from 30 floors to 60 by the end of the year. she tells me they have to evacuate the building every time the crane hauls up new equipment for safety reasons. Finally the conference door opens. A man is escorted out. I go in. It is a good interview with two people-the manager who will be the boss and an art director. I like them. We get along well and I sail through the "tell us about a time when you X" questions. As I'm leaving for the second part of the interview, the boss tells me that they will call next week for second interviews. I'm happy, smiling, hopeful. Part two takes me to the top floor and a conference room bigger than my living room. As I'm taking it in, I note a six foot television screen with my image on it. I say, "Holy smokes, that's bad." Not seeing the smiling woman on the other side. It's a video interview with a woman in another part of the country-a counterpart to the boss. I sit down and put my game face on. I go through another round of "Tell me about..." questions. I'm not sure how this interview went. There were significant pauses as she typed my answers in. Eye contact is at a minimum but I bravely get through it. After 45 minutes I'm thanked for my time and sent out to the hallway to wait for my escort.

She is about five minutes late and happily takes me to the edge of the floor to ceiling exterior windows to "show me the view" completely unaware that I am afraid of heights. She is so enthusiastic about the city views that I do my best to ooh and aah. I must have been convincing as she takes me to the other side to see the construction and the park some 30 odd floors beneath us. I start to get woozy and step back. It was then that I noticed all the stairwells and stairs are glass. I'm really getting spooked. But wipe off the cold sweat on my forehead and gently guide her back to the elevators where I get to go down. Thankful to hand over my badge and get out of all that glass.

The next week-Friday- the boss guy calls. I'm not sure if I am hoping to see him again or not. But it's a good job. He would be great to work for. I even went out and bought a second suit. But boss man didn't call to schedule a second interview. He called to kindly tell me that-it rarely happens but...they had more than one candidate who actual worked in health insurance-not just publications and they went with those candidates. "Oh-" I say. "All right," thinking about the second suit hanging in my closet with the price tags still on it.

"I wanted to speak to you personally," he kindly tells me. "Because I wanted you to know that you interview very well. You are clear and concise in your examples-something well suited in communications. Unlike other candidates we interviewed."

"Oh, well, thank you..."

"Your welcome. I thought you should know and not have to wonder what happened."

Nice guy. I'm wishing I could work with him-but am glad not to have to worry about spending sixty hours a week up in the air with nothing but a pane of glass between me and 30 stories of air.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

I've become comfortably numb

Got a call from a well known drug store corporation. The position was Employee Benefits Communications Manager. I spoke at length with the recruiter who was all smiles on the phone and telling me how I was perfect for the job and she would recommend to send me through for a face to face interview. A week later I get a call setting up the interview. Once again I put on the now twice dry cleaned suit. I arrive on time-sign in- get my badge-go to the HR room. A very large room with cubicles on the ends and many couches and tables in the middle. I wait...and wait...after 30 minutes one of the receptionists in the cubicles calls me over. She takes my prefilled out application form and hands me a clipboard with more forms and points to a desk. I fill out the additional forms and bring them to her. She now sends me to a computer where I sign away my life-allowing any number of invasive background checks-understanding that they will check my body through a physical-drug test, etc. Check my background-credit check, criminal records check. Their demand for the surrendering of my rights makes me feel as if they have strip searched me with a camera-but I submit because I need a job. I am directed back to the chairs...where I wait another 15 minutes. Then a woman from down the hall calls my name...sort of like the doctor's office. I follow her into a glass conference room and sit down at a table. She goes over my paperwork, my portfolio and asks me the now standard..."talk about a time when you X" questions. After 45 minutes of this, she stands up and tells me the next person will be in in a moment. I thank her for her time and sit down...and wait....and wait...and wait... 30 minutes later one of the cubical receptionists pops her head in to tell me the other woman is running a tad bit late...(right) and will be right in...oh, do I want any water? No, I shake my head. I'm fine. (I'd probably spill it on my silk blouse anyway.) She hands me an employee benefit packet for something to look at while I wait. So, I settle into the hard metal chair and wait some more...after another 20 minutes-and just as I've decided to get up and leave in pops the second woman. She apologizes for being late and her appearance-its casual summer... she goes over my stuff- asks more questions. (I have all the right answers.) She nods and writes. Then she looks up and shares the details of the job and how the position fits into the company. I smile and nod- by this time I'm so tired- I'm not comprehending any of the terms she is using-because it is HR and I'm marketing-but I'm a quick learner so I smile and nod and agree. Finally, it's over- she shakes my hand and stands up and says..."We are just getting started in our search so it could be a while before we have second interviews. Don't worry, we'll call." - (Translation: Don't call us, We'll call you.) Big sigh. I thank her for her time as she walks me out- I surrender my badge at the gate and go to my car where I take off the suit coat and settle in for the 40 minute ride to my house.

Eight days later there is the job ad-same job- same title- with the banner-just out today. There is no second phone call. I'm back to combing through, Yahoo!,,,,,, and several corporate websites for new job postings.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Finally-a decent interview-but no job

The next interview was good only because the woman interviewing looked at me and my portfolio with big eyes and said, "You are highly qualified." Finally! Nice stroke to the old ego- but no job. Here's what happened:

I got a call for a Marketing Communications Manager for a local health care system. Cool, I've done a lot of health care publications. I do a short phone interview with a man who wasn't very bright. He sets me up with a face to face interview and tells me to park in visitor parking, go into the hospital main entrance and axe the receptionist for Human Resources... yes, a professional man said, axe the receptionist... once again I put on the suit. Take a 40 minute drive to the middle of a town so scary the trees are all shriveled. Graffiti is on the light posts. Why are hospitals in bad neighborhoods? Do they need them more there?

I park-and go into the hospital-passing two security guys-big men with guns- and a cop car. I enter the lobby it echoes with the smell of antiseptic and the sounds of coughs, moans and low whispers. I ask the gray haired woman behind the massive desk for directions to Human Resources. She point the way to a bank of elevators and tells me to go to the basement take a right and a left. I find the elevators-get on with two orderlies. The basement has that distinct underground feel and I wonder if I'm being sent to the morgue. I find HR. I'm on time-but again I wait. Ten minutes go by. A couple of people who look homeless come in to fill out applications. Finally a small man in a neon tangerine dress shirt comes out to see me. He smiles, shakes my hand and brings me back to his office where he thanks me for e-mailing him...I didn't...I smile back. He then asks me how freelancing is going....I never spoke to him about freelancing and say awkwardly that I'm here for the Mar/Comm position-not freelance... right? Oh, Right! He says and smiles as he sifts through papers. Right. Silly him. He asks me some questions. I show him my stuff. He tells me to show it to the woman I'm to interview with. Then he gives me a benefits package and tells me all about the insurance and bennies you get should you get the job. He asks me my salary requirements I give them to him. He pauses-blinks- moves on.

We go upstairs-thank goodness- to a hall full of offices for the second interview of the day. The person is not in her office-the door is shut and locked. He glances at his watch. He finds another office and asks for the woman. She is in a meeting with the CEO-so I'm shown to an office across the hall where tangerine shirt man abandons me. I wait 15 minutes before the woman rushes in- all apologies. I smile. Shake her hand. We sit and talk. I show her my work. Her eyes get bigger and bigger the more we talk. She says, "You are highly qualified." More than once and I get the distinct impression I am more qualified than she is...and she would be my boss... it was a bit of a high. She ends the interview with the now standard..."Well, we just started looking. So it will be quite a while before we get back to you. Don't worry." (translation: Don't call us. We'll call you.)

She walks me to the elevator. I get on. Halfway down the elevator stopped and another man went to get on-stopped as soon as he saw me and apologized-then asked if this was the doctors only elevator. I said no. I'm not a doctor. Just a Communications Director looking for work...we both hit the lobby-go passed the security and out into the dirty parking lot. I go home-happy to finally have impressed someone-but had to take a shower to get clean, all the while knowing they wouldn't be calling back.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Darkside-tales of the Mad Men

When fiction and life intersect, it's kind of creepy. My next call for a job interview was from a new ad agency downtown. The position was Director. I had the experience, the pov and a background in their "hip marketing ploy of the month" Word of Mouth Marketing. Cool. The director position leads the creative team-writers, graphic artists, etc. and works with clients-something I've done. I'm to interview with the CEO, and two fellow directors. Excited I burst into "good girl" mode. I spend four days immersing myself in all things "Word of Mouth." I research the agency- pour over their website. Delve into their client list. I prepare a presentation-have my talking points- offer up my strengths and counter my perceived weaknesses. I buy a $400 suit and designer shoes. Hip is in. I pack up my portfolio and crib notes and take the train an hour and a half into town. I put on my walking shoes and walk the two miles to the agency-duck into Nordstroms to change shoes, fluff hair, spray, lipstick, one last review of crib notes -spritz of perfume and I'm 100 percent confident I'll nail this job.

I press the button and am buzzed up. There is a hip young man in his early 20's at the reception desk and a big bright red vinyl sofa so low slung that it would be impossible to climb out of if you actually sat back. I tell him who I am and who I'm supposed to see. He points to the sofa and tells me to wait. Even though I am on time I wait 15 minutes. During that time I see one of the directors I'm to meet with walk passed-go down the elevator- come back with a soda. I smile at him as he goes by. He looks away. There is a meeting going on in an all glass conference room at the end of the hall. Full of men. They all check me out as they talk.

Finally the CEO comes out. I stand up. We shake hands. He says, "You wore a suit...on a Friday." (It was at this moment that I knew the interview would not go well. I hide this fact with a quick tease about how comfortable it is in the heat.) He walks me back to his office and offers me water. I decline and wait while he gets himself some. The interview itself was short and quick- filled with him explaining how important he was-how high powered he was- how he has a 20 something gal who was just promoted from intern to associate and was a real go-getter and how he was certain that a thirty something...(cough, cough-no I did not tell him my "real" age.) would be stuck in their ways. He asked me my salary requirements. I came in 5 grand under the director position. He frowned and said it was too high for an associate...(Huh, when did he decide I was on the same level as the intern?) I stuck to my talking points-my strengths, my experience. He mentioned the intern again...and that my salary was high for that. I countered that I was here for the director job and my experience was perfect for that. He stood-thanking me for my time and the suit... I explained that I had two other interviews scheduled- he did not believe me. I pulled out the printed e-mail showing the schedule. Frowning, he sent me back to the big red couch. (I should have just left at this point, but I'm stubborn. I had ridden the train -walked 16 city blocks- I was going to see all these men.)

Ten minutes later- he told me that the second interview was canceled- the guy who I saw earlier with the soda- was not at work today...huh. I waited another 15 minutes and the third guy-who the receptionist caught coming out of the elevator after popping by Starbucks awkwardly took me. Seems they all knew, I really wasn't right for the job...just looking at me...although they both said I should come back and talk to the "female" director whose team the position was for.

Nope. They never called back.

As my good friends told me- they wanted a 20 something airhead ready to give blow jobs and ponies at a moment's request. It's pretty clear that's not me. (For those of you who are wondering, I've been told I've held up pretty well-so no, I'm not a battle axe by any stretch of the imagination- or the crypt keeper for that matter.)

Have you seen the television series Mad Men-about a hipster ad agency in the 1960's. Below is a clip on how they treat women.

Yeah- this was like that...only I, as an assumed thirty something, was too old. What the fuck happened to the 21st century??? No, I'm not twenty- but then I know how to show up on time-turn my cell phone off-work 60 hours with a smile and actually solve a problem. (What the hell- how can I be too old to be hired when I still have 25 years until I can retire?)

Eerily enough-in the first episode of the season-the Mad Men's art director is getting nervous because 36 is far too old. People want 20 year olds... So, looking back I believe Mr. CEO had his panties in a twist because he was fired from his last gig because of his age. What do you think?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Never ending darkside tales...

So, I applied for a web director job for a company in Walla, Walla Washington. Six weeks later I got an e-mail telling me they had decided to hire from within, but they had another opening I may be perfect for...Editorial Director. My dream job. I set up a phone interview which I am lead to believe went very well. I am told by the nice HR director that she will take my candidacy to the Senior Management and get back to me in a few days. Two weeks later she writes and tells me that the Sr. Management has a few "concerns." UGH!. I call her and address the concerns. She sets up a phone interview with the head guys. I spend three hours on the phone with them-ever mindful of their "concerns." I am smart, articulate and express to them that this is my "dream" job...Really. I hang up and wait another two weeks before I e-mail back. The HR lady tells me they want me to take a personality test. I go to the test site-take the test-which is 1.5 hours long. I wait. Two weeks later I contact them again...really, my dream job... HR tells me she is waiting for results of said test-test company spokesperson has been ill and out of work. Two weeks later she e-mails me. She tells me I tested very high for sales. She sends me the job description. Would I be interested in sales? I tell her I'll look it over. (Major disappointment because clearly the "dream" job is now off the table.) I ponder job. I have questions I set up a phone interview time. She does not call. I call her but now I am a bother. She cannot answer my questions- she will set up yet another phone interview in two to four weeks. I waited three days then politely excused myself from their job hunt-citing the fact that I would like to use my experience in writing and graphic design and creative leadership.

Months of work and another "dream" job down the toilet.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Dark Side 2

Nothing makes me more furious than a job recruiter calling me, telling me how they have the perfect job for me. We talk about my resume and my experience. We spend an hour discussing the job and how I would fit in. Twice they have had me come in for a face to face interview with them. They tell me I'm perfect and they will contact the client. Two days later, they call with these words..."the senior management has some concerns." Bam! I'm PO'd. I do the hard sell, explaining away the concerns but that is the end of it. The client isn't interested. There is someone better. (See me shaking my head.) One time I was told, "well, the last guy was more a strategic leader and not hands on and they are worried." Well just because he was wrong for them doesn't mean I am. I never even met the guy. I explained how I am a hands on kind of person and why-with examples both concrete and intutitve. But to no avail. Without even seeing me, they have cut me from the list.

Interview number 2 was with a major insurance carrier looking for a corporate communications manager. They call and I give an hour phone interview. They call again. We set up a face to face. I drive 25 miles to the corporate headquarters-get my badge- go in. There are two people interviewing. I sit through two hours of endless... "Tell us a time when you did/experienced this..." Then the final question. Have you ever written a communications plan. I had done my homework on this subject. I went through my portfolio-showed them all the writing samples-widely varied. The reviews from clients and readers, etc. I explain what a communications plan is and how it works. I explain how my talents will make it easy for me to write a plan. They demanded to see a plan in my portfolio. I didn't have one. I reiterated that I am completely capable of writing one. But without a concrete example in hand, I am dismissed and never heard from them again. Not even a "sorry we've filled the job."

The interview process has become a battle where I study my talking points, gather my examples, argue for hiring me. It's like being in a debate where the judges have already predetermined the outcome before you enter the room. They simply wait for some small hole and poof. Days of hard work-lost...and no job in hand. Pisses me off. And worse...they smile and ask, "Why do you want to work here?" The obvious answer is because I need a job/healthcare insurance/food and housing. I reply, "Because I'm talented, experienced and highly motivated. This is my dream job." Why don't they believe me?

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Tales from the dark side 1

I've been job hunting for nearly a year...seriously for six months. I've had numerous phone interviews. One very bizarre video interview for which I went out and purchased a state-of-the-art camera and then ...began the face to face interviews.

The whole experience has been a nightmare.

First interview:

A small magazine publisher was looking for a Senior Editor. Cool. They called. I went out and bought a suit that fit. Drove the 25 miles to the spot. Parked and went in. The magazine was for Police and EMS personnel. This will work since I have experience in publishing publications for emergency guides, maps and personnel. I walked in and introduced myself to a nervous receptionist...blond...20 something. I waited in a foyer that was decorated with models of police cars and fire trucks. An assistant came in- also blond and 20 something-led me to the interview room where I met the publisher/CEO. We spoke. I answered all his questions. Showed him my portfolio and writing samples. Did the personal sales pitch. Then he told me about the job- which turned out to be an acquiring editor position/face of the mag...when he showed me a photo of the guy who was leaving I knew I was sunk. I was not the right gender and I certainly didn't have enough gray hair. This publication was meant to be read by "real men" and, since I'm also not blond, I knew I would not get hired. We locked eyes and he knew I knew I would not get hired. I stood, shook his hand and left. Said goodbye to the two blonds inside and met a third blond in the parking lot on her way up. She smiled and said..."How did it go?" I lied. "Well." Then she nodded, "Good luck." I think we both knew we'd never see each other again.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Where to Begin?

The old me is dead. Everything I thought I was...gone. I spent twenty three years, married, raising children, working part time in publishing, writing the next bestseller. I didn't have it all, but I believed I could if I only worked hard enough. After all that was what "they" said right there in books, magazines, commercials. If you were pretty, smart, educated and hard working you could accomplish any dream.

My be have respect. And I worked my ass off, put my husband through college, put myself through college, twice- Associates in Engineering and BS in Journalism. I love magazines and wanted to work in the industry, but by the time I got the BS I was thirty something, a vet of the Air Force, married with two kids living in the midwest-far from any publishers. So, I did my best, worked part time, raised my kids and turned my dream to a career in commerical fiction. If only I could publish this story, I could have my dream. I was certain I was that good...that I am that good. I put my head down and worked, writing three 500 page novels a year in the dead of night. I believed.

Wake up- the kids are grown and gone-having struggles of their own and no they don't want your advice. The husband who I pushed, pulled and nurtured? He is a drunk. Finally sober after twenty years-he doesn't want me around. I know too much. The writing? I sold! Eight books this year-but the publishers are small. The money- almost a grand a book- doesn't pay for the equipment I write it on-plus paper, maintenance, ink, postage...

I have to get a full time job. I have two degrees. I can write. I can do graphic design. I can do websites and marketing. I have ten years experience. No one wants to hire that. I'm too old for creative work-too pretty-too ugly-too experienced- not experienced enough- not "cool" enough-not "hip" enough- too suburban. I hear "We are concerned that you may not be flexible enough." "We are concerned you haven't enough experience supervising staff." "We are concerned that this position doesn't have a staff for you to supervise and you would be bored." "You are overqualified." "You've never done this exact job."

I read self help books. They say when you hit mid life and find yourself without spouse or children or job-rejoice! You get the fun of starting completely over. You can pursue your dreams! You can be anything-do anything.

That is Crap! See above job hunt. Look I don't want to just whine in this blog. I want to share the case there is anyone else out there...waking up...and wondering What the Hell Happened?