Monday, October 31, 2011

Day 166: Actions, not words

Last Wednesday night was chatting with two friends about the events of Day 160. Both have experience in the job training/job placement field.

Both offered to take a look at my resume and offer feedback. Of course I took them up on it.

One I'm still waiting to hear back from. The other jumped right in and provided me with, basically, several hundred dollars worth of expert analysis. The net effect was a complete re-write of my resume and a new approach. It was a difficult exercise -- forcing myself to think in a completely new way. But obviously, given my near misses (and complete misses!) it was time to try something fresh.

Now I'm really excited about the new format and the way I think it may position me to get the attention of "hiring managers" (such a labored term).

She didn't have to help me. We haven't known each other for a long time. And she basically gave me a lot of free money in the shape of resume counseling and advice with not much benefit to her at stake.

It's pretty reassuring to know that people are still capable of being so nice.

One of my past gigs I had responsibility for a 10-person team and a budget of $1.5 million. It was a great job and I did everything I could to ease the grind on the people on the team. About 40 percent of my time was dealing with personnel concerns; probably another 25 percent was consumed in meetings (this was a meetings-intensive place), and another 10-15 percent was taken up with paperwork-type things. This left about 20-25 percent of time left to do actual work. It was interesting in the sense that "actual work" was kind of no longer what I did in this position. I truly had to "manage" the work of others, not in the sense of sitting on their shoulders making sure things were done, but in coordinating the work of the team and then just getting out of their way, and providing a forum for their concerns and ideas about how to improve processes.

It was fun, actually. I got the most satisfaction out of trying to create an environment where they could be at their maximum efficiency. One person wanted to work from home. We tried it. After a few months, they didn't like it. The main thing was we were able to push the boundaries and see what worked. As a team, we were able to brainstorm ideas and came up with some really good ones, most of which we put into place. It was the best working group I've been a part of.

Naturally, there's always one bad apple, and this malcontent did a pretty good job of being Julie Jerky. But for everyone else, I think that the situation was as close to ideal as you can get.

People can be good, and do the right thing. My friend helped me. Our long-ago work team believed in the team and almost always did the right thing. (Of course there were stumbles, like the time the company intranet post wasn't proofread first and sent out a notice about the fight against Beast Cancer.)

What you do matters a lot more than what you say.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Day 160: Do it Right

So among the jobs I applied for last Thursday was a gig for a copywriter position for an ad agency that has an outpost here in Gawd's Country.

Today, Tuesday, not even three full business days after I applied, I got the rejection notice.

Now, at this point I'm used to this. And kudos to the agency for at least giving me some notification. I'd say well more than 85 percent of places don't even have the human decency to do that.

However, my credentials in matching up skills needed for this job are completely on the mark. As in, there's no effing way they have a vast field of applicants with more experience. So I'm at least worth an interview, right? Apparently not. But this aggression will not stand, man.

In the rejection notice was this line: "Please continue to review our job postings for positions that peak your interest."

Now, if you're going to blow me off, and blow smoke up my tailpipe saying that you've given my candidacy "careful consideration," then I want you to be so damn on top of your stuff that you don't dismiss me with incorrect word usage! What they meant was "pique," not "peak" my interest. I'm piqued off!

So I decided not to accept being tossed aside in that fashion. I went back and re-applied, and pointed out that they had the wrong word, and that I was the kind of guy who wouldn't make that sort of mistake, and shouldn't that be of value to them? I mean, as an agency with national reach, I'd be humiliated if I submitted something to a client that had that sort of amateur mistake in it.

Maybe it will wake them up. At the very least, maybe they'll correct the mistake in the next rejection letter I get.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Cool giveaway!

Oh my, we've got a very special giveaway today for one lucky Jobless Journal visitor: an autographed copy of President Bill Clinton's memoir, My Life.

Pretty cool, huh?

How do you win? Go back to the blog and name your winners in the comments sections of the incomplete Comedian Playoffs (CP) posts. I promise to post more bracket choices in the next week. On Monday, Oct. 31, I'll have a random drawing and this autographed book is yours!

Day 156: The Filing

There's a nice inbox adjacent to my desk that has become the repository of financial documents that I keep. It's got debit card receipts, utility bills, pay stubs, bank statements, etc.

The box is maybe two inches deep. Right now it's almost full. There are files for all the above, and more. The smartest thing would be to file things immediately as they are processed, but I don't always do that. Sometimes it takes the thing overflowing to prompt action.

But the action takes place. The stuff gets filed.

And that's the lesson. The dull stuff has to be done. It's not always fun.

But it takes some time, sometime, to learn this lesson. Thing is, doing the filing applies to just about every endeavor in your life. There will always be detail work that has to be done to maintain your relationships.

Here's a list of some of the things that have to be done, but aren't necessarily enjoyable:
* Cleaning up after your pet. We've got two 50-pound dogs. They eat. You know where this is going. I have to clean up after them outside. And not just here, but at the dog park, etc. You'd be shocked -- or maybe you wouldn't be -- at how many people just let their dogs do their business wherever and don't attend to the mess. (These are also some of my terrorists.) Picking up dogshit is anything but fun. But it has to be done.
* Doing the dishes/housework. This house was built in 1939. Updated with a new bathroom, ceiling fans and a modern upright washer and dryer a couple of years ago, it's a pleasant place to live. It's got hardwood floors, big old windows (drafty and completely energy-inefficient, BTW), a nice deck, and plenty of trees/foliage. What it doesn't have is a dishwasher. I'm the dishwasher. When we were looking for a new place to live, we spent days and days and days driving around, looking. We totally stumbled on this place, ideally located near the U, the park, the main drag. Perfect. But... no dishwasher. I had to agree to dishes duty for a year to seal the deal. I don't always do them, but I almost always do them. And I don't like it. I also don't like cleaning up dog hair, dusting ceiling fan blades, vacuuming. I need one of those Jane Curtin-as-Prymaat-Conehead aprons that says "I Hate Housework." But the work has to be done. And being the person around here without a real job these days means I have to contribute something useful.
* Car stuff. Yes, this traditionally falls to the guy, but it's even more pronounced in a household where half the driving contingent only learned to drive five years ago. Some basic things like changing wiper blades, checking tire pressure... bleah. But, gotta.

But it's not just gender-traditional things that have to be done. Look at the bigger picture. Your personal relationships require filing, too.

In an episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" someone -- I think it was Jeff Garlin -- makes a comment about Larry David's uber-casual, rumpled outfit. Larry says "I'm married - I can wear whatever I want." When you settle into a relationship, your natural laziness can re-establish a foothold. It's not just love relationships that are at risk. Family, friends, work relationships each require attention.

Consider houseplants. Some are pretty hardy, but without watering them and tending to them at least occasionally, they're going to wither and die. Relationships are the same. You've got to water them. You've got to pay them attention. You've got to do the filing.

Maybe this seems obvious to some of you, but it wasn't to me for a long, long time. I've got the trail of fractured relationships to prove it. I feel badly for the mistakes I made, the inattentiveness that I displayed. Ignorance is no excuse. Being unaware that I'd have to work at sustaining relationships doesn't excuse my damaging them. The inbox overflowed. I let it.

You've got to keep working. You've got to attend to the details.

Now, you're not alone in this. The other part(s) of the equation have to do their part, too. All involved parties have filing to do. One can do more, but only for a while. If the work falls solely to one person, the relationship is doomed.

I'm a movie lover. One of my favorites is Stanley Kubrick's dark take on Vietnam, "Full Metal Jacket." The first half hour is astonishing, a visceral trip inside the hell of a Marine boot camp. The undisciplined, lazy Pvt. Pyle is a constant irritant to the hardass drill instructor, Gunnery Sgt. Hartman. Pyle is a "non-hacker." On an obstacle course, Pyle fails to climb a wall. Hartman rips him, asking if he expects to "miracle his ass" up there.

You can't expect to reach your goals by magic. You're not going to be able to "miracle" your ass up there. You're going to have to do the work. You're going to have to do things that aren't fun. You're going to have to do the filing. Best to learn and accept this as soon as possible. Now would be a good time.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Day 152: Sunsets

The latest issue of Rolling Stone features Steve Jobs on the cover and a lengthy amount of editorial space is devoted to the Apple icon.

Jobs' passing elicited tributes left and right, although, by many accounts, he was a jerk for much of his life. But his products were cool, and have a lot of fanboys who swear by them. I fall into that category.

It's easy to canonize someone who is successful, rich, famous -- a celebrity. In a way it's also positive that people who become celebrities can be from different fields -- not just athletes and artists.

I sat alone on the deck last night and watched the sun set while the dogs cavorted and did dog things. And I thought about Jobs, about Hunter Thompson, about my parents and my daughter and about it being late in the day, and later in life. I thought about M, about my friends, and my ex-friends (one newly made!), and about legacies.

In Jobs' case, because of Apple products, his legacy is going to be a positive one. The man is associated with something widely popular; he'll be remembered as "cool."

In the case of someone like HST, like Hemingway, his legacy is marred by the way he went out. All the good they did, washed away with the twitch of a finger.

My parents are old. Nearing 80. I saw both of them recently and my dad, a little decrepit these days, seems to have a strong spirit. My mother, typical of her lineage, defies nature. She'll be 77 in a few days, but she's showing no signs of slowing down. It's encouraging in both cases.

What will their legacies be? If he thinks about these things, my father doesn't share that information. He seems to just keep moving ahead, without giving much thought to the day he doesn't. That might be a good approach. He had some fairly serious health issues a few years ago and could have thrown in the towel. He didn't. And for me, those extra years have made all the difference. We now have a closer relationship. A lot of things would have been left undone otherwise.

Are legacies defined by the individual, or by the collective views of those who remember the individual?

I will remember my father as someone who overcame many obstacles. You can do this and still be unknown. Not every success equals fame and fortune. But those successes are no less notable and important.

I will remember my mother as someone who also overcame many obstacles (perhaps one of them: my father! I joke!)... my mom is a loving person. She wants to be optimistic. I think I frustrate her with my pessimism.

It's interesting how the concepts of family and loyalty are manifest through my parents. My mom is fierce about those concepts; blood means a lot to her and that line goes back through her sisters and parents, as close-knit a bunch as you'd ever know. For my dad, his ideas of family were distorted by his father. When my father was 13, the oldest of five siblings in a tiny Oklahoma town, his father abandoned them. He told his uneducated, unemployed wife he was going to Oklahoma City to look for work. And never returned.

At 13, my dad suddenly had a lot of pressure on him. There weren't then and aren't now a lot of economic prospects in a scrub town. When my dad was born there, this town had a population of about 2,900. In the 2010 Census, the population was about 2,900. It doesn't change. I never understand why people live in places like that.

We've never talked about this a lot. In a town that small, everyone knows everyone else's business. It must have been humiliating for my father, even though it was no reflection on him at all. In fact, his working to help his family and continue going to school actually should have put him in a somewhat heroic light. But I don't think he ever thinks of that, just the shame of having a shitty dad who would dump five kids like that. If hell exists, I hope that man has a seat by the fire.

The damage to my father played out over the middle of his life: abandonment issues colored his behavior. And they have also colored mine. Part of his legacy has been trying to get over that. It's part of my legacy, too. As Cheech Marin accurately stated, "responsibility is a heavy responsibility."

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Day 146: The First Amendment

Awoke this morning to find a lot of overnight chatter about OccupyWallStreet.

When I first heard of this a few weeks ago, the noise was that the MSM wasn't giving it much attention, and why? I thought it was a legitimate question. Now the media has to pay attention. It's exploded all over the U.S. When I was in Dallas over the weekend I saw the group there assembled in a park near the convention center.

Apparently in the middle of last night police in Boston swooped in and flushed out the protesters. Not only that, they arrested more than 100 (apparently, a lot of them were part of the group Veterans for Peace) and may have beaten some. Reports say they took tents and camping gear and threw them onto trash trucks.

The irony of this happening in Boston should be obvious. There were protesters there a few hundred years ago, too. Some of them were killed by the authorities. Those authorities were eventually overthrown.

I hear about this stuff and I wonder how any thinking person can not be terrified that the country is being taken over by fascists.

The first 10 amendments to the U.S. constitution is commonly known as the Bill of Rights. These amendments are thrown around in political talk all the time, but do people remember exactly what is promised? Probably not. And government has done such a good job of creating dense, impenetrable documents that most would be shocked to remember that the Bill of Rights is a simple, straightforward list. Not a lot of legalese.

The first amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

As the very first amendment, the founders clearly felt that these rights were inviolable and crucial to a thriving democracy. The first amendment provides for freedom of religion. Anyone (like some politicians on the right) who says that the U.S. was founded as a "Christian nation" is by definition veering into a violation of the first amendment. Government and religion SHOULD NOT MIX. And it's my freedom of speech to feel that way and say so. We're supposed to have a free "press" (I don't know if the word "media" was in the lexicon of the time)... but most of the "press" in this country is now as bought and paid for as the members of the same Congress. They all have an agenda, and often it's as simple as "make more money." But that last one is the one that was violated last night: the right to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. That's what's going on with the Occupy movement. People are tired of being trampled on by banksters, corporatists, the 1 percent. The government hasn't protected us -- they are generally a part of the 1 percent.

If you haven't looked over the constitution in a while, check it out here:

And practice it as often as you can...

Friday, October 7, 2011

Day 142: Drift

Yeah, I know...

Hard to focus lately. The mind is alternately cluttered, then just kind of blank. It's like that AM radio station that you can't quite tune precisely.

Frustrating. Bouts of intense frenzy followed by little motivation.

Going on a road trip. Hope to be able to push the reset button but also a lot of angst on this. Will see my aging father. A rarity.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Day 138, Pt: 2: Uganda?

There's a gig in Uganda.

Scary but tempting. Several years ago I was looking for jobs and one was posted for an English-language newspaper in Rangoon, Myanmar (Burma). (Summers in Rangoon!)

The listing pointed out that the job was particularly challenging because "free speech was limited (monitored)." Hell, it might have said illegal.

This was before the monastery protests of a few years ago that resulted in a violent crackdown.

Part of me longs for a shot at a global hot zone. Another part of me realizes that being unemployed, depressed and alive is better than being in some far-flung third-world banana republic, with a possible wrong-seat view of the barrel of a gun.

Day 138: Dogs

My history with dogs has been one of mostly sadness.

My first dog was named Toto. How original! Anyway, he was a fuzzy, curly haired little black dog. He wasn't that big. The last day I saw him is one of the enduring memories I have of my family. We had taken a vacation to Colorado. I was five or six years old. My brother would have been two or three.

Actually, this is the last memory I have of my parents being together.

On the descent from a visit to Pike's Peak, our green Oldsmobile station wagon had a flat tire. My father pulled the car off somewhere to replace the tire. Somehow, the dog got out of the car and took off. I remember my dad chasing him up the road.

When he returned, we had no dog. So my dog trauma started at an early age.

A few years later, our dog dug his way under a fence, escaped and was hit by a car. Another dog also died.

All of this happened at a pretty young age. Later I had dogs that lived long lives, but in looking back on it, I think I struggled with the losses. The relatively short lifespans of animals are supposed to be "teaching opportunities" but they only taught me that it hurt to lose your pets.

Moose and Monster (Piper) are healthy and young. It should be a long time before they move on to doggie heaven. I hope so. I'm closer to these dogs than to any dogs I've ever been around.

They're gentle, although Monster roughhouses a little too much sometimes. It's interesting to see the personalities they have. Moose is very calm and mellow. The only time he gets worked up is when a dog makes uninvited sexual motions toward him. Then he gets angry and barks and bares his teeth at them. Why do some dogs try to hump my dog?

The Monster is a spazz, but she also seems to be pretty well-behaved. She's half-greyhound, however, and as a sight hound she can instantly get micro-focused on something and take off. That's scary because she doesn't have the good sense to fear vehicles. We have to be careful when she is off the leash. She's getting better about not darting off but it's still a terrible possibility.

I guess one other thing I like is just the innocence and purity of their behavior. They're like small children like that: unprogrammed to some extent. The reactions are all honest.

They help me stay upbeat sometimes. That's a plus.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Day 136: Spin the Dial

I just completed a survey where one of the questions was "how likely are you to move in the next year?" and I have to say that I feel that is very likely.

The crazy thing is I have no idea where. In fact, within the last week, I've looked at jobs literally a quarter of the globe apart.

It's getting close to the point where being selective is not the top factor.