Monday, August 22, 2011

Perhaps I Am Thinking Too Much of My Own Personal Experience Here

One thing about being home-based is that one spends a lot of time alone and not having to do the whole Girly Presentation for strangers. I used to really like the Presentation. I pored over fashion magazines for style and makeup tips. I'd go through periods and fads ("We're Mod this week!") and generally just see beauty and fashion as a facet of self expression.

These days, showering is an accomplishment. I wear mismatched pants and tops and don torn sandals with everything. I cannot remember the last time I wore makeup. And on more than one occasion, I have sauntered down to the nearby market with a giant smear of something across my nose: sunscreen, dirt, bicycle grease. Since the checkout people know me, they will gently point it out.

If I cared what I looked like, I'd check a mirror more frequently; but as it is, I mostly don't bother. So the thought of this project baffles me more than anything. It just seems impractical. You could be parading about with spinach in your teeth or your shirt on backwards or inside out. Your eyebrows could be merging above your nose. Your lipstick could be escaping to Baby Jane territory. You could have those tiny goopy things in the corners of your eyes. How would you possibly be able to present as a normal human being in the professional world?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Motoring On, Motoring On, Motoring On . . .

I'm starting to get discouraged. Okay, not so much "starting to get" discouraged, since an ebbing and flowing level of discouragement has been my constant friend since I took this bold leap into the future and decided to shred my job security in the worst economy since the great depression while amassing loads of student debt. It's more like getting re-discouraged. We're reaching peak discouragement.

My latest phone interview, after some hoops and paper work, did not turn into even an in-person interview. Which is fair enough; I get that it's a matter of fit for both sides. When the unemployment rate guarantees a flood of good candidates, it behooves a smart hiring manager to pick and choose, keeping options open. It's just kind of a drag for those of us in limbo while all this weighing of options is going on. And okay, I'll be honest: I'd hoped my spectacular writing samples would seal the deal. Even if I didn't in past produce the exact type of writing desired, surely, surely my innate flexibility would be apparent? Persuasive skills, I get. Not everyone can polish some really beguiling copy. Descriptive text, though: what are the variables in that? Grammar? Decent word choice? Good flow? Is there some sort of corporate syntax? Are brevity and simple sentences the mainstays of business documents? It's kind of sad that I've been an office monkey my entire adult life, and I don't even know. My letters, emails, and whatnot all seemed to cover the bases well enough.

It comes back to the abundance of people in the market, I know. Why train people when you can find the exact thing that you're looking for? Generalists, as they say, are passe. Specialization, specialization, specialization is the rage. Working in a small office where you're a jack of all trades doesn't translate well into a specialized niche. It's quite maddening and hard to finesse. Nonprofit leaves you asea in corporate, because why take on someone who doesn't immediately know the culture, when you can hire someone who does? No longer working in publishing proper means that you're off a standard track, and there's no publishing here to speak of, anyway. It's not DC, so the nonprofit and interest groups aren't thick on the ground, and the ones that are here are working with no money. Communications and PR, which are relatively thick on the ground here and which I've done in teeny tiny doses, naturally want people experienced in same. I could do it, but again, why train when you can get the exact thing? I've done some development work, and I write, so: grant writer! Except I've never written grants. It's making me rethink my field study, I tell you what.

But it does no good to get bummed out and feel judged. (But, dude, I thought if there was anywhere I could sell myself, it was with a bit of writing. That's what hurts.) So all I can do is stay focused and try to keep thinking and planning, networking and communicating.

And now that I've got the freelance portfolio up and running, I can start hitting the ground hard to gin up new clients. All of this was not unexpected, but damn. I really hoped I'd be instantly recognizable as spectacular and be employed accordingly.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Things I'm Discovering (Maybe I Should Write a Book?)

This job-hunt process has been . . . illuminating. For one thing, it's brought into sharp relief the differences between people who have their career paths mapped out and those who thought they did, lost it, and now find themselves struggling to resell or reinvent themselves. Personally, I don't think there's much separating the two apart from luck. But if you're from a certain socioeconomic strata and have accumulated a lifetime of being taken seriously and given opportunities, it's easy to rationalize that you'll always be okay. I know, I was there! After a relatively easy post-graduation transition into the job market in a down economy (nothing compared to today, but I did have to take a temp job that turned into a permanent one), I have motored every onward in the world of the gainfully employed. Not reaching great heights like some of my friends, mind you, but employed, in a gainful fashion.

Now it's a different world, and I'm in a different age and stage in my career. As such, I'm accumulating an assortment of blazing insights that I'm bestowing, in volume, on a friend of mine who is looking to change jobs. But I would like for her to save herself a lot of time that I wasted finding this stuff out.

Blazing insight #1: Sending in resumes to online job lists is like submitting to literary magazines. The competition is fierce, you're one of hundreds. The odds are, you're not going to get to the top of that anonymous stack.

Blazing insight #2: Like in the world of dating, hiring managers can smell desperation. They don't want desperation. They want confident, competent professionals who make their lives easier.

Blazing insight #3: If you don't know what you want to do and/or you're not able to communicate it, two things will happen (a) your network will have no idea how to help you and (b) employers will pass you over, because their priority is not to help you with your self-fulfillment journey, it is to hire people who will do the job well and who want to be there.

Blazing insight #4: Network, network, network. I've always hated it and avoided it like the plague. It's such an imposition! I don't know how to pay folks back! But the thing is, other people are networking too. And if a conversation can result in a trade that helps everybody, excellent! If the networking involves friends, your friends care what happens to you. If they had a magic wand, they would wave it for you, with fierceness, in order to materialize the perfect position. And because they are your friends, the time may indeed come when they need to rely on your knowledge/expertise/network/ability to toss them freelance work. So it's not something to get hung up about. Treat people with respect, reciprocate, be a good friend.

Blazing insight #5: Together with projecting confidence and avoiding desperation, know your worth. For instance, you know what? I'm mighty awesome at organizing things. I edit with care and detail. I'm a pretty decent writer. I'm an extremely hard worker. And any place that hires me will be lucky to have me in the mix.

Blazing insight #6: Social media, investigate it. LinkedIn groups, twitter. Resources abound.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

How Many Angels Can Dance on the Head of a Pin: Or, How Can We Spin Bunny-hood as Empowering!

There's a new series coming out about the Playboy Club! But it's tricky, trying to market it, I guess. It's a soap-opera, you see, and not just fun and amusement for the dudes. Women like soap operas. They also no doubt will really want to see ladies who were blazing a path! Living life on their own terms! Making money on the sexxxxay-ness, as god meant them to do!

The panel struggled mightily to fit Bunnyhood into a modern vision of independence. On the one hand, stars Leah Renee and Jenna Dewan Tatum talked about how Bunnies were empowered in the sense that they were able to be financially independent "at a time when jobs for women were pretty limited." But on the other hand, they argued that anything is empowering if you're doing it by your own free choice. But if your options are limited, how free is that choice, really?

Hodge argued, in the end, that the interaction between a Bunny and a customer at a table was all about "buoying women up and giving them the power," because the men weren't allowed to touch the Bunnies. Now, remember — these women are waitresses. They're not prostitutes. They're strangers, unknown to the men, who are serving drinks. And he is arguing, in effect, that they have been buoyed up and given the power because they are granted the right, while tottering around in painful costumes and high heels for the gratification of their customers, not to be physically touched. They have all the power because the club tells patrons that they're not supposed to touch them. They don't really have the power of doing anything; just the power of withholding. Essentially, the argument is that for these women, the highest power they can possibly hold, and what truly elevates them, is the power to deny men the opportunity to touch them.

Do you touch waitresses, typically? Do you assume it's your right to touch waitresses? Or strangers? Or people in service occupations? What baseline assumptions have to be in place about who is otherwise naturally entitled to do what to whom for a "please don't touch this person" rule to grant anyone power over you? I'm just asking.

Ahh hahh hahh haahh hahhh. Sob. It's like those arguments where you get backed into a corner, and instead of just admitting that, okay, you were wrong, you double down and go for broke. But it is kind of funny that the concept of how to market this thing to women didn't get some thought in advance. Surely there was a less ridiculous way to spin it. Unless the goal is to slap a superficial label on it, in the way that Sarah Palin is "feminist." People who care will never watch in the first place, but people who don't want to feel too "un-PC" might just think: "Well, I read somewhere that the women were really independent and empowered and stuff."

Thursday, August 4, 2011

This Is the Thing I Mock in Other People

We're winding up day four in my quest to put together a freelance writing/editing portfolio, and I'm completely flummoxed, overwhelmed, technology-overloaded. I cannot decide what I'm doing. I do wild swings from certainty back to uncertainty, weighing options and coming down to a different solution and direction each time.

Oh my god. The technology is too much. I don't know how to upload clips, I don't know how to do "widgets" or "plug-ins." I get one decision made, try to implement it, and find I have a half-dozen more that just leave me at a loss.

And this doesn't even involve decisions about the content. What the hell am I going to blog about, pray tell? I have no idea. What clips do I use that don't look too sad and pathetic? Beats me.

So I sit here, googling, signing up for sites, starting profiles, then becoming paralyzed with indecision. Lather, rinse, repeat.

When do my student loans come due, again?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Pet Peeves: Clearly, Only the Ladies Dress Inappropriately in Professional Settings

I don't know why I'm surprised to click links in search of some really shame-worthy wardrobe malfunctions (do I hear baseball caps? torn jeans? sneakers? really saggy, ugly chinos?), only to find . . . how the ladies are forever dressing ever-so slutty. The personal stories are especially touching. One "young lady" "pranced"! I was also unaware that black high heels are verboten. Damn it. They're pretty much a staple of my professional wardrobe. But I like the French HR rep who had the nerve to wear one of those "clingy wrap dresses." No wonder the "guys definitely had their minds on something aside from the presentation that day." Who can blame them with that kind of trollop running freely about?!

Clearly, we're airheads who can't quite manage to blend in, professionally speaking. And it's the same old problem since grade school, am I right, what with the girls and their short skirts screwing up productivity?

But at least I can learn these valuable lessons for my next job interview, right?

Monday, August 1, 2011

In Which I Create a PRESENCE for Myself

I'm trying to ramp up my presence in the online world so that I may:

1. Create a portfolio and website for freelance purposes
2. Interact with job chats via the twitter
3. Support my various claims of social media experience by showing myself engaged in social media

The portfolio site will have a public blog component too, so that my writing may be out there, in real, concrete terms.

I take issue, however, with the woman with my same name, who has hit the interwebs hard and gotten everywhere before me. Searches for user names come up as already taken! She has a website too, which, I'm sorry to say, is riddled with typos. I fear the confusion, people.

LATER. Seriously, the website for this person is for a writing class. She couldn't be a quilter, or a beekeeper, or a stamp enthusiast?