How to talk to a friend who’s been laid off | Penelope Trunk’s Brazen Careerist

This is a GREAT article. It not only applies to the recently unemployed, but the recent college graduate. Not only have we the staggering unemployment rate to deal with, we are in constant battle with those that are already established career-minded individuals who’ve been recently given the axe. Who’s going to look more promising to the job recruiter? The fresh-out-of-college newbie or the worked-the-same-job-for-twenty-years seasoned pro? I’ll give you a hint: it probably isn’t the second one.

Complaining about how much things are crappy now aside, the comments on this post are spot-on. Everyone I know who recently graduated hates these questions (about the job hunt) as much as the recently unemployed and it’s just as discouraging to us when we’re asked if we “looked online at all?”

So I’ll add my comment, too: Thanks Penelope. It’s so true it hurts.

HowStuffWorks “OCD Symptoms”

HowStuffWorks “OCD Symptoms”.

Many people perform OCD-type rituals every day. Who hasn’t gone back home to make sure that an appliance is off or reassembled items sitting on a desk to make them look more symmetrical? But it’s the obsessive, repeated and uncontrollable nature of these rituals that differentiates the OCD sufferer from a healthy person. These obsessive thoughts are also accompanied by extreme anxiety, which is then channeled into the ritual, itself seen as some sort of stress-management tool.

Sounds vaguely familiar…I’ve spoken of this in less public forums. Those of you who know will get it. “Arranging items in a symmetrical or orderly manner.”? Um, er..

Not Easy


Let me start out by saying that this post has gone in an entirely different direction that I first anticipated. I had set off to fill it with researched facts and figures about the unemployment rate in Michigan and the rates of college graduates who landed full time jobs right out of graduation. I wanted to use clever anecdotes and vignettes from various people I’ve spoken to about the topic lately.

However, as I actually set about writing it, the facts all stopped mattering to me. Like most of my writing that is not dictated by a real rubric of any kind, I started just ranting and letting my fingers do the thinking so to speak. I had paragraphs upon paragraphs lamenting the difficulties of job hunting and why I should feel sorry for myself.

As you see from the image, this idea was scrapped. Yesterday actually. All these paragraphs were small ideas that I really couldn’t back up with anything other than self-pity and hyperbole. So instead, like any good writer (with some exceptions, of course) I developed a draft. A thesis rather. Any time my writing strays from this, it ceases to have a point and becomes incoherent rambling. Such is the writing I am prone to, sadly.

So, here’s what I have for you: holding a part-time job hampers a job hunt, but not so significantly as a full-time one would.

Hell of a thesis. Seems like I’m stating the obvious, but please bear with me. In my “research” for this topic, I discovered that my original premise was flawed. I was basing this on a quote from a friend stating that (paraphrasing here) it is difficult to look for a job when you are currently working. I did not assess the fact that she was referring to looking for full-time work when you dislike your current full-time position. This would most definitely be true.

Looking for work when you hold a part-time job holds different challenges, for me at least. It doesn’t make it any harder than, say, taking 12+ college credits and having a part-time job though. Lord knows that is doable. My particular challenges stem from elsewhere; the job itself, the frustration stemming from that and a stagnant (nice word Christi) job market and the challenge of mixing things up a bit.

On the first point: the job I currently hold is not challenging but things are frustrating. Anyone who has worked retail knows the stress and frustration involved. For those who don’t, I can assure you, it gets old quickly. Couple that with your days seeming to be perpetual déjà vu and throw on a dash of doing it for five years running and it can easily become a headache. The easiest thing to do, it would seem, is quit. But as one with debt and college loans etc. to pay, not having that relatively stable source of income is terrifyingly unwise.

My second point is closely related to the first in that working said job Ad nauseum gets quite frustrating. The daily dealings with cranky old ladies who never get anything exactly how they want it and coworkers who care less than you do and convey it in their work ethic pushes one such as myself to the point of going postal almost weekly. Trying to escape seems futile as there have been multiple job applications submitted from adults. This is the type of job high schoolers and college students look for as a transition into the work force. The fact that there are grown men and women looking to get in give me a grim outlook on the market outside coffee shops.

And that brings me to the third challenge; that of a new leaf. I may be to blame for the fact that I still live with my parents. I chose to go to school close to home and live there rather than pay to live on campus. So as it happens, I’ve stayed within that comfort zone for twenty-four years. Also, I’ve worked within walking distance of my home since I entered the job market eight years ago. Mixing up what is familiar and jumping into something completely different is a bit off-putting if not downright stressful.

I don’t even do my own laundry for pete’s sake.

So although I tell myself I am seeking outside employment, I bet there is a part of me that isn’t really trying all that hard. Sure I hate my job and would love something that is more consistent (hour-wise) and pays a bit better. But that logic fights the fear of growing up. I have a tendency toward the juvenile, I can’t deny that.

Back to my “research,” since I began working on this entry, I’ve applied for over 20 jobs in under two weeks. That’s more than I had done all last summer. The New Year kind of gave me a kick in the ass and got me to see if maybe I can’t better my life. Sure, when I get done at work and have all that pent up frustration it can be easier to just crack open a beer and catch up on blogs and television shows.

However, if I really want to grow up and make something of myself, I’m going to need to at least put forth an honest effort. To those who already do, I vail you. (it is, after all, hat week)

The job market may not be in the best place right now, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try all the more diligently. I think that is a lesson that everyone can take to heart.

Networking Socially

Spurred by several recent events, I now need to reel in yet another bad habit of mine: social networks. Used correctly, they are a great source of job opportunities, community event notifications and a perfect way to keep in touch with friends you otherwise wouldn’t. But, when you think you’ve got it under control and can say whatever you think -BAM!- Suddenly you are screwed. It varies in what way, but it can inevitably happen.

Take my old xanga, for example. On the side column, you can see I followed a grand total of 14 people. From that, I assumed these were the only 14 people who read my blog (probably justifiably so) and thus tailored the content to fit that. Likewise, when I got a LiveJournal I did the same. And my FaceBook, tailored to the friends I knew had it, those college peers I wanted to friend.

(as an aside, I made it a rule not to add anyone I didn’t know to my Facebook, a rule to which I still adhere today)

Fast forward to my graduated self. I tended to ignore in college the SVSU Newspaper articles telling the dangers of your MySpace/Facebook profile and the damning material therein. Potential employers could find that photo of you with the beer bong and decide you are not the candidate they are looking for. I wasn’t intimidated by these threats for several reasons:

  • I didn’t really party that hard
  • No one really took a lot of pictures of me
  • If they found any, nothing would be damning enough to deter their pursuit of me

This all changed when Facebook opened to the general public. Now, not only were my professors joining, but my little sisters and other members of my family. Now it was like leaving your diary open to the page detailing the steamy drunken sex you had last week and leaving the door to your room open. C’mon!

True to my word, though, I didn’t take a lot down. Like I said, I’m generally low-key. However, some questionable material was untagged and my photo albums were pared down to the most recent and least ambiguous of the bunch. Still a few slip through the cracks, but generally I am clean.

At least I thought so. Crumbs, the job I currently work as a barista, brings out my immaturity as much as my friends can. This becomes dangerous on slow nights when I decide it will be funny to make all my status updates quotes from the tasteless rapper Eminem. Several updates later, I laugh at the irony. Of course I do not enjoy his music; no one really does. That’s what makes it funny. At least to me. I wasn’t even deterred when my little sister commented on it (she said simply “eminem ew” – I laughed hardest at this). Then a former co-worker commented on one. Thankfully, it was one that wasn’t quite so tasteless (“hotter than a set of twin babies in a Mercedes Benz with the windows up when the temp goes up to the mid eighties”), but it nonetheless caught my attention and drained the colour from my face and the blood from my balls.

This was a man I respected very much and only spoke with as much on every occasion. I was very professional in all my dealings with him in the past. Now, I had betrayed to him my true self and felt very ashamed and foolish. Things that were funny in college with your friends are not necessarily with those you consider peers professionally. None of this is anything I want my extended family to see me as! From that moment, I vowed to clean up my Facebook etiquette. It might be difficult, but, as an article in the Saginaw News reminded me today, we must remember that the internet is vast. The people that can view your information is growing rapidly. Everyone is aware of the various means of “self-promotion” and we really do need to keep every aspect of our internet personae squeaky clean; as though any site you belong to can be paired with your résumé and sent to employers.

Another instance where I may have gotten myself into trouble recently would be twitter. I only began using in November when Brianna made me download it onto the old iPhone. My Tweets, like most Facebook users’, started with the word “is”. Thankfully, it took me less than 10 Tweets to realize this wasn’t necessary. Even though it may be elitist, David Pogue recently set the record straight.

That is neither here nor there, however. My point is here: I began using Twitter much like I saw all social networks; as inherently social. You’re posting to the internet, so there’s no need to make it private. If you want it private, use a physical journal or some other archaic communication tool (e-mail?). There is no sense in only sharing your thoughts with your friends. Well, I felt this way until about thirty minutes ago. I found out my boss began following me on Twitter.

Along with slow nights at Crumbs posting random Eminim, I bitch about my job. I’ve had it five years, I work with people I see as lazy and incompetent and I am pessimistic about almost every aspect of it by now. Problem is, I don’t always have someone I can bitch to; sometimes the people that are annoying me are working with me. I don’t want to waste my or my friends’ text messages bitching, so I bitch to Twitter. If they want to ignore me, they have that right, but at least I got it off my chest.

I usually make it a point not to mix my social life with my work life since that can not only become dangerous, I often want to see friends I didn’t spend the last 7 hours working with. I can be a total ass with my friends and maintain a professional appearance at work.

When my boss got on Twitter however, all that went to shit. Now, I have to constantly rethink before I Tweet. I can’t say nearly as much as I normally would. I don’t want my boss to know who I dislike at work (though I’ve probably told him to his face, I feel violated this way). I don’t want him to know what I did last night with my friends. If I did, I would tell him at work, not online.

Which, I guess, was the entire point of the Choi article. Since you never know who is looking at any given time, (my parents could get a Facebook any minute; my dad already has a MySpace – part of the reason I don’t anymore) you should always pretend like the last person you’d want to look at your blog is.

So enjoy, dad. This article is for you. And the rest of y’all. You [don’t] know who you are.

The New Work Ethic Redux


Inspired by a recent blog post I read (yes, I occasionally retain and rethink things I’ve read, thank you), I got to thinking how my brief stint with a 40-hour work week epitomized the idea. Let me elaborately digress;

I somehow got a job at SVSU in the Communications Department shortly into the Spring semester of my first year there. I must’ve indicated an interest in art when I applied for Work Study via Career Planning due to my enjoyment of photography in High School.

Well, one nice spring day, doing some yard work, I received a cell call from Craig at University Communications asking me to come in with my portfolio. I had none, but brought in some of my photography. I guess I must’ve impressed them in the interview, for I got the job.

From there, I taught myself how to use the Mac OS, Illustrator CS1, Photoshop and  Quark then eventually InDesign. I worked there for about 4 years all together. However, as it was a work study program, my hours were limited to a) time between classes; b) time between my other job; c) the school/government imposed 20 hour workweek; d) the office budget and the ratio of number of hours to number of working students.

Still, I made a decent amount of money between the two jobs and I learned a great deal working in the office environment. I gained a great deal of practical experience I didn’t obtain in the classroom and had the opportunity to apply what I learned to a real-life job.

Granted, as students, we got the small jobs that the real designers thought we were capable of and were thus generally fairly simple. However, as we worked longer, we gained more experience and were given larger and more difficult projects.

This, for me, culminated in my boss getting pregnant.

When I began, there were three other student designers in the office (to compliment the 2 full time designers). Two of them I still keep in contact with. However, this was their last semester, so as I was the newbie, I got taught the ropes by them as well as being groomed to be the senior-most student designer.

Throughout my years there, quite a few student-regime changes took place. One thing stayed consistent, however (and this begins to tie in with the Elgan article): there was always a limited amount of work for the students. That meant, even with as few hours as we had, there were many times that we had no work. We had to use the hours, though, for if there was a surplus in the student hours budget, the department wouldn’t have as large of a budget the following semester, meaning less money to pay the student employees. Hence, a lot of homework, MySpace-ing, and FaceBook-ing went on amongst the bored students.

As I was senior-most student designer after my first semester (!!), I continued to be so. When my immediate supervisor got pregnant, I was the most obvious choice for a temporary replacement.

Imagine my excitement: I was a Junior in college, getting a full-time summer job with an office, more responsibility, a hefty pay increase (albeit temporary, as well) and more potential for creativity! Granted, I was a bit nervous, too, but once I got into it, it was amazingly similar to the student position.

Aside from one aspect: I did have more work to do. And that meant less time for Social Networking. Somehow, though, I still found the time. In fact, there were days I had nothing to do but read Gizmodo and StyleFORVM and create papercraft iPhones.

This was a fact that did not go unnoticed by superiors. Though I conveniently had my computer place so that the monitor was facing away from the door, I was several times caught “goofing off” as it was. I first blogged about this on my LiveJournal [I assume since I can’t find the post on my Xanga (on a side note, I am surprised that is still up! I haven’t posted since aught six, and it hasn’t been taken down yet. Interesting to see all my thoughts from back then. Like a journal or something. 22-yr-old Nick. You’re welcome)]. Let me paraphrase since I cannot find the original:

Apparently, it is now a crime to be efficient. I just got a lecture from my boss about how I am working too fast. WTF? I thought I was being efficient! Just because there is not enough work for me to do doesn’t mean I should be punished! Isn’t is YOUR job to find work for me to do?! I’m just a temp!

Suffice to say, I was pissed off. It seemed an incredible injustice. My work was not deplorable, but my bosses actions seemed so. What I failed to see was this: I probably had the same workload my boss did. I was just able to work more efficiently. This had nothing to do with my personality. Rather, as I was technically just a student, I had protection.

My office phone was forwarded to my boss. Meetings with off- and on-campus clients were handled by my superiors and digested then handed down to me. Proofs and dealings with other such items were either mediated by a superior or done without my presence. I had a filter. Thus, I was able to get things done with no interruptions.

Sure, the internet was an ever present distraction. But when you are only reading one blog and all your friends are in class, there isn’t enough activity to keep one from finishing their projects in a timely manner.

I suggest that one can simply unplug their phone for an hour or two a day. Or, do like Jill (maternity boss) did and close the door when deadlines loom. Eliminate distractions (visitors) before they have the chance to become a nuisance and the efficiency of your day can increase ten-fold.

Then again, it is entirely possible that I was doing something truly wrong, but I’d like to think my boss was peeved that I had no distractions.

On fries

So no Stephen Fry am I. Obviously. What took him half an hour to read aloud would take me god knows how long to read let alone write myself. 5,000 words. My God. And now I seek to tackle Reading a 9,500 word article by the same. I’ll let you know how I fare. As for me, 500-1000 seems sufficient. I am not quite prolific enough. Clearly.

The damned insurance companies hounding me. They want employees more than anyone else. Why is that? Putting a résumé on apparently means you want to sell insurance. I’ve gotten numerous bulk e-mails, several fairly personal e-mails and one legitimate PHONE CALL. Recruiting me as an insurance salesman.

Am I that desperate yet? I don’t think so. Don’t you also have to take some kind of class and pay for a license or something, too? To top it off, “it’s not a paycheck…you own your own business! Who doesn’t want to do that?!” Um, me! If I wanted to be my own business owner, I’d do something I enjoy. Not recruiting others to buy Quixtar (read: Amway) products. Not helping people to recruit people to recruit people to recruit people to …..somewhere down the line I think we’re supposed to help people get out of debt. As far as I see, the only way we’re getting them out of debt is getting them money by making them recruit more people to supposedly do the same thing. Where is the income? The cash flow? Oh, the sign-up fees. Of course! I love new-age pyramid schemes.

Sorry, got a little off topic. Actually, there was not really a topic to begin with. I just needed to rant on the internet. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to comment on a YouTube video.

Just kidding.