Saturday, June 23, 2012

What Color Is Your Masochism part 5: How I Got the Gig

I never got around to mentioning that I got the long sought job, the one I spent 3 years looking for, the one that makes me happy to get up and go every morning (ok, most mornings), and I learned so, so much while I was looking. It is an incredibly treacherous job market out there, at least it was when I last checked. I did everything I could, followed all the advice of experts, and I can say that one piece of advice rang true above all others: the last place to look for a job is in the want ads. I think Craigslist and Monster and the like are great places to do research, to see what's out there, learn about different types of jobs and companies, explore fields that match your interests and even look for new interests. They're also fantastic places to practice building your chops, honing resumes and cover letters. If you're lucky, you'll get some interviews or at least some valuable feedback on how you're presenting yourself. If you're very lucky, you might make new contacts, allies who will remember you the next time something opens up. But the unfortunate truth about approaching the job search from this angle is that by the time the ads are posted, several other applicants have either been recommended or sought out by the employer.So how do you get around this?

Ideally, you should talk to as many people in the field as possible. Networking is no joke, and it is not overrated. Thanks to some lucky connections, by the end of my job search, I had managers at some of my target companies sending me the drafts of employment ads before they were published, so I was able to be one of those few early bird applicants, and while none of these ended up being My Job, they led to connections with an ever increasing group of contacts in my field, and I'm certain that this was a huge component of my job search success. In the end though, it was a close friend (and networking genius) who led me to My Job, and she found it through a brilliant channel that hadn't even occurred to me: Twitter! This worked because I was dialed into the early notice system by way of my social network, I had strong feelers out among people who were on my side and knew I was looking, and I had so much practice with writing resumes that I was ready to apply on the spot. All the resume practice and research had prepared me for what came next: I knew exactly what I was bringing to the employer, I knew exactly what I was looking for, and I knew exactly why. These certainties made the interview a no-brainer.

When I met my future boss, we got along instantly. We understood each other, and it was like a breath of fresh air after struggling so hard to appeal to employers that weren't a good fit. We spent the whole time talking about the job, but it didn't feel like "talking about work" It felt like talking about something we were both interested in (concerts! oh how I love concerts!). She and I had similar backgrounds in the industry, so my experience and qualifications made sense to her, which meant I didn't have to convince her of my value. And the job made sense to me, and was something I couldn't wait to dive into! So we were set.

The one drawback was that it was going to be a part time gig with the potential to increase, which isn't ideal living in one of the most expensive cities in the country, but I had been looking for this for so long, and saving a preparing along the way, so my boyfriend and I decided it was worth it to take the leap and we would make it work. And we did make it work... for 4 weeks! And then I got run over by a motorcycle and had to be away from my dream, part-time job for 3 months (sigh...).  BUT! While I was gone, they decided that they needed me full time, so by the time I got back from the horrible injury convalescence recovery misery fest, I had a dream FULL TIME job! Score!!

The whole motorcycle bit really, really, a thousand times sucked, and the job search itself wasn't much more fun than that, but I'm finally where I want to be. So if you're out there looking for a job and looking for solace, don't expect that all the little hoops you jump through will make sense, and don't expect the path to be straight and clear. I would never, ever lie to you and say that everything happens for a reason, but I will say this:

Everything happens

Being Broken Is Boring...

There are some stories you just have to live with for a long time before you share them with the big wide world. Sometimes you're waiting for characters to define themselves, or for entire plots to become clear, to imagine different endings before you settle on the one that feels most authentic to the vision in your noggin. You know that once you tell a story, a little bit of it, or a lot bit of it stops being yours, and you relinquish the privilege of communing with it privately and reaching that initial solitary sense of what it means to you. This is the way it is with fiction, but also with stories of personal experience. There are some you can't wait to tell, and some you need to keep in your bonnet, and some you need to keep in your bonnet because you can't wait to tell them. This is why I'm holding off for a while before really writing about the accident that knocked me out for the last half year, don't worry, the story's coming, it just needs to be mine alone for a little longer. I might address it here and there, but I'm dying to get back to this old blog, so I'm going to try to work around the big story. 

Also, I'm busy enjoying not being broken right about now, it's a lot more fun than what came before :)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

What Color is Your Masochism Part 4: The Job Search

Finding a job is hard. I've been looking for a new one for over three years, so I can say this with absolute certainty. I can't say that this three year odyssey has been fruitless, because I've learned more than I ever thought I wanted to know about the job search process. More than that though, the constant reconstruction of cover letters and objectives, the re-organizing of bullet points on my resume has given me enormous insight into my own skills, interests, and adaptability. I'm grateful for all of these things, but if I'm being honest here, I have to say that I would not have put myself through this if I'd had a choice. This mid-recession job market has been like a sadistic drill sergeant forcing me to realize I can do more pull-ups than I thought I could.

To summarize the process, I can say it involved a lot of reading: craigslist, Monster, CareerBuilder, individual websites for companies I was interested in, books on career advice (What Color is Your Parachute?), numerous online guides to resume writing, sample cover letters, salary comparisons, Yahoo news articles comparing various U.S. job markets, etcetera, etcetera! Then a lot of applying what I read to apply for jobs: sitting down and asking myself the eternal questions: What do I want to do? What am I good at? Why do I want this job? In some ways, the early stages of the job search are like interviewing yourself for a job, and often you come to the conclusion that you don't want to work certain places, or you aren't qualified for certain positions, but the longer you work at it, you come to be acutely aware of what jobs would work for you, and what you could work for.

I never imagined that I'd write so many cover letters. And it's an awkward thing to do, especially if you do it too many times. And by awkward, I mean excruciating. Sitting down over and over to describe your strengths, to figure out what is best about yourself, what other people will find interesting or valuable, and why those things are relevant, can start to feel extremely neurotic after one or two dozen drafts. I've watched my own drafts go from being succinct and professional to verbose and desperate to cheeky and irreverent. None of them have gotten a response in over two years. Not a single call. Not a single email or interview request. No matter what job or what form of introduction I choose. I am writing into a vacuum. So I've become even more playful, just to make the effort more entertaining for myself. Because at this point, I've come to the conclusion that I don't want to work for anyone who expects anything other than what I have to offer (and part of that is my humor!). I don't want to work for someone who requires me to jump through hoops and put up a false front to impress them. Of course, I might not feel this way if there were any chance that a false front, or any front for that matter, might get a response.

In short, I'm burned out, I'm tired, I'm confused, I'm frustrated, I do not understand what I have to do in order to find a job (or even be considered for one), but somehow it's making me more confident in myself and my worth, not less. I'm less willing to bend over backward, and in fact more particular about how I want to be treated by a potential employer. My demands are getting more imperative as the desperation increases. My backbone is getting stronger, and I find it absolutely mystifying. You'd think that after all this rejection and disappointment I'd feel broken and sad and defeated, but I feel stronger and sassier, and more convinced of my own value. I guess this comes from having to state my value over and over, but jesus m hot damn f christ, it's a bizarre and blessed side effect. Will this new attitude get me any closer to a job? If experience is any indication, probably not. But at least it doesn't feel so bad anymore. This is the color of my masochism: a sort of dusty iridescent shimmer.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

(818) 764-xxxx

I'm secretly superstitious about phone numbers. Specifically, somewhere deep in my gut I harbor the idea that if a time ever comes when I really need to talk to the ghosts of my family, and I mean really, really need to talk to them, that the universe will somehow intervene and grant me a temporary connection through their old phone line. And if I call the number and it doesn't work, or if someone else answers, that's the universe telling me that I'm better off than I think, and I don't really need to talk to them just yet.

It's the kind of notion that's born of early loss - even though your rational mind knows that this sort of thing can't be real, frankly, your heart will tell you that the sudden death of someone you love can't be real either, so for the time being, all restrictions on imagination are off. Once the blow of grief strikes, a part of your brain never really fuses, a part of your heart is so haunted and fractured, that it requires a fantasy, a cognitive bandage to hold it together for the rest of your life. The phone numbers, two of them that start with 764, are my gauze and my adhesive tape, talismans, if not cures for the injured part of my heart.

At this point the bulk of my close losses is behind me, but it's been a devastating week for people I love, and I'm wishing that they all find the comfort and support they need for what comes next. Superstitions, band-aids, tourniquets, myths, legends, and lullabies: may they each find the talisman that soothes them.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Recipe: Boyfriend's Chicken Adobo

2 bottles of Cabernet

1. Drink
2. Enjoy!

He does the rest. I have no idea what happens, but it results in a delicious dinner. Ocho ocho ohhhh! :)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Sweet Potato Hash

I've been seeing a lot of mentions of "Sweet Potato Hash" lately and was dying to know what it tasted like. I tried looking around for recipes and they all seemed either unnecessarily complicated or way too vague. So I came up with my own and it was fantastic. While I was chopping I got to wondering about the history of onions, so I might do a little research and report back soon. In the meantime: the Hash...

2 large sweet potatoes, diced (half inch or so)
1/2 medium onion, diced
1/2 bell pepper (any color), diced
2-4 T of oil (I used coconut, but olive oil would be good too)
Any combination of the following spices, to taste:
coarse salt & pepper
paprika (I used sweet and smoked)
more paprika (it really adheres to the sweetness of the potatoes)
Adobo (Goya brand seasoning. If you don't have this, use garlic & a tiny bit of oregano and cumin)

In a large skillet, saute onions in oil until they just start to soften, then add pepper. Cook stirring occasionally until pepper begins to soften and onion begins to caramelize slightly. Add potatoes and some spices. Cook stirring occasionally over medium to medium-high heat until potatoes are tender and lightly browned. Adjust spices as needed (in other words: add more paprika).

Serve with roast chicken or turkey, or for breakfast in place of home fries. It also tastes delicious on a fork while it's still cooking!

Note: fresh sage would be great in this too. Also, I saw recipes calling for Worcestershire sauce but haven't tried that yet.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bored on Campus

The police academy at one of the community colleges I work is conducting outdoor training with guns drawn and car search simulations in the parking lot today. This same school had a lockdown due to an actual shooting and bomb threat this time last year. Since I was here during the incident last Spring and very narrowly slipped through the lockdown and subsequent freeway closure, it all looks a bit too authentic for comfort. Also the signs that say “Police Training in Progress” are too small and easy to miss. I came within inches of calling in “fuck this shit” before realizing it was all ok and we were just playing cops and robbers.  I wonder if this is setting the tone for a semester full of simulations, illusions, and fake-outs. Let the drama begin!