Friday, March 20, 2009

Guest Blogger

Here is a guest blog from my fellow unemployed friend Matt. I've invited him to share his story about his quest for employment in these tough times.

I'm not sure how often he'll feel like posting, but his story, while not like mine, is not so unlike mine, either. And, to that end, not so different than any of yours.

Here's his intro, a little bit about where he's coming from and, of course, a bit about how his job hunt is looking right now.

This is my first attempt at blogging. To be perfectly honest, I don’t read blogs–in fact I find the whole idea, for the most part, to be a little self-indulgent, notwithstanding the news/political blogs whose professionalism and journalistic integrity can rival the evening news. I’m talking about the blogs that are nothing more than online diaries, or I was talking about them until I somehow decided it might be a good idea if I joined the party (two years after it’s jumped the shark).

Who knows, maybe this healthy dose of skepticism will be an asset. Or perhaps it will just be annoying. Personally, I can see it going either way.

A little about me: Before I joined the shabby ranks of the unemployed, I worked in satellite radio. Glamorous right? Unfortunately no. First the pay: Originally, pre-Howard, when no one had heard of satellite radio in general or Sirius specifically, they paid everyone very well just to get bodies in the seats. Two or three years later they cut everyone’s pay back to the level it probably should have been in the first place… I was disappointed, but pleased I’d managed to milk it as long as I had. This meant that I needed to merely work more hours to make the same amount. But, everyone was freelance, so 50-55 hours was acceptable, and hey, it wasn’t like I was digging ditches. Then, as a new CEO tried desperately to increase the stock price, he mandated that everyone be brought on as a full-time employee, hours maxed at 40. Do the math, I lost 15 hours a week of pay AND they took out taxes, which my magical accountant had some reduced to about 10% AND they charged me for benefits that I was getting cheaper through Freelancer’s Union. All in all, I got hosed. On top of it all, despite working 40+ hours a week for 4 years, I hadn’t been “full-time” long enough to receive unemployment.

Second the Hours: I had to get up every day at 4AM to work on a morning show. While the show itself was fun, the hours ruined my life. All of my friends were going to bed at 4AM. When I left work at 2 or 3PM, they were all in work. So what did I do? I developed a healthy case of alcoholism. I wasn’t so much drinking to dull the pain. I was drinking to dull the boredom. I’d stop in at the bar on the way home from work, drink until I saw double, then continue the party with myself at home. Sound sad? It was. Even worse, I started to oversleep the 4AM alarm. That happened a couple of times too many, and that was the end of that. I was out.

So now what? How about spending a few weeks, maybe longer, in a complete state of drunk. I don’t mean tipsy; I’m talking wake up at noon and drink to win. Unfortunately, the few weeks turned into months. I started dating a girl whose life was actually in worse shape than mine. She was ten yeas my junior and here semi-illegally from Australia. She somehow managed to find jobs that were awful and bosses that completely preyed on her illegal status. Being the kind of guy I am, I, of course, tried to protect and to fix what was broken in her life. God, how I hate to be a predictable stereotype. But, all of this managed to distract me. And there was still the drinking. Even drunk, I could focus on taking care of her and her problems–instead of realizing my own. However, as distractions are prone to be, this was only temporary. She and I didn’t last, although, we did manage to pretend for a good 6 or so months. And, as time marched on, my drinking habit worsened, and as the economy nosedived so did my life.

While all of this was going on, I half-heartedly tried to re-start my career, first in broadcast. It turns out there wasn’t much available in radio, and the experience I did have, while I thought it impressive, wasn’t that special. And, I had no experience in TV, so that was out. The reason I originally began working in radio, was because I was taking classes to put together my creative portfolio as an advertising copywriter. As an account executive, I had some experience writing in different positions I had held throughout my career, and prior to being sidetracked by radio, I had always thought that copywriting was my true calling. To be honest, radio was fun, but not very taxing. In fact, if I’d been able to do it for two years well with a raging hangover, was it really going to push me to reach my full potential? Probably not. Maybe this was for the best.

In between drinks and hangovers, I worked with an art director friend to help him produce a couple of campaigns for his clients. At last, I was working as a copywriter–and it felt right. In payment, my friend agreed to art direct my portfolio of yore. Instead of just dusting off my 4 year old comps, I revisited and completely redid each each campaign. I also wrote body copy for each, which had not been a part of the original assignments. In addition to hopefully being good for my career, this was a valuable distraction from that bottle of vodka sitting in my freezer. Eventually, unfortunately later rather than sooner, I curtailed my drinking and got serious about my life. I had a full portfolio, which included both real work, as well as, spec campaign assignments from my class.

So, to review, I am now single, relatively sober, and searching for a job. The economy sucks, and along with most other industries, ad agencies are laying off people left and right. I’m trying to change horse mid-stream, which, as the saying goes, one should never do. And, because the industry I’m trying to enter depends exclusively on my talent and creativity and ability to compose text that can make people gasp or change their minds or buy something they don’t need, I am filled with a constant dread and self-doubt that my abilities are not enough and that I will fail. I have friends who are filled with certainty that they are fantastic at whatever creative endeavor they undertake. Whether or not this is true, they seem to believe it, and perhaps that’s half the battle–fake it till you make it. Or, maybe their absolute belief manages to blind their potential critics into believing, as well.

Regardless, through a daily scouring of Craigslist, Jobster, Monster, et al, I’ve managed to find and apply to 7 or 8 jobs whose requirements I meet. Also, merely as a favor and to add to my portfolio, I’ve started to help another friend pro-bono whenever his firm has a project that requires any copy. Sadly, everyday there are numerous jobs advertised looking for Senior this or Director of that, which I am obviously unqualified for. Equally depressing are the numerous unpaid internships I see, which, I’d like to believe I am vastly overqualified for. Then there’s me, stuck in the middle. I haven’t gotten quite desperate enough yet to apply for an internship–The Chandler Bing method off breaking into copywriting. As much as I love Ol’ Chandler, I’m not sure, if at 34, my ego or my soul could really take dropping back down that many rungs. As it is, I’ve started to widen my net and apply for jobs that aren’t even in advertising, just general writing jobs, a marketing company, even a sheet metal supply catalog. I guess whatever it takes to get me back into the market. So, for the time being and hopefully not much more, I’ll sit at my friend’s coffee shop, like I am right now, and continue to search for that elusive job. And, I guess the way blogging works is I continue to write about what’s going on in my world. Actually, I’m giving this to my friend, who has started her blog about being unemployed and her experiences. I’m not even sure if this is how a blog is supposed to read, if it should be this long, or filled with this much background. I’m entering new territory, be gentle.

Here's an update M sent me this afternoon:

I just re-read the post I submitted yesterday, and am a little shocked by my frankness. Apparently anonymity has its rewards. (Note to self, do not let Mom read this blog). Anyway, enough with the morbid, today I’m all about the positive. Last night I, and a friend who is a web designer, updated my web site. He had originally helped me create it, and it was actually very professional and may have helped me land some jobs back in the day, but now it was 8 years out of date and pre-dated my recent foray into copywriting. I was beginning to worry that it could have been slowing down or even hurting my current job search–if people checked it, they’d get an entirely wrong impression of who I was and what I was looking for. So last night, until about 4 this morning, we took down the old site and created a new one that focused on just my creative portfolio. It came out great, and is actually more than I had hoped for. I’d give out the address here, but there’s that whole anonymity thing I got going. Anyway, hopefully it’ll bring this arduous and unfulfilling job search process to a quick and well-paying end. I’ll let you know how it all goes.

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