Wednesday, August 31, 2011

One More Networking Tip: Listen

As you know, gentle readers, tonight is the Work It Brooklyn event at Brooklyn Winery. I hope you've registered and we'll see you there.

Last week your MatchGirl wrote a post for long-time friend of Unemployed Brooklyn, Brokelyn, in which she advised you all on How To Work It Best at Work It Brooklyn and, of course, any networking even you might find yourself attending.

I wanted to add one more, though, dear readers. Briefly.


This is something that is hard to do. Of course, you are at a networking event to promote yourself, to meet people who can help you, to find a new job or a freelance gig. You're there with your own agenda. Everyone is.

But this is something that I have learned, in years of going to these events and in over a year and a half of facilitating Work It Brooklyn, listening to those around you takes you very far. Listening to the person you are speaking with, truly listening, will open up a million avenues for you. You'll learn what they do and where they work and what they are there to find. During this time, don't think about what you're going to say or what you might say, just listen. And when they're done speaking, they'll listen to you. You'll find out who they're connected to, and, you just never know, they might be able to facilitate an introduction to someone you've been hoping to meet.

This is tip number eight.

What is your best networking advice?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Meeting People... In Real Life

Gentle readers, in March of 2010, just before I found a position at my current company, your MatchGirl wrote a post entitled Connection. In that post, I wrote about how I was ready for more than what I was getting. I wrote about how the internet was great for making connections (you, dear readers, know your MatchGirl is a fan of the online connection) but that perhaps, especially in the world of job hunting, looking online for a job just seemed, especially in this economy something not that likely...

And I still feel that way. I love connecting with people online. I love my Twitter community - the people I talk to every day online, but only get to see occasionally, the people I met first IRL but I get to keep up with on the internet. But there is something about face-to-face interaction that seems to make people really connect.

It was to that end that Work It Brooklyn (and so many of the other networking communities) was created. To get creative people talking to each other face-to-face. (I hope I'll see some of you at Wednesday's event, by the way!) When you meet someone in real life, you get a sense of who they are. When you shake their hand and look in their eye, you get an chance to get a sense of the person behind the Tweets or the person behind the snarky remarks in a Facebook group or you just get to meet the person that you've seen sitting two tables over from you at Cafe Grumpy, plugging away on their laptop as often as you are. If you work from home or work for yourself, you get to meet people who do the same. Maybe that's your new lunch partner, or, hey, your new web developer.

Your MatchGirl will never stop networking online. She loves it too much.

But when you come together in real life, you never know who you might meet. You never know what ideas you may be exposed to. You never know what old friend you might see and what connections they might have.

My advice to you, gentle ones, is to meet new people. In real life and online.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Job Interview Manners 101

With Boyfriend unemployed, gentle readers, your MatchGirl has spent a lot of time thinking about the simple etiquette of the job hunt. Manners in general are something that has been on my mind, actually, quite a bit, as regular readers of this tome will recall.

In relating it to the job hunt, here are a few tips that seem like common sense, but, as I heard Brian Solis say in a webinar (relating to a totally different topic) the other day, "common sense is about the least common thing there is."

1. Show up early. I don't care what city you live in or what social circles you inhabit. Fashionably late is simply not fashionable for a job interview.

2. Ask before taking notes. It seems a small thing, but it's forward to pull out a pen and paper and just start scribbling away. You want the interviewer to know you're focussed on them - what they are saying and what they are asking. A simple, "Do you mind if I jot down some notes while we speak?" will go a long way.

3. No gum. Again, this seems like a "duh". But your MatchGirl heard a case recently where someone was being interviewed and they chomped on their chewing gum the entire time. It's just gross. And, it's rude. There are times and places for your gum, but a formal situation (and no matter how informal the company, an interview is formal) is never one of them.

4. Be available. Last second cancellations of interviews, unless there is unforeseen tragedy, are not going to win you any points. Remember, you are the one that needs to impress them. Not making yourself available for interviews (or at least suggesting alternate times) is never going to work in your favor. If you have an immovable conflict, the impetus is on you to suggest alternative times - a few of them - that could work for both you and the person interviewing you.

5. Say "Thank you." Politeness counts. Be genuine in it. thank the people who interviewed you for meeting with you, Thank the receptionist who let you in for her time. You never know they company structure and you can't know whose opinion will be asked. And send a "thank you" note. A paper one. Via the US Postal Service. The moment you arrive home. That little flourish makes a big difference. It's tangible evidence of your effort and your enthusiasm. Anyone can send an email. Be different.

Sure, these tips might seem basic, but forgetting even one of them could knock you down to the bottom of the candidate pile. Competition is fierce, gentle readers. A few good manners could really help you stand out.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Where Do Jobs Come From?

Boyfriend and your MatchGirl went to the Met the other day and while perusing a collection of modern photographs, your MatchGirl stumbled upon this gem by the artist Hans Haacke. See the diptych here.

It's an enlarged image of the Paine Webber Annual Report from 1977. Where do jobs come from?, the headline asks. Underneath: A concise report on unemployment. And Wall Street's role in preventing it.

Is it just me, gentle readers, or could this bit of propaganda - a little something to make those wealthy investors feel that they were doing or at least could do something "good" with their investment capital - be from 2008, thirty-one years after its publication and the beginning of the recession? Or, even better, dear readers, wouldn't it be fitting to see that question somewhere today? In 2011, nearly thirty-five years after the corporation posed the question.

Your MacthGirl is lucky. And she knows it. Eighteen months after being laid off, she was working again. And eighteen months, while a really, really long time to be without a job is better than a lot of people are looking at.

But, out of curiosity, I decide to look up unemployment rates in 1977. I was young then, and I don't actually recall anything of it. When watching a movie or sitcom from the late 1970s, there is talk of high gas prices, of fuel lines, of shortages and of unemployment, with industrial jobs starting to end in the United States and more and more people with less and less of an education finding themselves out of work.

Funny how we're facing these problems and asking ourselves the same questions nearly 35 years later. The '80s came along and everything was on an upswing, at least in the media, so instead of figuring out how to keep ourselves, as a country, working, instead of focusing on education and upward mobility, the rich just got richer and the middle class, like today, struggled to make ends meet. 1977? 2008? 2011? Could it all be so similar.

Interestingly, in viewing the unemployment statistics for 1977, when this Paine Weber report is from, I found that unemployment hovered, for most of the year, between 6.5% and 7.5%. In comparison, in 2008 (your MatchGirl was laid off in November of this year) it shot from 5% at the beginning of the year to 7.5% at year's end. And the first half of this year is in the 9% range. Of course, this is country-wide. We're all well aware that it varies widely from state to state.

The question is, gentle readers, where do we go from here? Why are the American people so placid and accepting of these high and seemingly steadily increasing unemployment rates? How can we just sit by and watch so many of our fellow citizens hit rock bottom and just keep falling?

Your MatchGirl doesn't have the answer. She simply has questions.

Here's a final one. Will we see the American people get off their asses and hit the polls, once the primary season begins?

Time will tell.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Work It Brooklyn Is Back!

Gentle readers, as you know, something that your MatchGirl loves - something that she is excited to talk about and to put her time and energy behind - is connecting people. And out of that, collaborating with two amazing women who share the same passion, Work It Brooklyn was born.

And though we've had a shaky path, organizing events around our increasingly busy schedules as well as our day jobs, we try to bring you a few events every year. Where you can meet other people like you. Where creative people can come together and have a drink and exchange info via our signature speed-networking. Where people can get hired. Where people can exchange services. Where people can just find the moral support they feel they are missing when the office life turns into the unpredictable path of a freelancer.

Your MatchGirl, dear ones, is excited to announce that there will be a fantastic Work It Brooklyn event right before summer ends.

Graciously hosted by Brooklyn Winery, in their lovely courtyard, the next Work It Brooklyn event offers  intimate conversations and a chance to really connect with other creatives and creative freelancers living and working in Brooklyn.

Work It Brooklyn is back!

We invite you to come to a fabulous end of summer mixer in the courtyard of Brooklyn Winery in Williamsburg on Wendesday, August 31st from 7 to 10PM.

Bring a stack of business cards and your best three minute description of who you are and what you do!

And, of course, come prepared to work it!

Plan on Tweeting the event? Awesome! Use the hastag #workit and don't forget to follow us @workitbrooklyn and join our Facebook group to keep the discussion going.
We can't wait to see you!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011
7 – 10pm
Brooklyn Winery
213 North 3rd Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211

The event will take place on Wednesday, August 31st, and registration is free, but please remember to register by Monday, August 29th. We need to know who is coming!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Right Here Waiting For You

Ah, gentle readers, when it comes to things happening in your life, there is one thing your MatchGirl knows for sure. You can't wait for things to happen to you. They never will.

Sure there are a lot of lovely, romantic songs about waiting for things to happen.

Sure, Sleeping Beauty fell into a deep sleep (Snow White, too!) and waited for her Prince to come.

Sure, Rapunzel, locked in her tower, waited for her Prince, too - and then threw down her hair so he could rescue her...

Here's the deal, dear ones, there is no use waiting. No one is going to rescue you.

Whether you are looking for love or looking for money or looking for a job. It's you who has to do the work. No one is going to do it for you.

Your MatchGirl spent - no, wasted - a lot of years waiting. Waiting for a boyfriend to carry me away from my problems. Waiting for a promotion. Waiting for the next thing to happen. The next opportunity to present itself. Here's the thing - those things never happened. I was waiting because the decisions were too scary, too hard. It was easier to wait.

And while I admire and extoll patience (practice it, not so much), there is a really bis difference between being patient and simply waiting.

I beg of you, gentle readers, think about what you want. Make a decision. And go for it.

It's the only way to make the things you want to happen actually come into being.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

All The Help We Can Get

Gentle readers, your MatchGirl has benefited a lot from the kindness of strangers (many of whom have become friends) and acquaintances - especially when she was unemployed. I try, as often as possible, to return those favors. Part of why I'm excited to continue with Work It Brooklyn, as sporadic as those events may be, is that it helps to connect people who want to and need to meet new people.

This weekend I received an email from a woman named Phyllis, looking for someone to help her with her resume.

I thought I would share that here and I hope that one of you is able to help her out.

Dear MatchGirl,

I have worked in the service industry for twenty some odd years. I have never needed a resume. I have always been hired by merits and recommendation . It also helped being young and cute. I have tried many ways to put together a resume, but there is too much to tell. They come out awful.

I have moved back to Brooklyn after many years to care for an elderly parent. I know very few people here.

If you might know someone in Brooklyn that might help me put one together I would appreciate it. I can manage a small fee.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.

Phyllis C.
Brooklyndreams13 [at] yahoo [dot] com

Now, I don't know Phyllis and I don't anything about her skills. But I know that one of you can assist her with a resume.

Can't you?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Make It Work

In yesterday's New York Sunday Times, gentle readers, there was an article, on the front page of the Styles section (and yes, dear ones, that is the section your MatchGirl always grabs first), entitled Maybe It's Time For Plan C.

In the piece, the reporter spoke with several entrepreneurs who had quit or were laid off from high-powered white collar jobs. But it was this paragraph that struck me:

The lures are obvious: freedom, fulfillment. The highs can be high. But career switchers have found that going solo comes with its own pitfalls: a steep learning curve, no security, physical exhaustion and emotional meltdowns. The dream job is a “job” as much as it is a “dream.”

Um, duh.

It takes a lot of guts to leave a secure position, sure, but anyone who thinks that it won't be a lot of hard work, to strike out on their own ...  But seriously folks, do people not really know that when they give up that golden parachute? Can people really be that naive?

This is an issue your MatchGirl wrote about a handful of weeks ago, in a piece entitled Love In The Time of the Recession. In that piece, I wrote: If you love and enjoy what you are doing, that is amazing. You're one of the lucky ones. But you still need to put yourself out there. You need to work and you need to work hard.

Do people really think, while looking at all the hand-crafted goodness on Etsy that it's just fun and games to those people? Sure, some of them have day jobs, and it's just a fun hobby. But for others, it's a full time job. And it is a ridiculous amount of work. Hard freakin' work.

Though most of the people profiled in the article, though surprised at the actual difficulty of manual labor, told the reporter that they were happy with their decisions, knowing that, at least, they were working for themselves, this little blurb, bothered your MatchGirl, quite a bit.

For some, the unexpected pitfalls can be so treacherous that they no longer consider Plan B a dream job, but a nightmare. That was the unfortunate lesson for Anne-Laure Vibert, 31, who gave up a marketing job in New York, planning glamorous parties for Audemars Piguet, the watchmaker, to become a chocolatier.

A few years ago, she moved to Paris to apprentice with a master chocolatier. Visions of decadent bonbons swirled in her head. Instead, she felt like a modern-day Lucy in the candy factory, hunched over in a chocolate lab packing chocolates and scrubbing pots. If she wasn’t doing that, she was sweeping floors, wrapping gifts, answering telephones or shipping orders.

After four months, she had had enough and called it quits. Her Plan C? She returned to New York and took a job with her old boss, doing marketing for another luxury brand. “It got very lonely, to be honest,” she said.
Apprenticeships are supposed to be hard work. The whole point of them is to learn the business from the ground up. Because, at the end of the day, when you own your own business, you need to do everything. You need to sweep the floor and clean the toilet and make sure supplies are ordered and answer the phone when a customer calls. You HAVE to do EVERYTHING.

Ms. Vibert, had she owned her own business, could certainly not have just quit when the going got rough. She would have had to do the work.

Doing what you love is amazing. It's great. It's so freakin' good.

But, let's remember the obvious - it's still work. Anything worth having, gentle readers, is worth working for.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Unemployed Need Not Apply

There is a disturbing trend, gentle readers. One that quite upsets your MatchGirl. There is a trend that employers, people who are hiring, are saying that the long-term unemployed, those who need the jobs the most, need not apply.

Your MatchGirl, who, herself, was among the long-term unemployed, before landing her current spot, has some thoughts on this. Bear with me.

The employers want people who still are up-to-date and current on all that applies to their posted position. They want people who have been in the working world and have networks and contacts to rely on. They want people they won't have to spend money to train - ones that can slip easily into the position.

The long-term unemployed are eager, no desperate, to work. They are at the end of their financial rope. They will take jobs they are over-qualified for. Once 9 to 5 office workers will happily sweep floors. Scientists will become cheesemongers. These people have no income to speak of and they need this job. The economy needs for them to have it.

Your MatchGirl, gentle readers, see the problem as this: The employers are not educated about the state of the unemployed person today. The average unemployed, much as I did when I was unemployed, is putting themselves out there as much as possible. They are educating themselves, in classes or online or through friends, on anything they think will be able to help them get a job. They want to get hired and they want to be ready when that finally happens.

And, the biggest misconception, of course, is that unemployed people are lazy. Gentle readers, we know this is simply untrue. But perhaps the onus is on us to educate these employers...

Make sure to add anything you have been doing to your resume. Volunteered two days a week at a shelter? Add it! Take classes at a community college? Add it! Babysit on a regular/semi-regular basis? You're a nanny. Add it! Prove to the employers that unemployeds are not lazy. And that they deserve, at least, a chance a that posted job.

If you have a moment, listen to this interview on WNYC's Brian Lehrer show:

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

On Being Poor

Gentle readers, your MatchGirl is so very tired. She is tired of being poor.

Though I am employed, I feel like my income level has been slowly moving backward (Don't take this the wrong way. Your MatchGirl knows there are loads of people worse off than she.), since I was laid off (due to downsizing and company shutdown) in the Autumn of 2008. It's hard to make a buck in New York City ... well, more importantly, it's hard to save a buck in New York City.

And while the millenials may be more focused on moving up and forward than on planning for what happens, later, as this post on Brazen Careerist recommends, your MatchGirl has been out of her twenties for a long while now. And, though I didn't think about saving money then, I also didn't really think about my long term career goals. In my twenties, I thought about how to pay the rent and how to get groceries and how to have enough left over to have a meal out here and there and to buy some new, yet inexpensive, clothes from time to time. I didn't think about tomorrow.

But tomorrow is here.

Now I am doing something that I enjoy. That is so "me." That I am planning a long term career around. But I still find myself struggling financially. So what's a girl to do?

Your MatchGirl, dear readers, is looking for something more. Something extra. And, as she enjoys writing for you here on this blog, on A Precious Environment, and on her work blogs, she is looking to take on some freelance writing (ghost, copy or other) as a way to supplement her day job.

It's hard to admit that you're not quite where you want to be, where you're working towards, especially this late in life. I am fully self-aware, gentle ones, and I am, as long time readers know, not afraid to reach out and ask for what I need or to tell you what I am looking for. I love my day job. But right now, especially with Boyfriend out of work, I need to supplement that.

Let me know if you know of anything...

Monday, August 8, 2011

Private Eyes: Protecting Yourself From Social Media's Prying Eyes

On Friday, gentle readers, your MatchGirl came across and interesting snippet on MediaBistro. The FTC has given approval for a new company that specializes in social media background checks.

As many of you navigate the current world of unemployment and under employment, job hunting and freelancing, you might have wondered how you should handle your online existence. It's part of the reason that, when your MatchGirl started this blog in 2009, I kept Unemployed Brooklyn anonymous. I was job hunting and I was worried that something I wrote could hamper my hunt. As time went on and I gained a bit of a following, and the economy remained in the crapper, it seemed silly not to allow my story to be covered and shared. So I happily shed the blanket of anonymity and put myself out there full force. Along the way, all I've been is me.

But that's not for everyone.

And, even though I am nothing but honest when I write online, I do still make sure to conduct myself with a certain amount of decorum. It's still a public forum, anonymous or no.

Tips for those worried about what others may find when they run a Google search:

That MySpace or Friendster account you created in your younger days - where you thought the bong in the background or the picture of you doing an (underage) keg stand were hilarious and harmless? Delete 'em. The pictures or the profiles, it doesn't matter. Even if you haven't logged on to those sites in years, the internet never forgets.

Set your security level to private. Worried that you may offend someone with strong political or religious beliefs. Worried that your personal lifestyle may not look too good to the CEO? Don't share them in a public forum. Put Facebook's security settings on their most private and limit your network to only those you know, who know the real you.

Keep Twitter toned down. I'm a big believer in Twitter accounts being open and public (though I understand that some people use them as they use Facebook, just to connect rapidly with people they already know), but if you are going to be open to the public know that, know matter how crafty your pseudonym, someone will figure out it's you.

Basically, dear readers, while living your life online, use common sense. If there's nothing bad to find, no social media background check is going to find it. It's that simple.

Any tips that you use to make sure your social media presence is squeaky clean? Leave them in the comments.

Awesome infographic about Social Media and the job hunt, via Mashable.

Friday, August 5, 2011

More Fun With Craigslist or Get Paid What You're Worth

Gentle readers, when your MatchGirl was unemployed, she spent a lot of time looking at job listings, on all manner of sites, and Craigslist, that friendly marketplace, was amongst them. And during that time, your MatchGirl and your fellow readers stumbled upon some fairly ridiculous postings - so many that I decided to have a series of posts entitled More Fun With Craigslist - where I would take apart, bit by bit, the job posting.

Most of these were listings where the people were looking for interns or volunteers for their for-profit businesses, requiring knowledge of an arm's length of software and years plus of experience. For forty hours a week. Which is uncool and, usually, illegal.

People ask for, and get away with, a lot when the economy has hit rock bottom because they feel like it's an excuse for behaving badly. They need work done. They "can't" pay for it (or, at least, they don't want to) so they advertise a position labeled, only at the bottom usually, as an internship.

It's been a while since your MatchGirl has trolled the pages of Craigslist, being employed and all, but as we need some extra income right now (see this post if you are wondering why), dear readers, I have hit the net in search of some freelance writing gigs (send 'em my way!). Which is where I came across the following:

Clicking on the picture should bring it up larger, but let me share the key point: is seeking a fast-paced, dedicated and knowledgeable individual to fill the position of Fashion Editor for our one-million user blog site. This is an unpaid internship that holds the potential of securing you a position in the multi-faceted industry.

You have a site with a million users and you want an unpaid intern to be the fashion editor?


That's messed up.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Interview 101

With Boyfriend on the lookout for a new gig, I thought I'd share some tips on the face-to-face of a job interview.

While it's been a while, thankfully, since your MatchGirl has had to think of these things for herself, prepping with Boyfriend for what's to come, has brought back some memories from those 18 months that I was unemployed!

Five tips, in no particular order, to help you get ready:

Tip #1: Go in thinking you've got it. This doesn't mean go in cocky and be a dick. But it means go in showing confidence, like you know that you can do it. And that you'd be a great addition to the team.

Tip #2: Ask questions. People love to talk about themselves, even when they are interviewing you. Ask questions about the position specifically and the company generally.

Tip #3: Be prepared. Memorize that website. But, going back to don't be cocky, if the interviewer starts to tell you something you already know from your research, be cool. Don't interrupt. When they finish, feel free to mention that you read it on the website and add your two cents.

Tip #4: Keep it brief. In February of 2010, I posted about the three minute interview. It's all still valid today (and for you entrepreneurs out there, works well as elevator pitch guidelines). Be concise. Be on point.

Tip #5: Breathe.

The interview that I had for the job I finally got hired to do, was an 8-something AM interview, held in the lobby of the Ace Hotel. I'd been on so many similar interviews. I'm not going to say I wasn't nervous, but my unemployment, and all its extensions, were about to run out and I had figured out a pretty palpable game plan for how I was going to make ends meet for the short term. I went into that interview thinking that I was supremely qualified, but that there was no way I was going to get it. Perhaps, at least inwardly, a little defeated. And to that end, I was so much calmer and more relaxed than I had been in prior interviews. My life didn't depend on it. I'd figured out something, at least short term, and I had come to terms with the fact that it would be a long time before the economy was out of the crapper. So I remembered to breathe.

I'm certainly not saying that being calm was the only thing that got me the job, but it definitely helped me be myself and not second guess myself while I was in the interview. Which can only ever lead to good things.

Do you have any tips for Boyfriend as he preps for job interviews? Any ideas to help him out?

Leave them in the comments.

One of the best interviews ever:

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Polite Society

Last week, gentle readers your MatchGirl wrote a post entitled Simple Manners, which received a couple of comments on the blog and several more on Twitter and in my inbox.

One of them came from Rich P, who posed the question, "Which part struck the louder chord for you, the stepping onto the shoe or the opportunity taken of the man who retrieved it?"and followed up by saying, "I often find what I'm noticing says more to me about "me" than the players involved in the scene."

And while I answered him in the comments section, I thought I would take a moment to further address what Rich has to say. Your MatchGirl, dear readers, is far from perfect. And though I am the biggest advocate of a polite society (though not the one advocated on this blog!), I am sure there are times when I am not in the right, though I hope they are few and far between.

And in thinking more on the topic and in discussing it further, with Boyfriend and another friend, I have come to realize that one of the integral parts of manners and being polite, in general, is grace.

Or, specifically, graciousness.

To be kind. To be courteous. To be compassionate. These are all a part of having good manners. They are, in fact, what keeps a polite society moving forward.

When someone is rude to you or bumps into you, it's not only on them to apologize. It's on you to accept. To say, "No worries" or "That's OK" and to move along. It's on you to let the bad feelings go and forgive their misstep. All they can do, especially in passing (on the street, on the subway, in the elevator), is say they are sorry or excuse me. If you're an ass about it - then the bad manners are on you.

Just a thought.

As I have written here before, be good to each other. It's all that matters in the end.