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Update on Me: Recent Reading, Freelance Work, Job-Hunting, Jews and Comic Books, Money etc. - Mo's Journal
March 16th, 2010
02:47 pm

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Update on Me: Recent Reading, Freelance Work, Job-Hunting, Jews and Comic Books, Money etc.
It has been a while since I've posted, so this is kind of a mass update. I'll use cuts to make it look nice and small, though.


I read Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness at the Fair that Changed America because it was recommended by talktooloose, and I'm so glad I did! It's a non-fiction book about the World's Columbian Exposition, more commonly known as the Chicago World's Fair, that occurred in 1893. Larson focuses on the story's of two men: Daniel Burnham, the chief architect of the fair, and H.H. Holmes, a serial killer (in the FBI Behavioral Science sense of the term) who was murdering people before, during and after the fair. It's a fascinating story that provides a glimpse into late nineteenth century life in so many ways and interweaves historical figures and trends that I never realized were connected. The style is not at all novelistic, much more journalistic, but it's as exciting as any novel. And it leaves me thinking: how is it that I never knew any of this before?




I came across Barbara Ehrenreich's Bait and Switch in the library while looking for something else. It was written a few years ago, before the latest economic downturn but well into the trend towards downsizing, rightsizing, outsourcing, etc. Ehrenreich has written a lot about the struggles of the working poor in the past. With this book she tries to see what it's like to be a middle class white collar worker looking for a job. She impersonates just such a person, legally changing her name and manufacturing a fake resume and references who are willing to lie for her, and goes out looking for a job. She has a time frame (up to six months looking and landing the job, three months working), a budget (she plans on spending up to $5000 on job coaches, materials, resumes, etc), and a plan - to write what it's like to look for and land a job in corporate America. She has no scruples (she'll take any job, even for a company her real self would hate to work for) and no restrictions on where she'll live. It just has to be a professional job and making more than $50,000.

The resulting book is surprisingly funny, in a wacky kind of way. She has a detached, dry humor that she brings to the task of dissecting job coaches, recruiters, professional networking groups, image consultants, etc. She's very aware of how unscientific the methods of the professionals who say they'll help her get a job are (and she notices how all of these job coaches and resume writers and so on seem to be looking for jobs themselves). Ultimately she not only doesn't get any job offers, she doesn't even get a single real interview. She does have some serious things to say along the way about private enterprise, employer-based health care, over-reliance on market forces and the like. And this reader, at least, was very aware that the humorous, lighthearted tone of the book comes in large part from the fact that this isn't a real job search; it's a game and a book idea. When her time is up, she knows all along that she'll go back to her real life as best-selling author.





I've been trying to do some part-time, freelance work since I haven't come up with full time employment yet. I've done some tutoring, some editing. Now I got a gig through rpics, writing a Business Continuity Plan for the non-profit organization in Massachusetts that she works for. I went there last week for a couple of days and did initial interviews with managers and got started. It will be several weeks of part-time work, probably the rest of it done from home.

It felt good to be doing it. It's a kind of work I've done a few places and enjoy. It feels great to be working, even if part-time. And the money will certainly come in handy. Plus it was fun to stay with rpics and hang out with her family. I've never been on a business trip where someone packed me lunch, where I helped a kid review for an English test (did you know there are four kinds of irony?), or where I went to a middle school band concert before.





I'm continuing to actively look for a job although, like Barbara Ehrenreich, I find many of the resources available useless or worse. I get regular emails from a resume writing company telling me that I'd be getting interviews if only I paid them big bucks. I've had my resume reviewed (without pay) by a variety of people, gone to resume writing workshops, read up on current trends in resumes. I feel like it's likely as good as it's going to get and that these resume writers just prey on desperate people. And I'm still tempted every time I get one of their emails.

I continue to look for openings in a variety of places and send off resumes regularly. I've also gone to some workshops: the aforementioned resume writing, Job Search for Geezers (they called it something more discreet, but I forget what), using LinkedIn in your job hunt. I've joined a Job Loss Support Group. I've been to job fairs. None of these activities are actually bearing fruit, but they make me feel like I'm doing something.

I have gotten interviews for two positions in the past couple of weeks, but both were through connections rather than any of the above. I have been doing the tell-everyone-you-know-you-need-a-job thing, and that's how I heard about these two. The first one - a QA job at a software firm - didn't go anywhere. The second is a job I really hope I'll get: Business Manager at a special ed school. They're looking to grow and want someone with a mix of skills who can do grant writing, financial stuff, some IT, etc. It seems like just the kind of job I love to do - varied and interesting and kind of build-your-own job, and in a field I feel connected to. The Head of School said encouraging things at the first interview. I'm not counting on anything but I'm very hopeful.




Thanks to all who responded to my query for information on Jews and comic books. I'm reading all sorts of interesting stuff on the topic and should be ready for my lecture in May.




I've got a financial plan that will take me through 2010 without a job, should it come to that. I hope it doesn't. I was one of the folks caught in the delay in renewal of unemployment extension, or at least I would have been if I hadn't done some freelance work. Since I did, and declared it, I had a cushion of a couple of weeks and never had any weeks without unemployment. Now I've hit the end of my initial allotment, but I have 20 weeks of extended benefits if I need them.


That's pretty much what's going on with me. No change in the home situation, and I don't expect any. I am, of course, open to talking about a settlement but I don't expect my ex will be willing to talk, given that she hasn't been willing to all the time since we broke up (9 years ago next month) and even during the past 6 months when I've been living here. But that's okay for me, at least for now. I've been able to make a good 65-70% of the apartment livable, even really nice. It's more room than I had in my rental, a lot cheaper, and my ex mostly stays away and when she is here holes up in the 30-35% of the place that is Hoarding Central. So it's fine for now.

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[User Picture]
From:aurienne
Date:March 16th, 2010 07:33 pm (UTC)
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re "writing a Business Continuity Plan " -- what's that? Is it something that would be useful to teach my Technical Writing students? (They're juniors mostly, about 50% computer engineers, 2/3 of the rest of other forms of engineer or scientists, 3 writing majors, and the rest are business majors.)

I'm encouraging them, if so inclined, to do a Business Plan (for a new business or expanding their freelancing) if they want to for their Independent Research Project, but if these Continuity things come up in the course of their other jobs, should they be familiar with them? Should they get a small focus on them the way we focus on email etiquette, clear instructions, definitions, proposals, or is it just something that specific companies/non-profits may or may not run into, and don't worry about it?

I added the World's Fair book to my wishlist!

Oh, and see if any of your previous schools have lifetime career help -- I had a great career redirect from one school when I went in for a day of counseling and quizzes. I would offer to look at your resume, but my focus is mostly on Frosh getting summer jobs and internships, or now I'm learning how to help juniors describe those internships into things which may lead to full-time jobs. It used to be my unofficial job to be First Rejector at my dad's office though when I was a teen -- discarding those with immediate errors or pointing out implications of gaps or phrasings. (Example - some of my students don't realize that listing "Mama's Boys" without explanation would NOT register to anyone off campus as "very selective all-male a capella group")

Edited at 2010-03-16 07:34 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:mofic
Date:March 16th, 2010 07:55 pm (UTC)
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A Business Continuity Plan (BCP) is a very important document, but it does require some specialized skills to write it. It's what used to be called a "Disaster Recovery Plan" - but that was soooo negative. It's a plan for how a business will continue in the event of an incident that disrupts normal operations. It could be something major like 9/11 or something as small as a storm. The most common reason for businesses to activate their BCPs is an extended power outage. Writing the BCP is the end of the project. First you have to determine which functions are essential and which can just not be done for a while, how you'll recover the ones that are essential, how to notify staff, where your data and software will be backed up, where you'll recover if you have to use an alternate location, and so on. The BCP documents the results of all that.

[User Picture]
From:aurienne
Date:March 16th, 2010 07:59 pm (UTC)
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Excellent -- I think I may make (find) some scenarios and play with that, with my biggest focus being "who needs to know what?" (My whole class is all about audience and anticipating/meeting their needs more than the memos the students thought it would be. )

That could also give me an EXCELLENT focus for my summer version (6 weeks) of this class, too. I will definitely play with this concept more. Thanks!
[User Picture]
From:mofic
Date:March 16th, 2010 08:11 pm (UTC)
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It's a great exercise for "who needs to know what?" BCP development and writing can get so bogged down in the technical details (because most often people writing them are computer geeks) that the document isn't appropriate at all for the people who have to actually implement it. By definition, in a recovery situation you don't have all your people, all your materials, all your facilities so you need something that clearly tells you what to do, not a lot of engineering schematics of the recovery servers.

Another really important (and oft-neglected) task is testing the plan. It's only in the testing process that you find out the flaws in your plan and can fix them. Also, testing teaches staff the plan. Ideally, one should test annually and have different folks involved in the test each time.
(Deleted comment)
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From:mofic
Date:March 17th, 2010 10:57 am (UTC)
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Thanks, I just did.
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From:lilacsigil
Date:March 16th, 2010 11:49 pm (UTC)
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I'm glad to hear you're doing okay in tough times! And yeah, if there are no jobs, the excellence of your resume means little.
[User Picture]
From:mofic
Date:March 17th, 2010 10:58 am (UTC)
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I feel like there has to be a job out there somewhere where they need me. But finding it...
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From:ringthebells
Date:March 17th, 2010 12:06 am (UTC)
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Good luck with the Business Manager job -- it sounds really great!

*crossing fingers for you, figuratively of course because I also need to type*
[User Picture]
From:mofic
Date:March 17th, 2010 10:58 am (UTC)
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Thanks for the metaphorically crossed fingers!
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From:aurienne
Date:April 13th, 2010 01:15 am (UTC)
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any news on that job? or others? (I forget if you have a post-bachelor's degree...if so I can recc you for some online teaching gigs -- not great, but not awful. )

You're one of my favorite imaginary friends and I hope things are ok w/you!
[User Picture]
From:mofic
Date:April 20th, 2010 08:50 pm (UTC)
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Only bad news :-(. I didn't get a job I really thought I would.

I have a master's degree in library and information science. I'd be glad to hear about anything you think might be relevant. I can send you a resume if you send me your email.
[User Picture]
From:brooklynmili
Date:March 17th, 2010 02:05 am (UTC)
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Random thought, and I'm not 100% of your skillset, but have you looked into Professionals for Nonprofits? My wife's worked with them on both ends--her old office hired several people through them for temp positions, and now she's registered with them since she lost her job last February. Hasn't gotten a job yet, but several interviews, and she's been very, very picky about turning down interviews she's not interested in. (They get your permission before they send your resume to the job; the job then selects 3 or so folks for interviews.) Most jobs are temp-to-perm, which is not generally what Kate's looking for, but sounds like what you'd be interested in? Anyway, just a thought. Good luck!

I want that World's Fair book. To the library request site!
[User Picture]
From:mofic
Date:March 17th, 2010 10:59 am (UTC)
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Thanks for the mention of Professionals for Nonprofits. I've never heard of them, but will check them out.

And I'll return that book to the library so you can take it out :-). Although they likely have more than one copy.

[User Picture]
From:talktooloose
Date:March 17th, 2010 03:28 pm (UTC)
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I just had a hilarious flash of memory about the party where that book was recommended to me. Everyone was naked, for one thing.
[User Picture]
From:mofic
Date:March 18th, 2010 01:28 am (UTC)
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Quite different from the party where you recommended it to me!
[User Picture]
From:talktooloose
Date:March 17th, 2010 03:10 pm (UTC)
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You didn't know the things in the book because you're a New Yorker! The book points out how YOU GUYS dismiss Chicago as not equal. lol. I'm glad you enjoyed the book. So much in there! I love the parts about the engineering involved in building skyscrapers on sandy soil. Not to mention the Titanic connection!

BTW, I was meaning to remind you of a book I mentioned to you in Toronto: Jeannette Winterspoon's Weight, her short retelling of the Atlas myth.

I hope you hear back about that job soon! Good luck, and congrats on that short job. That's a nice resume piece for sure.
[User Picture]
From:mofic
Date:March 18th, 2010 01:27 am (UTC)
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But I wasn't always a New Yorker. And I've spent a lot of time in Chicago and know all sorts of things about it, really.

I need to write down the Winterspoon book. I'm reading The Yiddish Policemen's Union now and really enjoying it. So inventive!

[User Picture]
From:stirsmn
Date:March 21st, 2010 01:57 pm (UTC)
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Crossing everything we got here on the school job! I hope you hear good news soon!
From:(Anonymous)
Date:April 6th, 2010 02:40 am (UTC)
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Hey,

I am glad to read an update from you! You continue to amaze me with your ability to 'make lemonade' from lemons. :) Glad that you've been able to reclaim and rejuvenate the majority of the apartment. I will keep everything crossed for the job at the school for kids with special needs; sounds like a good fit with your skills.

You're often in my thoughts.

peace
marlowe
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