Mission Accomplished

Where can I get me a big boat for my next press conference?

Mission accomplished. Those two words stick in my head lately, as I speak to the world from the bow of my aircraft carrier, the USS Kitchen Table. Navy SEALs, with an assist from the CIA, recently killed public enemy number one. They put a bullet through his head and dumped his body in the North Arabian Sea. A chapter in the ongoing war against terrorism ends. Many many more remain. In other national news, this once-unemployed blogger announces his full-time employment—the death of his own biggest enemy. It remains unclear what the revelers in Times Square were celebrating that night a few weeks back.

It’s been a wild and wacky ride. I lost my last full-time job on October 31, 2008. I started Jobless and Less a few weeks later and blogged my way into the hearts and minds, or at least the bowels, of a nation. Many of my loyal readers were also unemployed, or identified with the condition of unemployment. It was—and still is—a common problem; the country’s current unemployment rate hovers around 9%. I hope that I helped a few of these readers, not to find a job (though I tried that too in a few cases), but to get through another soul-sucking, mind-numbing, gut-wrenching day. Finding work is a thankless job, without the benefit of a paycheck or even a pat on the back. It’s a grind. But the occasional chuckle or smile can brighten an afternoon just a little. And I benefited more than anyone.

On a personal level, the site gave me a reason to get up and go through it all, again and again and again. It was a way of rewarding myself for enduring another day of disappointment… a cookie for the unemployed soul. What better way to overcome being ignored than to make people pay attention? The site gave me some control in a situation where I seemed to have none. It gave me an outlet to express my frustrations, big and small. And it gave me voice.

On a professional level, the site helped me become more employable. It served as a tool to teach myself new skills and refine old skills, from Search Engine Marketing to Social Media to website and project management. I grew as a marketer, and I grew as a writer. A website about being unemployed, ironically enough, made me a better employee.

Having a full-time job is a lot harder than I remember it. The days can be long. The work is often taxing, particularly as I dust off the little-used parts of my brain. But I enjoy being engaged. And my bank account enjoys receiving paychecks. And wifey enjoys having a gainfully employed husband. And the cats enjoy, well, sleeping. What did you expect? They’re cats.

I work on websites and related projects for a huge media company, also known as the man. They control TV and radio stations, not to mention web properties of all shapes and sizes. The position came out of a friendship I developed during a freelance project last year. One day I was meeting a someone for coffee. The next day I had a job. Who knows what the future will bring?

So what happens to Jobless and Less? Do I end it right here and ride off into the sunset? Do I continue to post sporadically, as the mood hits me? Do I steer the discussion off in another direction? Or do I continue to ask questions until I actually stumble upon my point? I don’t have the answer.

There’s plenty more to write about, but fewer hours to write. And I don’t own a horse, or a sunset. Maybe these are all signs that I need to keep writing. I already have the site, even if the name no longer makes sense. One mission ends, and another begins. I just need to figure out what the new mission is.

Meetup needs to let up with the spam

I’m a big fan of Meetup.com. It’s the Justin Bieber to my inner 12-year-old girl, without the incredibly bad hair. There aren’t too many websites and/or online services I appreciate more. Gmail is one. Facebook is an another. And Fred’s Potato Chip and Plumbing Supply Emporium is still another. Where else can you get Old Bay crab chips and the Waste King Legend 8000TC 1 horsepower disposer in one online shopping cart, besides Amazon? That’s right, nowhere. And the site’s emoticons are second to none. Long live Fred! (Continued)

Yet another unemployed guy… how did this happen?

I don’t like guests. I’m not very hospitable, and a terrible host besides. Our apartment is in a perpetual transitional state. Ripping and packing up 1500 CDs is the current project, but there’s always something. And if that weren’t enough, the cats are trained to annoy guests with their cuteness and persistent affection. Yet people still visit for some reason. It must be the scenic walk up Roosevelt Ave; the allure of slush and garbage can be intoxicating. Maybe they just come to see wifey.

I don’t really like guests on Jobless and Less either. The site wouldn’t really be about MY experiences with unemployment and under-employment if other people did all the writing. But I’m not fundamentally against guest writers. Rumor has it that other people have interesting unemployment experiences and opinions about them.

It’s been almost two years since Ben Breier—the last guest poster—shared his tales of interviewing woe. I’ve since been solicited often, though nobody ever seems to quite get it. The world just doesn’t need another post about how to write a resume or what to say in an interview. The topics have been amply covered, elsewhere, by people who actually have jobs. Why would anyone trust advice on finding work from a site run by someone who can’t find work? It’s much more fun and interesting to laugh at my repeated failures.


Re-unemployment: back in or out of the saddle again

Red Dead Redemption video game cover picture

Hire me or I'll shoot, but I mean that in the nicest possible way. (courtesy of wikipedia.com)

I’m back in the saddle again or, um, out of it. I can’t keep track anymore. My full-time freelance assignment ended this past Friday, and I’m unemployed again. Or am I still self-employed but without a full-time project? Is there a difference? Does it really matter? Can I go on asking questions like the annoying five-year-old who lived up the block from me when I was a kid? Do you really want me to answer that question? Or that one? Or that one?

It feels like I fell off the proverbial horse, which then kicked me as it trotted away. So let’s go with “out of it,” a phrase that seems to fit like a lasso around my neck. The current job market is similar to the Wild West… catch as catch can, every person for themselves. And sporadic unemployment might be the new reality. Maybe the only solution is to quit looking for full-time work and devote my life to mastering Red Dead Redemption; I’ve already got the horse metaphor thing down. And besides, John Marston, the video game’s main character, is essentially me a hundred years ago.


Dressing for a job interview in a bathroom stall

Cirque du Soleil contortionist

Yeah, but can you do this in a bathroom stall, poised over a toilet? (courtesy of connect.in.com)

I’ve been looking for full-time work for about two years. My resume is up to date, and can be tweaked at a moment’s notice. My answers to commonly asked questions sit on the tip of my tongue. And my sincere smile and confident demeanor can be summoned like a spell. This job seeker is ready to interview. But sometimes the hardest part of a job interview has precious little to do with the actual meeting and everything to do with looking the part.

I’ve been freelancing for a company on-site for much of 2010. The dress code is lax—not record-company, I-can’t-believe-your-parents-let-you-out-of-the-house lax—but lax. Jeans and a t-shirt may be fine for work, but they don’t cut it for a job interview. And, of course, most interviews happen during business hours. So the aspiring full-time employee, with dreams of job security and a regular paycheck, has a choice to make. Does he wear a spiffy wool suit to work, sweating on the subway platform, itching all day and enduring the inevitable “got an interview?” question over and over? Or does he bring the suit and change in a bathroom stall? I opted for plan B one fine day this past fall.


The rejection letter… a children’s story

Sit down, boys and girls, and let me tell you a story. It’s about someone you know, or at least someone like someone you know. Let’s call him “Our Hero.” “Superman” is already taken. He lives in the big city. He likes cookies. He dresses in grownup clothes. He rides the subway. He sits at a desk. And he works… for now.

His job is freelance. Many mommies and daddies have jobs like this. If he works, he gets paid. If he doesn’t work, he doesn’t get paid. The job doesn’t come with health insurance, which is what he needs to see a doctor when his tummy hurts. And it doesn’t come with a 401K, which makes him think he won’t have to work when he’s old. A freelance job, and the paycheck, can go away at any time. Our Hero wants a full-time job instead. But he likes money and needs more of it now. So he works. And he works. And he works.


High school reunions come and go, but Saved by the Bell is forever

Zack, Screech and Slater from Saved by the Bell

No Slater, I just want to be friends! (courtesy of www.almightydad.com)

Has it really been that long since high school? Am I really that old? I still kind of feel the same, at least after ten hours of sleep and a couple cups of coffee. I still look about the same, when I wear my mullet wig and sing Def Leppard songs into my hairbrush in the mirror. But it has been that long, and I am that old. That’s why I was in MD a few weeks back for my 20th high school reunion.

That Saturday afternoon, I sat on my dad’s couch watching the Disney Channel and killing time before the the big event. Who could’ve guessed Saved By The Bell would spawn a whole network of beautiful teens running around sanitized, microcosmic worlds making bad jokes? Screech would be so proud, Mr. Belding too. In one episode, restaurant advertising mascots – a hot dog, salad bowl and baked potato, to be specific – have a “food fight.” Get it… food fight? They’re food, and they’re fighting. I stuck my finger in my eye, repeatedly, to stop the pain.


Ground Zero for the American Dream

Jackson Heights Queens street corner

Where did all the white people go? (courtesy of Wikipedia)

I hate a lot of stuff, or at least it can appear that way to the reader passing through. My cousin suggested over dinner a few weeks back that I change the blog’s name to Hate Less and Less. The suggestion didn’t quite make sense; he’s not too bright. But the spirit of the comment resonated with me. Some vitriol comes through in these here pages from time to time.

I never thought of it as hate so much as annoyance. Things irk me. Hard as it is to believe, I’m not perfect… far from it. But I’m basically a nice guy with a positive outlook. I don’t walk the sidewalks scowling at old ladies and kicking small children. Nor do I lambaste random strangers and give them wedgies as they pass by. I could; the world is filled with easy targets and people wearing underwear. But I don’t.


Jobless and Less, but would prefer more

Look at me, mom. I’m on TV… again. Okay, so it’s TV via the web. And I’m not the main focus of the segment; that honor goes to Ellen Reeves, author of “Can I Wear My Nose Ring to the Interview? A Crash Course in Finding, Landing and Keeping Your First Real Job.” But that is me (the devastatingly handsome, not-looking-a-day-over-27, Skyped-in guy on the left). And that is Katie Couric. Maybe you’ve heard of her, or recognize the face. I didn’t, until someone over at CBS contacted the Jobless and Less press department, prompting the VP, Communications to task a Research Assistant with exploring Ms. Couric’s alleged celebrity. She checked out. So I accepted their request to participate in a piece entitled…

Jobless in America


New York Magazine thinks there’s no good, cheap food in Queens

New Yorker cover cartoon looking west from Manhattan to the Pacific Ocean

How New Yorkers see the world, courtesy of that other New York magazine. (courtesy of The New Yorker)

Queens doesn’t exist. Or maybe it just disappeared one day while everyone was checking their smartphones and being social. There’s a giant void between Manhattan, Brooklyn and Nassau County. Woodside… felled. Flushing… down the toilet. Jackson Heights… sunk. Only the quickly gentrifying Astoria remains, visible from the Upper East Side on the rare occasion someone looks east and wonders, “what’s over there?”

I suspect the rest of Queens might still be here too, somewhere. I manage to leave and get back to my apartment everyday. None of the many trains that stop in Jackson Heights resemble the Hogwarts Express. Besides, whole boroughs don’t just disappear, at least not literally. We New Yorkers do ignore the parts of the city we don’t visit. We forget about them, go about our lives in blissful ignorance. What other explanation could there possibly be for Queens’s poor showing in New York Magazine’s recently published issue covering the City’s best cheap restaurants?

Eat Cheap 2010