The curse of unemployment

Why do I suddently want a Big Mac? (courtesy of www.highlands-ortho.com)

Does this make anyone else think of McDonalds? (courtesy of www.highlands-ortho.com)

Looking for a job is sort of an all-or-nothing deal. Either you find one, or you don’t. I haven’t, for seven months. There’s some comfort to be had in knowing that the job market stinks. Companies continue to layoff employees, and those hiring receive millions of resumes, even for that freelance position scraping burnt gunk off of boiler room walls with a screwdriver. Knowing may be half the battle, but it doesn’t pay the bills. There’s also some satisfaction in getting the occasional callback or interview. Validation that I’m doing something right does give me the warm fuzzies. But it too doesn’t pay the bills.

Job boards are a giant waste of time (though I did find my last job through one). At best they give a decent sense of the current job market and skills needed for a particular type of job. At worst, they help companies gather our personal information and sell it off to marketers who then spam the crap out of us. And where would I be without those more-than-obvious, less-than-useful job search tip emails? Step #1… figure out the type of job you want; step #2… apply for those jobs. I only ever respond to listings for which I’m qualified. My resume is optimized for keywords that appear in these listings. My cover letter describes why I’m the ideal candidate for the job. In my oh so humble opinion, my inquiries kick some major ass. They’re practically lethal. If you come across one in a dark alley, keep your hands in plain sight and back away slowly. And call me as soon as you can, as we will have just discovered where they all go when I hit the send button.

Still I try and try and try, or at least I did. The countless hours slaving over my (and wifey’s) laptop have given me an on again/off again case of carpal tunnel syndrome, or as I call it, “Ouch, My F**king Hand, err, Syndrome” (OMFHeS). The pain is mostly along the back of my right hand and up into the knuckles. It also sneaks around the side beneath the pinkie and up along it on bad days. OMFHeS is brought on by repetitive motion – like scrolling with the mouse track pad through endless, useless job listings and clicking on possibly interesting listings that never turn out to be. Typing doesn’t help. Using a mouse is better, but my hand still aches. The pain disappears when I’m off the computer, but it’s never far from the surface.

A few months ago, I switched up my approach to the job search. Whereas I once devoted serious time to trolling the online listings, now I barely skim the automated searches that appear to my inbox. Sorry, CareerBuilder, none of those 17 Avon positions served up in my last email actually applied, but thanks anyway. My job search is all about networking lately. Starbucks’ second quarter numbers will probably show a spike; I’m keeping half of their NYC locations in business with my informational meetings. I have the third-degree burns on my tongue and the pictures taken of me from a neighboring Starbucks to prove it.

Lucky for me employed types are willing to chat these days. Maybe they want good job search karma, should they get bounced. Maybe they like free coffee, though many don’t even let me pay. Maybe they’re attracted to my winning resume and charming personality like metal to a magnet. Alright, so it’s probably the coffee and karma. But people have been really generous with their time. I’m getting way more informational meetings than I thought I would, and learning a ton of stuff. And I’m meeting many friendly and interesting individuals. Who knew it was just a matter of asking?

There’s one serious drawback. You guessed it… OMFHeS. Shaking hands is really painful, yet unavoidable when networking. It’s how one greets another when they meet. “Hello, my name is…” [shake, shake] “I’m a marketing professional with blah, blah, blah.” In a networking environment, refusing to shake someone’s hand is akin to kicking them in the shin and cursing their mother.  It’s just not the best way to start things off. Explaining that I have OMFHeS makes me look like a weirdo. And no one likes talking to a weirdo, except when drunk in Penn Station at 3:00 a.m., waiting for the train back to Long Island. They definitely don’t want to hire a weirdo and be forced to talk with them everyday, sober, for the foreseeable future.

OMFHeS is bearable in one-on-one meetings. There’s one handshake as a greeting and another as a farewell, with 30 minutes to an hour of interesting conversation in between. Networking events – already painful for other reasons – are the worst. The two requisite handshakes are only separated by a couple minutes of conversation. And everyone there is trying to seem strong and confident (read employable), so they squeeze and shake harder. It’s all about eye contact and a firm grip. After a little while, I have to consciously try not to grimace. As mentioned before, no one wants to work with a weirdo, or for that matter, a wuss.

I’m not a wuss. Let me repeat that, for anyone who nodded off around the 800-word mark and is rejoining us now. I’m not a wuss. These, of course, are the words uttered by someone who is a wuss when faced with their wussiness. But I’m not. I played tackle football. I’ve been beaned with an 80 mph fastball. I can do a lot of pushups and crunches. But OMFHeS really hurts sometimes. And it tends to zap my confidence at the moments I need it most – first impressions. Thanks for the additional obstacle in the job search, unemployment. Next time just send the polar bear, or maybe the black smoke, out of the jungle to get me.

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4 Comments

  1. Melinda wrote:

    >Sorry, CareerBuilder, none of those 17
    >Avon positions served up in my last
    >email actually applied, but thanks
    >anyway.

    Lucky you! I keep getting ones for “insurance adjuster.” You have any insurance that needs adjusting?

    Friday, July 3, 2009 at 10:49 pm | Permalink
  2. Florencia wrote:

    It’s interesting to see what jobs your friends and ex-colleagues think you might be a fit for. Although I am always grateful for the recommendations, I am always surprised by what they think I can and cannot do. The job suggestions from Career Builder are such a farse! Almost insulting!

    Saturday, July 4, 2009 at 3:14 pm | Permalink
  3. Dalilama wrote:

    Every time I update my resume online, I get about 8 calls each from Aflac and Banker’s Insurance looking for outside sales reps. Annoying telling one after another person who is reading their info right off a scripted page, that I already asked the last rep to remove me from their list.

    But more importantly, you’re now a limp wrist hand shaker who winces after a firm grip? I have seen you play football back in the day and don’t recall this wussiness back then. Guess the years in NYC have softened you up a bit, no more calluses…

    Sunday, July 5, 2009 at 9:35 am | Permalink
  4. Many feel the same pain you do. Unemployment will continue to rise I believe. This is the most depressed job market and the most competitive I have seen in over 30 years as an industry professional.

    There are jobs to be had. 80% of all positions are never advertised, anywhere. The key is knowing how to find them, get in the door and compete better than the competition.

    Good luck and don’t give up the hunt.

    Wednesday, July 8, 2009 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

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