The Personal Blog

The Mean Season

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Let me tell ya, bubba. It’s brutal out there. Far more than I ever imagined.

Last fall, I was given notice that I needed to find another job. Here we are on the cusp of March, and I’m still looking. I can just imagine how disheartening it must be for others who’ve been searching longer or with fewer skills or less experience to offer. I’m told that I’m having far more success getting phone screenings and interviews than many people. I’ve had lots of interest tugging at the bait I’ve set out, but no one is reeling me in just yet. It feels like a repeated kick in the gut to come so close so many times and yet have nothing tangible to show for it. A firm in Chattanooga made me jump through a series of hoops for nearly three months before finally poking a hole in my balloon.

I avoided admitting I am in this situation for months, hoping I could project success and essentially fake it until I could make it. That hasn’t worked, so now I am stepping forward with an attitude of humility and hoping someone I’ve helped or been kind to will return the favor in my time of need. To quote Richard Marx, “When you’re trying to make a living, there ain’t no such thing as pride…”

According to Labor statistics, it now takes about seven and a half months to find a job in the U.S. There are currently an average of six people vying for every job out there. Like I said, brutal…

The American economy has been in the crapper since late 2007. Household net worth has suffered the sharpest decline on record as trillions of dollars have simply vanished in the wake of falling home prices, foreclosures, the lack of lending, and manufacturing shifting overseas.

I’ve seen the decline of American enterprise painfully up close here in Fort Payne, Alabama, which just a few years ago boasted the title of “Sock Capitol of the World” until our own Congressman, Robert Aderholt, voted yes on the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) and opened the floodgates for sock manufacturing to flow into places like Guatamala. Now my hometown is littered with empty mills that once housed a thriving industry — all because Walmart wanted to improve their profit margin and you wanted to pay as little as possible for the socks you are wearing right now as you read this.

And, ironically, Mister Aderholt still has his job despite thousands of his constituents losing theirs.

It feels as if I spend all day searching job sites and filling out online applications that end up going into black holes, never to be seen again. I get excited when a prospective employer takes an interest in me, then the days turn into weeks and they either send me Dear John letters or they simply never give any response.

I’m trying to get a competitive edge by taking tips from websites and reading books like Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 3.0. My unique résumé, packed full of eye-catching graphic elements and loaded with desirable keywords, is a reflection of what I’m learning.

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My goal, short-term at least, is to find a job either telecommuting (which I’ve done successfully for the last 8 years) or in Chattanooga, which is an hour’s commute, all interstate. I have joint equal custody of a 10-year-daughter. I can’t simply move away and abandon her. She needs me, and I need her to be a meaningful part of my life as well. I’m conflicted, however, because I also feel like a terrible father if I’m not living up to my professional potential to give her the best possible lifestyle. These are the worries that keep me up at night, and I grow increasingly weary for a resolution of some sort.

My friend Dave in Atlanta, a fellow photographer who had a day job in the marketing field, has been looking for more than a year. He’s stopped paying his credit card bills because he only has enough money to pay his car payment, pay for groceries and his cell phone.

He said, “It is very discouraging on many levels. I can’t find anyone willing to pay me for photography jobs right now. I am so frustrated at this point in my life with this entire search, there are days like today when I just throw up my arms and want to say f**k it, I give up. I told my wife that if she wants to take me to court for child support, I’ll go to jail and then she has zero chance of me finding a job there. My daughter is 16. She is begging for a car. Imagine not being able to give your daughter what she wants. She doesn’t come over to visit on weekends anymore because dad isn’t so important. So on top of job loss, add the feeling of being a deadbeat dad…”

My heart goes out to him so much. I don’t know whether to feel relief that I don’t seem to be at that same sad place or dread that in a few months, if something doesn’t break, I may be even worse off than he is.

There are those who say anyone who doesn’t have a job right now is just lazy. I’ve done the whole applying at McDonalds thing, and you get used to hearing managers say, “You’re overqualified. I’m not going to spend time and money training you just to see you leave once the first better job comes along.”

Besides, how am I doing myself any favors taking a $30,000 pay cut if I can focus with intensity to try and get something closer to what my experience and qualifications can earn?

I’m not stupid enough to think I’m going to find a replacement job that pays as much as the job I had. Why would employers offer those kind of wages if the labor pool is full of desperate, hungry people? I guess it is the opposite of those prosperous days when they had to offer perks to fight for the best talent. Now they have the luxury of even their most talented staffer feeling as if his or her job security is on shaky ground. The only downside for them is the Catch-22 of not having enough consumers to buy their products or services.

Yes, I’ve tried seeking freelance work, but even that is coming up empty. I’m going to keep at it, trying to find various ways to set myself apart from the pack, and get additional training through Lynda.com and Northeast Alabama Community College so I have even more marketable, transferrable skills to make myself a valuable commodity to snatch up.

Please someone out there, give me an opportunity to put my skills to work for you. I’m loyal, motivated, intelligent, creative, adaptable, and ready to get to work today!

My skills include photography, art direction, interviewing, blogging, negotiating rights and permissions for publication, communicating with contributors to get content delivered in the appropriate formats, quality control, developing strategic partnerships, SEO, copywriting, copyediting, social media marketing, post-production, video editing, reportage, newsletters, email marketing, content aggregation, web analytics, website development, page layout, proofreading, etc. The software/apps I am proficient using include Photoshop, Final Cut Pro, WordPress, Hootsuite, eCampaign, Pages, Numbers, Excel, QuarkXPress, MasterWriter, and more.

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