Monthly Archives: January 2009

Why no sassy boots, Michelle?

Without question, watching Barack Obama be sworn in as our 44th President of the United States was an experience I will never forget. We spent the day at the John F. Kennedy Library & Museum in Boston (aka Dorchester for you locals) and I can’t think of a better place to spend it. It had much of the same excitement and jubilation of being in Washington, D.C. but without the cold. His speech was rousing, poignant and I wouldn’t have missed it for anything – including a dumb ass company meeting.

This outfit so could have used a pair of sassy boots.

Her outfit so could have used a pair of sassy boots.

 

 

But really, can we talk about something more important than this historic peaceful transfer of power? The First Lady’s outfit. I admit, I’m disappointed. After all, she’s a classy woman with a tall lean body. She had SO many choices. So what was with her outfit? The color, ick. What color was that? Gold with a touch of Lime? The style? It looked like a mother-of-the-bride outfit, didn’t it? Is she so tired of people comparing her fashion sense to Jackie Kennedy that she wants us to be afraid to look? And what was that thing at the neckline? Metal? You don’t wear metal outside in the middle of January, duh! You’d think being from Chicago she’d know that. Perhaps she wasn’t cold. That would explain why she walked around with her jacket open. I wanted to scream, “Button up your coat, Michelle, for Heaven’s sake! It’s 20 degrees out there! And where’s your hat.” I’m surprised her mother let her go out like that. Flat pumps? Please. I would have forgiven the choice of outfit had she worn a pair of  sassy boots, tall black leather. *sigh* Such a wasted opportunity to look totally smashing. 

A white wool mid-length coat with faux fur collar in soft brown would have been my choice. Oh, and sassy boots. Can’t wait to see what she’s wearing tonight.

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Inauguration Day: Using hope as a strategy

As our 44th President is sworn into office this morning, I, like much of America, and the world, am hopeful for a better future. As the economy continues to spiral downward it’s a tough mantra to follow, but for many, hope is the only strategy. 

For those of us who have lost jobs as a result of the economy, hope has to take on a new, or at least more poignant, meaning. As we send out resumes, make calls, figure out how we’re going to pay the mortgage after the severance runs out (if we were lucky enough to get one), hope is the rock upon which we all stand.   

So today as I watch the news and listen to the stories of faith and renewal, I’ve posted my view of my lay off experience and why  I’m betting that hope will see me (and all of us) through.  

In mid-December, I become one of the millions of laid off workers in this country. The company cut 76 workers, 12% of its workforce. They say they feel bad but it has to be done. It is not about performance, they tell us. It is not that our skill sets are no longer required. It is because times are tough and they believe consolidating positions will help. dsc09279a

The phone call is well scripted and rehearsed. They offer me 18 weeks severance and an extension of my health care. I know this is a good deal and I don’t complain.  Within three minutes of hanging up the phone, I am disconnected from the company network. A month later, my job is posted on the company’s website. Executive Editor. I hear the salary is considerably less.  

We are told to come into the office to collect our things on the following Saturday at 8:30 a.m. No one is there except a company executive who opens the door. It makes me sad that nine years of my professional life fit into two small boxes but I’m relieved there’s not so much to carry out the door. I feel like I have a disease and no one wants to come too close. The executive never looks me in the eyes. I want to say “Fuck You” as I leave, but I don’t.   

I get messages on Facebook for the next several days. Many people say they’ll pray for me, which makes me laugh. I think this is a bit over the top. I’ve lost a job, not a child. I suspect they are relieved their jobs have been spared but secretly think it is because they are better than me so I “defriend” them. One former colleague calls and shouts: “Congratulations!” when I answer the phone. I think this is a much better thing to say. 

The package that details the “terms of my job termination” arrives via special delivery. My package is bigger than some of my colleagues’ packages because my package also includes information about age discrimination. I can’t help it. I think this is funny, too, but in a pathetic ‘if you don’t laugh you’ll cry’ sort of way. Not only am I out of work, I am old. 

I attend a job fair recently and am interviewed by the press. She refers to me as a victim of this economy. I tell her I am not a victim. I have been given an opportunity to redirect the course of my life. Some of this is bullshit, but thinking of yourself as a victim doesn’t help the situation. 

I make a conscious decision to approach the job search with confidence and enthusiasm and I do it so well, it feels like an out of body experience. I get calls from friends who ask how it’s going. “Great, I say. Really, really great.” And I mean it. I start a blog. I join a local freelance writers group. I take a masters class. I get freelance work. I contact everyone I know and have ever known. I have lunch with friends. I change the trajectory of my professional life. I have a blast. 

I am determined to keep my energy up even though responses to applications have been rather pitiful so far. I have applied for eight positions for which I am perfectly qualified, but I have only heard back from one. I had an interview on Tuesday. I thought it went well, but they have not called me back. It’s hard to be patient. 

I am just one among millions caught in the crossfire of a crappy economy. I am a sobering statistic, I know. Still, even though I don’t believe for one minute that this had to be done, it is what it is, and I move on. Instead of a barrier, I see a challenge. More important, I say it’s OK to hope. If hope can motivate a nation, it can motivate me personally. Yeah, I do believe hope is a strategy. 


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Watch Obama be sworn in at your local library

As much as I would love to be at Barack Obama’s inauguration on Tuesday, the fact is, I cannot handle the crowds. I took my daughter to the Million Mom March in Washington, DC years ago and if there’s one thing I learned that day it’s that being in the middle of 100,000 people is way out of my comfort zone.  Plus, there are no hotels available  within a 200 mile radius.

Spend Inauguration Day at your local library

Spend Inauguration Day at your local library

 

 

So this morning I looked online to see what kind of inauguration parties I could get myself invited to (sadly, I was not invited to any of the some 100 balls given around the country on Tuesday night). Harvard Book Store  looks like it’s hosting a pretty cool event but space is limited. I’d go if I thought I could get there early enough and not have to wait outside in subzero temperatures. (A DD coffee and a pair of Cuddle Duds can only keep you so warm.)

I also came across an article that said some local public libraries were hosting events, free and open to everyone.  Some were even serving food, which is always a big plus for me.  As an active advocate of public libraries, I was impressed that our libraries would play host and encourage people to witness this historic event. But I was not surprised by the heated, angry comments posted to this short little article by readers. Upshot: some  people are just not as excited about our 44th president as I am. But there’s also this: People get pissed off when a public institution gives forum to something they don’t agree with.

Why wasn’t this done for Bush (file this under ‘I’ve been living in a cave for 8 years’) and why should taxpayers pay for any of it were the top complaints. First, let’s be clear. It wasn’t done for Reagan, Bush Sr., OR Clinton, either. I suspect it was because there wasn’t this level of interest. This is an historic event. People are pumped. The libraries are leveraging that enthusiasm, as they should. Second, as far as I can tell taxpayers are not footing the bill for these parties. In most communities, it’s funded (and hosted) by local volunteer organizations, such as the Friends of the Library or the League of  Woman Voters.  Hooray for volunteers.

In cases such as these, too many people think they’re justified in protesting an event because they find the topic personally offensive  and use the “taxpayer dollar” as a scape goat.  Get over it. Obama is in and I’m watching it at the library.

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Yeah, it was worth getting up at 4 a.m.

Rita the registered nurse thought it was a pretty productive way to spend a morning. Ditto that.  

When we emerged from the second floor elevator at the Sheraton Hotel at 6:10 this morning,

Kristen Brandt from ManicMommies talks to me about my job search. Listen to the podcast tonight at manicmommies.com

Kristen Brandt from Manic Mommies Media talks to me about my job search. Listen to the podcast tonight at manicmommies.com

there were already 800 people in line. Sharply dressed. Leather portfolios in hand. Brian, a GMA producer passed out lifesaver mints. I thought this was a brilliant gesture to start the day. It’s early, my breath might be kind of stale. It would have been better if it had been coffee and donuts, but hey, it was a free event.

 

Name tags, tchotchke bags and a job-finding tips sheet from Tory Johnson, GMA’s career expert. It was a brilliantly run production. For a room filled with people out-of-work it was an amazingly upbeat, energizing and friendly place to be. We all had one thing in common. It was easy to bond. We made friends. Hopefully, some of us found work. 

Some advice, a handful of observations and a few secrets revealed: 

1. One page or two?  Tory Johnson says one page resumes only. Millie, from the Masschusetts Department of Workforce Development, said two page was better for someone with lots of experience. My one page version said nothing, she said. My two page resume was brilliant. She really liked the font. I really liked Millie. She told me to call her anytime. 

2. There are a lot of people eager to find a job and will show up at the crack ass of dawn to get one. I admire that.

3. Robin Roberts was not there so I did not get to meet her. 

4. The demographic was broad. Some twenty-somethings, some sixty-somethings. Mostly 30, 40 and 50-somethings. 

5. The producers were extremely nice. Except one curly-haired blond guy. We called him Evil Producer. 

6. Tory Johnson was lovely, if not particularly insightful.

7. Gail Huff is gorgeous in person and close up. But I thought she could have worn nicer-looking shoes.

8. There were 73 companies represented, including PartnersHealth, Home Depot, Macaroni’s Restaurant, the FBI and Secret Service. EMC was also there, which I thought was interesting given it just announced it would lay off 24,000 employees this year.

9. Companies were looking for primarily administrative types, technicians, assistant store managers, as I suspected.

10. There was a really nice guy handing out high-quality stock paper for resumes. He also had thank-you cards that he did not give out but imparted on us the importance of writing thank-you notes. I told him he was preaching to the choir. 

11. Diane, a charming and energetic professional, is looking for a job in marketing, but is staying away from the real estate business. 

12. Some people still rely on the newspaper for job listings.

13. The oatmeal at Starbucks is delicious if you get it with nuts and brown sugar.

14. Camera lights get really, really hot.

15. Don’t carry a big shoulder bag in a room crowded with people. 

16. There were a lot of people laid off in December. 

17. Experts advise following up on online applications, but we challenge you to find someone to talk to.

18. Tory’s mantra of the morning: Quality over quantity. Better jobs, fewer resumes. 

19. The soap dispensers in the hotel lobby woman’s room need to be refilled.

20. Experiencing a morning like this with good friends and new friends made getting up at 4 a.m. definitely worth it.

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Is Facebook the new resume?

Branding yourself. Not a new concept. Recruiters have touted for years that branding, at least for C-level executives, is absolutely vital to a flourishing career. But with so many people out of work, this branding idea has come to the masses, thanks to the web, and if you’re job hunting without an online presence, you’re nobody. Literally. Nobody.  52881_hi

You can avoid Linkedin.com or Facebook.com all you want and muss about the evils of social networking sites, but you’re just kicking yourself in the ass. 

Even the least savvy of organizations will do a Google search — at least you should expect them to. And “the complete absence of an online presence can raise red flags,” says Brad Reagan in this month’s Smart Consumer column in Smart Money  magazine. Branding is a tricky thing, though, so your online presence must be managed well, wisely and often. What a potential employer sees online can determine whether you get that interview (or job) or not. 

Discretion is the key word here. While I assume you know better, it’s my observation that networking sites can be used  for good or evil, depending on the level of stupidity. I’ve worked with people (in their early 20s) who think nothing of putting a picture of themselves in a drunken stupor on Facebook — and are aware that I (their boss) had access to their site (as a friend). Being a brilliant speech writer for president-elect Obama doesn’t preclude you from doing dumb (very dumb) things and posting them to Facebook, either.  This guy was caught clutching the ass of a Hilary Clinton cut-out and somebody put the photo on Facebook. What were they thinking? Oh, wait, that’s right, they weren’t. 

Maybe this is why a recent  Boston Globe article about using Facebook as your professional profile proved to me that too much of the job-hunting advice I’ve been reading is being dumbed down — for the really dumb. Saying a profile picture of yourself holding a beer bottle may not be good for your image, is like saying dropping a cement block on your foot will hurt like a bastard. Some things should just be obvious when you become an adult and expect someone to hire you.

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I just want to meet Robin Roberts

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My morning companions these days. Chris, Diane, Robin and Sam

There’s a job fair this Wednesday in Boston.  I’m anxious to see what’s really up with these things and if people are finding jobs beyond telemarketer or Home Depot associate. More than that, I’m curious to see the lineup of companies and what they’re offering. I’ll keep you posted. And, let me know if you plan on attending.

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Now I’m really depressed

There is an article in today’s Boston Globe about a job fair in NJ. The news is not good. It quotes an out-of-work tax analyst as saying, “”It’s hard to find a job. No one wants to hire anyone with any experience.” 

My friend Anne said to me yesterday that she thinks this sinking economy is a media hoax otherwise why would skiers be  swarming the slopes of Okemo like ants during Christmas vacation when lift tickets are $77/day.   I think she makes a valid point. My spirits are lifted as I think this all might be over in a day or two. But news late yesterday reported that EMC would lay off 2400 employees, 600 of them in Massachusets? Holy crap. Now I’m really depressed — especially if the line at that Dunkin’ Donuts on Rt 135 doesn’t get any shorter in the morning. 

Some stats out today according to the same Globe article: “A barometer on layoffs due out Thursday is expected to show that the number of newly laid off people signing up for state unemployment insurance last week rose to 540,000, up from 492,000 in the previous week, according to economists’ projections. The number of people continuing to draw jobless benefit is projected to stay near 4.5 million, demonstrating the troubles the unemployed are having in finding new jobs. Electronic unemployment filing systems have crashed in at least three states in recent days amid. 

What would it take to  put me in a more optimistic state-of-mind? To know that  someone is reading my brilliantly written cover letters and resumes instead of being lost in some black hole which is what I am convinced is happening.

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