What the well-dressed interviewee will wear

Maybe that should be in the form of a question: What will the well-dressed interviewee wear?

After all this time, I have my first real job interview in… well, ever. As I may have mentioned in previous posts, I’ve basically worked for two companies since I got out of college and neither really required a formal interview. The first was an extension of an assignment from a temp agency and the second was a freelance gig transformed into a full-time staff job.

In olden times, men were required to wear suits and ties to interviews, almost regardless of the position. But I look at TV and, outside lawyer shows and work-place comedies, nobody dresses up anymore. It’s all T-shirts, man-buns, pork pie hats, untucked shirts, and tattoos.

Image result for stereotype millennial male

This is actually my second interview for this company, one of the largest in the country and certainly one I never would have considered a few years ago (desperate times, bro). The first was a 40-minute phone conversation. Now I guess they want to see if I’m presentable. Although I would get a bit suspicious, given the initial good impression I made (otherwise why another interview?) and being the paranoid I am, if they suddenly decided I wasn’t “the right stuff.” You guys talked with me before, you know my deal. So you changed your minds? Based on…? (Like I said, paranoid.)

But back to the problem of attire. I highly doubt I will be wearing a suit (or a tie) for this position, but do I go the formal route anyway? I’m thinking a bit less so: sport coat, shirt/tie, and khakis. I brought the jacket to the dry cleaners; sticker shock. I don’t know if I paid that much for it in the first place (shows you how old it is).

Maybe this is the way to go. At least they’d remember me.

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Success… and failure

Been trying to content myself these past few weeks with the fact that my new book — Hank Greenberg in 1938: Hatred and Home Runs in the Shadow of War — is scheduled for release next week. It’s been wonderfully distracting to consider forthcoming interviews and reviews and keeps me from getting too depressed about, you know, an actual job.

The novelty is quickly wearing off. I go back and forth, feeling somewhat good about the accomplishment but at the same time realizing how ephemeral it all is. The window of opportunity for the average author is very brief if s/he is lucky, there’s a little buzz and attention, but that quickly passes. I’m not manic about it, but when I have the need to include the Amazon link in a blog entry or email, I sneak a peek at the rankings. That it came in under 40,000 I consider a success and believe it will improve … albeit briefly… when it officially drops on April 25.

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The rest of the time, I’m plugging away, looking for employment. That‘s been discouraging. As I’ve said here before (ad nauseum?), there doesn’t seem to be a great demand for the kind of writing I have been doing over the last decade-plus, both in terms of quality and compensation. It’s kind of made me question my choice of career, although to be very honest, it never was a choice as much as something that dropped into my lap after my last lengthy period of “leisure.” How could I say no when the NJ Jewish News offered to take a chance on me even though I had no formal education or training in journalism? And although I am proud (a word I normally hate to apply to myself) of getting to the point where I won a couple of awards, it obviously wasn’t good enough to a) keep me from losing that job when the publication was taken over, and b) impress others to snatch me up when I became available.

Image result for lil abner, cloudSo I’ve had to start thinking outside the box simply because the severance ran out and unemployment insurance is very soon to follow. Thank goodness the mortgage is paid off, but I’ve still got to be bringing in something, if only for my own sense of self-worth. I’ve applied for positions I never thought I would, which could very well put me in a situation where I could be working for someone half my age who would mess with me just because s/he could (think Randy and  Hurley/John Locke on Lost). On the one hand, it’s honest work but on the other, I can;’t help feeling it’s a significant failure/character flaw on my part that I can’t find something more “appropriate.”

Today I had a preliminary phone interview for one of those possibilities. A highly rated company as far as work environments go. Took about 30 minutes and answered the kind of questions that seemed like no-brainers when it came to giving them what I thought they wanted to hear. They seemed to lead me in certain directions when it came to issues of flexibility regarding hours and minimum salary, but I know they have a script/flow chart to follow, so NBD.

Now I wait for someone to determine if I’m company-worthy. Jolly. In the meantime, I’ll keep looking. Maybe something will turn up at zero-hour. With my luck, I’ll actually find a great situation… and North Korean will drop a nuke over my house.

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Isn’t everything temporary?

It’s getting to the point where I need to do something. If not for the sake of bringing in some money, then for sanity’s sake. So maybe I’ve come full circle, examing the possibility of finding work via a temp agency.

I started working as a temp when I got out of college. After a couple of mindless assignments, I wound up in the public relations department of a non-profit “human defense” agency. A couple of months later, the long-time department secretary/den mother asked if I would be interested in coming aboard full-time. I had nothing better to do so I agreed, with the caveat that if something better came along I might not be able to give too much notice.

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Twenty-two years later…

I was eventually downsized when a new administration came on board and decided my  position was “redundant.” I won’t get into the whole loyalty thing, or that I passed on other opportunities to stay there because I thought it was important work. They gave me a nice severance package but it was still rough sledding for awhile. One of the most difficult things was dealing with my daughter who was in grade school at the time and couldn’t understand why all her friends’ daddies had jobs while hers was home all the time.

I was doing some freelance writing for the newspaper when they asked me to come in to discus additional assignments. By the time the meeting was over, I had a full-time job as a staff writer. A couple of years later, I was promoted to the position of arts and features editor which I expanded to include sports.

Fourteen years later…

A new regime took over the paper… see above.

So it’s a whole new world out there, and I guess I wasn’t paying enough attention to how things have changed while I was working. It never occurred to me that I should keep up with developing trends, especially since they weren’t germane to my present situation. Now, so many of the jobs I see require an entirely new approach to writing.

https://i2.wp.com/www.claytonearlylearning.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/curiosity.jpgI know I could adapt if given the chance; I have always enjoyed learning new things and am very detail oriented. But at my age people aren’t that eager to provide any degree of training; they expect you to hit the ground running. You know how kids are becoming more tech savvy are earlier ages because they’re being brought up with smart phone, tablets, etc.? Pretty soon they will probably be literally born with that kind of knowledge (hit the ground crawling?).

Companies also don’t seem to be willing to pay what I want, which isn’t even all that much, relatively speaking. I heard on the new this morning that kids graduating college are disappointed in their starting salaries; that they had greater expectations. This report further claimed that starting salaries have actually been in decline over the last few years.

Welcome to my world, kiddies.


Not my night

To quote Brando here.

Checked my email last night to learn that I had been turned down for two job possibilities, either of which I really would have enjoyed.

The first was with MLB.com, working as an editor for their “Cut 4” section, compiling and writing about interesting, humorous, or otherwise compelling video clips and the stories behind them.

The second was for a spot at Trader Joes. I know, what you’re thinking. “Boy, those are some pretty diverse opportunities, buddy.” True, but next to baseball, I’ve always been interested in the food industry and what makes things go or stall.

I don’t know what it says about me when I can’t even get hired at a supermarket. (Does that sound horrible? I don’t mean it to be. Just getting increasingly frustrated.) Heck, I can’t even get an interview. So I guess I could take some solace in that it’s not personal.

Now I’m thinking ABBA…

You can stop listening after 50 seconds or so; that’s the germane part.

Here’s looking at you, kid.

What are YOU worried about, Jonathan Mathis?

Mathis is a Facebook friend, and up until recently, at least, was “Sportswriter/columnist, Youtube personality, on-air personality at I95 Sports & Entertainment Network.”

I’m announcing that I’m choosing a new career path. Journalism obviously isn’t for me. 1. I have too many enemies. 2. I don’t have the time that I once had. 3. I’ve burnt bridges and will never bounce back from a tattered reputation. 4. I’m tired of people’s negativity and very little support. However, I’m still gonna pursue my bachelor’s degree in communication and whatever God wants me to become I will become it. But I’m done with this journalism stuff. I’m thinking about deactivating this account, because I’m tired of people and the attacks, and the negativity, and the fact that people turn conversations into personal attacks and cannot ever keep it civil. I don’t need social media to have friends. I had my true friends long before this. I have my true friends now. People who met me via sports writing once again DO NOT KNOW ME. THEY KNOW OF ME, BUT THEY DO NOT KNOW ME, BECAUSE THEY NEVER MET ME, yet I’m treated like a criminal, crucified for having an opinion, vilified for comments, attacked for my views. I swear, this is high school drama. I know what they mean when they say everybody doesn’t like you and that everybody isn’t your friend. I think I’m loved by enough people, from family to friends to neighbors to high school friends to co-workers. They are the important people to me, not haters or people who are supposed to be fans and supporters. I try to live my life right, treat people with respect and love everyone, but of course, everybody doesn’t feel that way.

No wonder I can’t get a job, Part 37

Image result for frustrationI don’t know how much time I’ve spent signing up for various job sites. Each time you find a position that seems to fit your experience and interest, there is the virtual paperwork to fill out from the outfit that posts the offering. Invariably, one has to provide the usual contact information. Some allow you to simply upload a resume while others require that PLUS the arduous task of keying in the exact same information.

Then there are the keywords. Some sites are good about suggesting enough of them to make your search fairly comprehensive and accurate; others, not so much, especially for my hunt, which includes things like “editorial,” “journalism,” and “writing,” among others.

So I recently signed up with The New York Times‘ job section (remember when they actually used to print want ads?), going through all the data points and this is what they came up with for me: SENIOR INTERPRETER, RUSSIAN, P5 – New York, NY.  I won’t go into the seemingly countless details of the job description; suffice it to say, it’s definitely not something I’m qualified to do, although my French is pretty good.

I appreciate the confidence the Times‘ methodology has in my abilities, but as much as I need the work, I think I’ll take a pass on this one. And if this is how the “employment bots” figure out the kinds of jobs to which I’m suited, it’s gonna be a long haul.

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Fine whine

When I created this blog, it was with people like me in mind: middle-aged (and perhaps a bit beyond) people in the media, ideally the print industry that’s been fading away for the past several years. But I guess it could apply to anyone of a certain age whose job has been phased out either because of technological advancements or just a lack of interest in that particular field by consumers.

Image result for older job worriesIt’s like health I guess: for years I was healthy and athletic. Knock wood, I’ve never had to spend a night at the hospital for myself. But then I developed tennis elbow, carpal tunnel, and an arthritic back in a relatively brief span of time that’s greatly reduced my activity level. That, in turn, has led to some weight gain which has lead to a sense of depression — an unfortunate spiral. The point it, you take a lot for granted. You never think “x” will happen to you. Until it does.

So younger readers might think, “Man, that’s just the whining of an old man.” (Remember when you were a kid and thought 30 was old?) Hate to break it to you, lads and lassies, but this will be you someday.

Of course, the whole work paradigm is different from it was when me and my homies were fresh out of school. In those days, you could still expect to get a job and hold onto it for 30 years and then retire. I’ve basically had just two — one 22 years in duration, the other 12. (Holy Sh#t, I’ve been working for over three decades?!?) Nowadays, from what I understand, a person changes every three years or so.

So many of the situations I’ve seen from the numerous job sites seem to have at least one requirement that eliminates me as a candidate, regardless of how many of the others I possess. I guess that makes sense: when you’re employed, you frequently don’t pay attention to the new trends. And so when you do lose a job, you’re lagging in what potential hirers are seeking. How do you catch up, and when you do, how do you get someone to give you a shot?

Demanding job ad of the day: Food editor

Author’s Note: Submitted for your perusal, the first in a new “series.”

Still not gainfully employed, but I keep on looking… and looking… and looking.

I’m on several job sites and each day provides at least one opportunity that strikes me as very specific in its requirements. To be fair, many of them are totally understandable  while others speak to a different language/generation of writers. Here’s the latest, with some of the details removed.  Once again, the writing no longer seems to be for its own sake, but primarily to get eyes on the page and hold them there.

Job title: Senior Editor, Food

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Job Duties (abbreviated version)

* Conceive and sustain original text & video franchises that can thrive online, across social platforms and on air.

* Translate show segments into digital wins. (emphasis added)

* Act as a digital stakeholder during multi-day show series and events. (emphasis added)

* Must have deep knowledge of the digital food space, its competitors and innovations. (emphasis added)

* An innate ability to tailor content to platforms and audiences, from (employer)  to Pinterest to Facebook to newsletters to social video.

* Strong understanding of how stories are shared and consumed differently across digital, social, mobile and email platforms, and ability to use analytics, to help guide story selection and distribution.

* Must have a rich portfolio of skills that demonstrates strong and fast writing and editing. Portfolio should include examples of clever and SEO-friendly headlining, strong social media skills, and light multimedia skills (resizing images, creating social videos). (emphasis added)

Look, maybe this is just the new normal. I used to be very good at keeping up. I don’t know when all these technology passed me by.

If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry

Not surprisingly, my spidey sense kicks in when I hear something on a TV show about the state of journalism that is meant to be bitingly funny. Sure, if you’re not one of the people affected by the downturn in the industry. Other than that, I can easily imagine a subdued reaction from the audience, if there’s one at all.

John Oliver did a segment on Last Week Tonight a while back…

Yesterday it was Samantha Bee’s turn on Full Frontal.

I was at an event at the Yogi Berra Museum a few years back that featured a roundtable of sportswriters talking about the job. It was ostensibly held for journalism students at Montclair State University, where the museum is located. I was working at NJ Jewish News at the time, but the writing was on the wall (heh) even then and I felt sadness in my heart for these kids. They might have had good intentions in their goals, but they were definitely heading in the wrong direction. I doubt if anyone is going to look at journalism as an artisanal endeavor, like using a loom or making cheese.

Returning to the scene of the crime

As you might have noticed, I haven’t been posting for a while (did you miss me?). Part of it was laziness, part of it was being busy looking for work. I actually thought I had addressed the second issue, but it seems I was wrong.

A brief explanation: I have basically had two jobs in my adult life. The first started as a temp situation that turned into a 22-year stay. The second was just a casual conversation about additional freelance writing assignments that blossomed into 12 years as a writer/editor. Both positions ended through no fault of my own, the first for a re-organizational downsizing, the second when the newspaper was taken over by another publication. point is, I’m not used to looking for work and this process has been an education, to say the least. A lot of friends have offered well-meaning suggestion, but they operating under what has become outdated methods. “Networking” is the key word; unfortunately, most of the people in my network are in the same situation: veteran writers who have few options since traditional newspapers are circling the drain.

Image result for seoI must be on about a half-dozen job sites, looking for various combinations of writing and editing. Problem is, very few companies seem to be interested in a) the type of writing and editing I’ve been doing for the past decade-plus; b) anything but writing specifically in terms of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and numerous analytics; and c) paying a decent wage.

Here’s a representative posting for the second point:

Responsibilities include:

  • Top editing every piece of content that gets published on the site daily, including headlines, making sure each piece is optimized for SEO
  • Leading key editorial initiatives, acting as a project lead
  • Writing newsy content and/or longer features on a weekly basis
  • Working closely with all members of our team including audience dev and SEO, presenting weekly reports to the editorial team on traffic and strategy based on post performance
  • Being the “standards keeper” for our editorial content, ensuring consistency across teams

And here’s an example of the last item:

– Complete a minimum of 2500 words per day (6 days per week).
– Your starting pay will be $0.50 per 100 words.

Just for context, that’s about 10 pages, double-spaced.

So if my math is correct — and that’s never a given — that’s $12.50 A DAY. And how much do you think the rate of payment will increase? Even if it’s doubled, that’s $25.

Look, I get it: there’s a ton of competition out there and companies are fighting to pry eyes away from other sites. Plus they want to save money. But I find it incredibly disheartening and not a little bit insulting that this is what potential employers are offering.

You know what, folks? You get what you pay for. I’m sure there are a lot of students who are looking to pad their resumes with “professional writing” credits. All this comes with a price when it comes to quality, but, sadly, it seems that fewer and fewer people care.

Does anyone know if Trader Joe’s is hiring? I already have a Hawaiian shirt.