Uncategorized, Verse

Occupy Peace of Mind

The tweet that changed my life

The 140 characters that launched my career.

Say what you will about the Occupy Wallstreeters. The fact remains, they were there, on Zuccotti Park, occupying Wall Street, in New York City for a time. They may not have been focused in their demands or hygienic under their armpits, but they made their presence known (in all its olfactory splendor). It’s easy to look down one’s nose at this ragged rabble, when one has a job or at least somehow secured a flow of income. Yet when one is desperate, despondent, unable to support the very basic needs all people deserve as inalienable rights–food, shelter, a purpose, frankly–it’s hard to dismiss these financial district freeloaders. And it reminds me of the time not too long ago, when I was unemployed. If I didn’t have a job right now as I type this message, I can’t help but think I would have hitched my tent to this stationary movement. But the fact of the matter is that I do have a job. This is the story of how I got there.

It was May of 2009, I had just received a master’s in print and multimedia journalism from Emerson College in Boston. I was reluctant to embark on the job search (one of the last stories I had written for my classes addressed a 7.4-percent national unemployment rate, which, if anything, has gotten worse since then). So I went on a road trip for three weeks, out to L.A., to clear my head and perhaps formulate a plan of attack. Upon return, I hadn’t given a job much thought, but I was equipped with a master’s degree and some previous (albeit irrelevant) office work experience. Enough right? Here I cannot stress the importance of who you know. For, as it turned out, the vast majority of employers did not care or understand what I knew, evidenced by the sheer lack of response or acknowledgment of my existence as I scattered hundreds of resumes into the ether of the Internet, with no hope of reciprocation. They say many people go to Harvard University, not for the education, but for the connections. Well, Emerson seemed to work this way too as I found myself calling the one contact I had at the Boston Herald via a connection forged within the Emerson master’s program.

So, at 27, with a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree and three years of work experience under my belt, I was able to secure 15 hours a week covering high school sports for a Boston newspaper. No one could deny the prominence of the Boston Herald, but 15 hours per week at a meager stipend of $13/hr would not pay the bills. I had to move home. With some residual loans from undergrad and a brand new heap of grad loans, I was close to $80,000 in the hole and making the salary of a part-time pizza delivery boy. In 2009, upon the height of my education, I had hit financial rock bottom.

I remember my day-to-day during this sobering point of reflection. I’d roll out of bed around 11 a.m. and make a small breakfast of toast or something else light to save room for lunch, which was right around the corner. I’d deliberately NOT turn on the TV. That was a procrastinator’s worst enemy, an attention deficit factory, that I could not endure while trying to keep focus on the almighty full-time gig, the bandaged pressure on a hemorrhaging bank account, the ticket out of my childhood bed and into adulthood. Instead, I’d force myself to get ready, though I had nowhere to go. I’d shower and shave and brush my teeth. I’d get dressed and sling my messenger bag over my shoulder that held a $300 netbook I had bought with my last cent. And I’d walk, in the middle of the day, to the town center, where a turkey club and hot chicken noodle soup from Barry’s Deli would warm me up. I’d continue to the Coffee Break Cafe up the street and assemble my makeshift workstation within the little shop to scour job listings, as the aroma of a steaming cup of coffee percolated my will to fill online applications.

Days like this went on for about a year. In that time, I had many tests of faith. Faith in myself. Faith in society. I’ll admit: a life of crime had even crossed my mind on more than one occasion. The overwhelming uncertainty of employment had me certain I would never find work. And so, I know where the #OWS movement is coming from. I have been where these people are now. Abandoned. At a loss. Forgotten. Failing. For these reasons, I see their plight. Yet I can no longer commiserate with the 99 Percent. I have a job. It happened like this…

A series of events leads to more experience that builds upon my existing skill set

Pulling together any scrap of expertise I could get my hands on, I chronicled the breadth of my experience, thus far, on an online portfolio (luckily, I knew a web designer, also fresh out of school and who output a good product for cheap for the experience). I filled it with published Boston Herald clips and stories from Emerson classwork and internships. And within several months, a curriculum vitae (CV) in such a viable and succinct format had catapulted me to the assistant webmaster position for a prominent website.

After two years of virtually no leads, it happened that quickly. I’ll never forget that day…

It was a typical humid and hazy Boston day, in late August 2010. Someone I followed on Twitter tweeted the opening to a fairly popular website. The job description detailed a skill set that matched my expertise. So, without hesitating, I replied to those fateful 140 characters, including the short link to my e-portfolio. I was emailing my would-be boss within hours and secured an interview that very same day. Inside of a week, I secured that gig, which still did not pay a lot, but it provided the almighty experience and expanded knowledge of my craft.

As my mind and CV continued to grow within the hallowed walls of that Web institution, I had more to offer, thus more options to entertain. And finally, at the then apex of my career, I landed a full-time job. The hiring manager said she liked how I had garnered such a diversity of experience. That may have been what won me the job, in fact.

Now I wouldn’t have gained that prominent experience, had I not designed the e-portfolio. And my e-portfolio would have been bunk, had I not acquired clips from the Boston Herald, along with several other internships. I couldn’t have reported for the Boston Herald or for those internships without my Emerson networking and education. I guess what I’m trying to say: Thank God I checked my Twitter feed on that humid August day.

Related links:

Standard
short stories

The proof is in the pudding.

All characters in this post are fictional and any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

Monday, April 5, 2010, 9:00 p.m.

Hi Steve,

I noticed some of the people on the candidate distribution list (from earlier e-mails) already write for Onlinenews.org. Am I still in the running?

Thanks,
Dave

Monday, April 5, 2010 11:26 p.m.

Hi Dave,

People contributing to Onlinenews.org live nearby. No one has been offered a full-time position yet. So you are still with them and we will revive the interviewing process shortly.

Best,
Steve

[Over a month passes and still no word from Steve. Dave decides to check in as they’ve now launched the site and are running stories daily.]

Monday, May 17, 2010, 3:33 p.m.

Hi Steve,

Onlinenews.org is looking good. Tony said you and Dickey were using that site as sort of the flagship for investors. Have you settled on a more solidified time line, given the site’s launch? Just checking in.

-Dave

Tuesday, May 18, 2010, 9:25 a.m.

Hi Dave,

We’re still going ahead as planned, but the economy has halted the process. First priority is to offer contributing writers full-time positions. That’s what we have to worry about now.

Not sure what the future will hold; we’re still waiting on investors. I’d continue to interview elsewhere, as I can’t offer you a second interview at this time. We’re just not sure of the time line.

Best of luck,
Steve

Tuesday, May 18, 2010, 11:21 a.m.

Understandable. Although you made it sound like everyone was on the same level for second interviews before. Wish you had been a little clearer about that. I obviously hadn’t put all my eggs in the Onlinenews.org basket, but I had lightened up on applying to other jobs in hopes of a second interview, which before you made seem imminent.

I also understand economic factors and outside investors are, for the most part, out of your control. It just seems it went from “we will revive the interview process shortly” to “first priority is to offer contributing writers full-time positions.” I feel a bit strung along.

-Dave

Tuesday, May 18, 2010, 12:01 p.m.

Dave,

I have kept you on top of our funding efforts. I never said you had a job waiting. I said, once the funding was entirely settled, we would offer second interviews. That’s still what will happen.

Our primary goal, however, will be to employ the contributing writers, which was always the case. I do not feel like I have to tell you about what I’m doing with them. You had a first interview, and then I was going to offer you a follow-up once the funding came in.

Now, that it has taken this long, you should have known you would not be offered a second interview right away. I would have made it crystal clear–with specific dates–if I were to offer you that second interview in the near future. To suggest otherwise reveals your inexperience.

Steve
Onlinenews.org

Tuesday, May 18, 2010, 12:28 p.m.

That’s all fine and good, but there’s no denying your story has changed. You said in a Feb. 12 e-mail “the second round of interviews will not start until the week of Feb. 22.” When that passed, you said “we are continuing the first week of March and will carry on from there.” When that passed, you said “I will be making a round through the final candidate list to settle on the full-time staff in April.”

How could I not think I at least had an interview waiting around the corner, based on the above correspondence? Again, I understand factors such as the economy were out of your control, but the fact remains: you went back on your word three times.

You’re right: I am inexperienced. If I had more wisdom, I would have recognized this job as a pipe dream months ago. Nor would I have wanted to work for a news organization that’s less than honest.

Sincerely,
Dave

Tuesday, May, 18 2010, 12:40 p.m.

Dave,

Those dates were accurate at the time. I informed you, when those passed. You’re the only candidate who has reacted this way. You did have a second interview waiting, up until our correspondence today.

You have to realize that delays are part of this job. Given the fact that second interviews have been delayed, you should keep your options open and not rely on our revival of the next phase. I wish you hadn’t overreacted to the situation; you would have eventually had a second interview. But I didn’t offer you a job, Dave. I only offered you the prospect of the next stage, which has been subject to postponement.

Implying improper behavior on our part displays a lack of professionalism on your part. And it’s ridiculous to make allegations against our honesty. We did not intend deception.

Good luck.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010, 1:08 p.m.

I’m not making allegations. The proof is in black and white:

On Mon, Apr 5, 2010 at 11:26 PM, Steve wrote:

Hi Dave,

People contributing to Onlinenews.org live nearby. No one has been offered a full-time position yet. So you are still with them and we will revive the interviewing process shortly.

Best,
Steve

You said I was “with them,” them being the contributing writers. And now you’re saying they take first priority, a direct contradiction.

Rest assured, I am not upset, nor are there any hard feelings between us. I just don’t like being misled, as it’s hard enough to find a job these days. Maybe something to keep in mind with your future dealings. There will be no more e-mails on this matter. Water under the bridge, at this point.

Dave

Standard