Sunday, September 27, 2009

Back in Action

Before I could say "Unemployed" - and apparently, before I could get a third blog post up - it became fall. Within a matter of days, the ground had received its annual blanket of crisp, red leaves. I don't know how this time of year always manages to creep up on everyone, although it's a welcome change and an opportunity for me to make some changes in my approach to unemployment (and future employment).

Summer days behind me, along with the ample availability of warm-weather excuses allowing me to blow off jobs-stuff on a whim, I finally took pause to evaluate my progress over the past three months. And there wasn't a whole lot to evaluate. I realized I had spent far too much time being "spread out", searching for jobs in numerous fields and industries of dozens of types. While I had hoped this approach would yield results quicker by putting myself into several different markets at once, it had proved really inefficient. Instead of being able to focusin my efforts in one direction, in one field, I was constantly moving back and forth, having to re-orient myself each time I came across a job opening. And so, after some careful (yet quick) scouring of the classifieds, I decided that I would start applying only to customer service/retail positions, as this seemed to be the most open field at the time. So, one trip to the library, 6 applications sent off, and voila - I suddenly had two interviews lined up (Remember, I had only ONE interview the entire summer. This was a reason to celebrate). This new focused method really seemed to be working.

Unfortunately, those interviews did not lead to employment. And I can't say I did't feel disappointment, particularly after I had just been called in for a second interview for one of the companies. I can't say I'm not starting to feel strained by the amount of "selling" I'm having to do - to potential employers, recruiters, professionals and peers. Because after four months of touting my most valuable assets, I hate to admit that its all beginning to sound a bit lackluster. However, I've spent the day recharging my batteries with my favorite career-oriented networks: Brazen Careerist and Excelle. I know this is just another opportunity to re-group once more, plan for my next set of action, keeping in mind the aforementioned goals of efficiency and direction. I am garnering the experience of those three interviews to hopefully propel myself forward and excel at the next interview in the (hopefully) not so distant future.

Here's to autumn - and changes in the air.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

To Blog, or Not to Blog...

It's obvious now what my answer is to this question, but it seems to be coming up a lot. Like in a conversation I had a few weeks back with my brother-in-law, who had just earned his Master's and is, like me, unemployed. "What is a blog, anyway?" he asked, when I brought up the topic. He's a traditional guy, but he doesn't live under a rock. Instead, what his question seemed to be asking was, "What might a blog be, for me?" He and I are a lot alike; both majored in English, enjoy creative writing, and are pursuing non-profit work. We both agreed that most blogs we'd encountered, aside from the personal, online diary-blogs, were politically-tilted, or corporately-minded. I didn't have a firm answer for him, as this was a question I'd been contemplating for months.
I had always considered myself tech/communications/writing savvy, and throughout college was able to flex those muscles for the occasional class project. Yet, once I exited the less rigorously structured "real world" (yes, college is structured, no matter what they told us in high school. Just think about the word 'assignment'. No one is assigning you to anything once you're looking for work.) I was surprised to learn that many of my peers had blogs that were at least loosely related to careers and jobs. And the blogs I was now noticing were not only about cutesy fashions or delicious dishes. Suddenly, it seemed this word was everywhere, not just my friends' Facebook pages, but in nearly every piece of 21st century career advice I came across - sometimes, on blogs. Everyone was touting the power of the blog. As I continued the summer sans employment, the idea gained weight. But still, I wondered, how could a blog be an asset to me and an attraction to potential employers? What would I write about? Who would read it?

There is a seemingly endless amount of literature on this topic, and its no longer just online. Books on blogging, magazines for bloggers. Not to mention blogs for bloggers! Even lead characters in movies are doing it. Which lead to my next concern...in a sea of bloggers, how could I ever stand out?

Ultimately, my decision to blog came from the realization that whether or not my content was totally original, whether or not I developed a large following, scored a book or movie deal (you never know!), I would be focusing in on a topic (post-college joblessness) and producing a particular take on it. As Adrienne Waldo of the blog Ask A Millenial put it, "[A blog] serves as a sort of enhanced writing sample because it allows employers a unique look at your personality in addition to seeing that you can, in fact, write. It also shows that you're tech-savvy and motivated -- both extremely important qualities to have in today's job market." And if over time, this blog actually reaches a measurable audience, then that will be another added bonus. (Only on Post #2, people). The point was that I could no longer ignore the role that new media, i.e. blogging, plays in the jobs world, no matter how much I tried to distance myself from the fast-paced, competitive corporate power ladder. Blogs are used, and useful, in every field, to everyone. For my nonprofit friends, including my skeptical bro-in-law, you can start here. Rather than hold myself back in timid reservation because of my age and brand-spanking-newness to the job market, I'm sharing what I do know and what I'm learning. And because my situation is far from unique, there will hopefully be people out there who will find a reason to read this (Activate social-networking skills NOW).

And it's all a part of my larger approach to being gainfully unemployed. Without formal employment, without a supervisor and team of colleagues to assign projects and form ideas, we better be seeking information daily, still forming ideas, and sharing/collaborating with a larger community, even if that community exists in a vast, somewhat intimidating technological jungle. Welcome to the 21st century...and the employment jungle!