A slight detour.

September 27, 2012

In my long journey to find long-term gainful employment I’ve struggled. I’ve mostly struggled with discovering something I’m really good at and especially, something that I enjoy. If only there was a job for being a sarcastic, taco, nap, TV, and video game-loving girl.

Throughout my life I’ve never had a job where I thought, “Wow… I love this! I can do this for the rest of my life.” While I understand most people don’t enjoy the luxury of doing something that doesn’t make them hate going to work, I’ve always wanted to have a job that I loved. I’m 30, almost 29 (haha!), and I have yet to find something that I really truly love to do.

I’ve worked in customer service, well… at a ski resort/water park, whatevs… I dealt with people. I’ve worked with adults with developmental disabilities and severe mental illness for many years, and while rewarding, I burned out quickly. For the passed three-ish years I’ve been calling myself a writer. I’m not a writer.

Well, I guess, I am. I can write. I’m writing right now. I write a lot, I don’t often post, but I’m always writing. Writing has given me one of my favorite jobs I’ve had so far and unfortunately, I know I’m not going back to that position (it doesn’t exist anymore). The thing with writing is unless I want to work in a virtual content mill pushing out SEO’d articles on real estate in Puerto Rico, it’s not very lucrative. Hell even that’s not lucrative, but if you’re willing to go days without sleep and write garbage, you can make some cash but a garbage truck driver probably has more fun.

So, while I’ve been unemployed I search through hundreds of kajillions of job ads every week. For a while I looked with tunnel vision. I only wanted to write, and I would only write for $XX per hour. As the weeks and weeks dragged on, I started expanding my search. I even started looking for receptionist positions at marketing/advertising firms. That bleed into any company that was hiring.

Then about a month ago (maybe more) I came across an article on Ivy League schools that were offering free classes online. I figured, what the hell? They’re free. And free stuff is usually not bad. So I looked into it. Coursera.org offers a ton of classes ranging from the history of the world to neuroethics (whatever that is…). I found a few classes that interested me so I signed up.

The next week I was going through more job ads and I noticed that there were a bunch of ads looking for a writer and programmer hybrid. Not a program writer, but a writer who knows programming languages. Many of the jobs focused on web development but some were looking for more advanced programming (well, advanced in my world, since I know nothing of programming languages and their uses).

That day a light bulb went off in my head “Why don’t I learn a programming language?” Literally everything is run by computers and the world needs programmers like they need nurses, oil and McDonald’s (those are the new 21st century necessities of life, right?). I figured, I’ve got some time on my hands to learn something new, I might as well do it now.

Now I’m currently learning Python through Coursera and the University of Toronto. I won’t earn actual credit for the class, but upon successful completion I’ll get a little certificate stating that I passed the course. The class basically teaches the fundamentals of the language. (So far I’ve only really learned how to treat Python like a calculator, but that’s cool, now I learned a more difficult way to find the area of a triangle.) I’m also taking a class on Edx.org that offers a similar course but it’s through MIT. That class is a little more in depth, but not much from what I read (it officially starts on Monday, I’ll know more then I’m sure). I figure between the two of them, which will overlap for a month or so, I should be able to get a good feel for it.

Maybe it’s something I’ll take to. Hopefully it’s something I enjoy doing, so far it’s not bad. I know what this means:

>>>def bigger(x):

return x ** x

>>>bigger(12)

…which I didn’t know last week. So, at least I can say I learned something new.

(For the record, that means nothing of any importance. It’s just defining some arbitrary function for the sake of an example. :-))

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These are my adventures in finding a job. This post is a basic overview of the things I’ve been doing and what is and isn’t working for me, so far.

Recruiters

I used to think recruiters were annoying troll-like people who hassle you and try to put you into any job just so they can move on to the next person. I honestly didn’t know how it all worked, and I never really took the time to. BIG MISTAKE.

I eventually ended up with a recruiter in the most backwards way possible. I had already found the job, but since it was a contract and not direct full-time employment, I was hooked up with an Aquent rep. Now, I’m pretty glad it happened that way. I probably would have never gone out and found a recruiter on my own.

(If you’re looking for jobs in marketing, web design, production, and more check out Aquent.us. I’ve had a great experience with them, and they are really fantastic. But mention me if you do. Disclaimer: I get stuff if you do).

I’ve finally connected with my new recruiter this week, which was great. She gave my resume a good look and then gave me a list of things to change. It was good a relief to have another pair of eyes on it and for someone to say “Ok, lets focus on this and remove that.” My resume looks the best it has in years. Oddly enough, those little changes increased my confidence a lot. The moral of the story: let someone look at your resume before you send it all over the place.

Job sites

I hate to say it but sites like careerbuilder.com and monster.com are like throwing your information into a black hole and hoping that someone somewhere finds it. I’m sure there are people out there that will swear up and down that these sites are helpful. But there’s just so much information that’s it’s really difficult to weed through it. I suppose I shouldn’t complain, it’s not like I don’t have the time to do it. I just feel like I could be using my time more effectively searching elsewhere.

Networking

I was told that LinkedIn is a great way to network with people and find a job. I’ve explained that already in my post about social media sites the other day (read it here). I feel like LinkedIn is similar to the other job sites, except it’s more targeted and easier to find things based on your connections. I’m still working on trying to find a good way to incorporate it into my job hunt. I’ll let you know when/if I do.

I’ve also been doing a lot of reading on using social media to help in the job search. This is tricky for me. I found my last job through a Twitter follower, and that was great. But I don’t want to be that annoying girl that blasts twitter with “HIRE ME, PLEASE!!” tweets. I unfollow those people and would expect you guys to do the same. That’s not effective.

I’ve also been intending to follow more writers and journalists on Twitter. Unfortunately (or fortunately) that turned into me following nearly all of the Minnesota Twins, Ricky Rubio and @chriswarcraft. But I promise, I’m working on it. (If you have recs, feel free to send them my way.) I hope it eventually it leads to a better network of writers and even if I just gain more insight, that’s more than I have going on now.

Freelancing

This terrifies me. Mostly because I have no idea what I’m doing. Also, if you’ve ever looked at a freelance job board, it’s intimidating and slightly scary. Most of the time there are blind posts that will say something like “need a short-term content writer, send your bid” or something similar. I have no idea what site I’d be writing for or if it’s a topic I know I can write about (I probably can’t write about healthy eating without being a liar). Regardless, many of the people seem to be bidding pretty low, and I don’t know if that’s the going rate or if they’re writing in India or if $3.00 for a 1,000-word piece is “reasonable.” I am clueless. So, I’ve been avoiding them for the time being. I will keep doing research and eventually figure it out. I really need someone to explain it to me and show me the ropes because there are so many bad sketchy people out there.

Writing for free

Right now I’m writing for free on this blog. I haven’t come across many opportunities to write for other people lately. I suppose now since it’s an election year I could jump back into poli-blogging, but politics makes me want to kick puppies, and I like puppies. So, I may have to use the wait-and-see approach here. At least for now.

If you have job hunting tips please share. I’ll take all the advice I can get.