Hope In A Bowl Of Chicken Alfredo

We had company last night, my boyfriend’s Uncle Lloyd and his uncle’s wife, Betty. It was a very casual affair with a simple, homemade meal. Up for discussion were mainly travel adventures and life in the gated senior community they now call home in South Carolina. They were both dismayed that neither of them were able to make the senior citizen’s baseball team. Their attempts to do so were quite comical though.

Of course, considering the crowd, the topic of writing came up. Jim mentioned he’d just finished reading one of my books. I’m very modest about my writing efforts because I guess I just don’t feel my ‘successes’ are worth mentioning. They don’t live up to my expectations of where I’d hoped to be at this point in my life. I’m published, but pfft, I don’t even bring in $200 a year on what I have out there.

The banter turned to things like, “Some people who write never get ANYTHING published,” and “Sometimes luck plays just as big a role as talent.” Betty commented that sometimes it’s just a matter of finding the RIGHT reader, the person who loves your work and knows who’s who and what’s what in the business. I haven’t found that person. Sometimes I wonder if I ever will. When Jim and I last saw his cousin nearly a year ago, he said he wasn’t the best writer in the writing classes he took. To paraphrase part of the conversation, “There were a lot of people in those classes who were far better writers than I am. I, however, was the most persistent [in getting published].”

Persistence, as the saying goes, paid off for Jim’s cousin. I am doing my best to be persistent. I try to have queries out there at all times, always hoping that eventually one will come back with something other than the generic, “We’re sorry, but this isn’t what we’re looking for right now,” rejection form letter. If Queries are the Job Applications of the writing world then I am not finding any gainful employment here. If you’ve ever been desperately looking for a job and either never hear back or go to one interview after another only to be told, “Sorry, you’re not quite what we’re looking for,” you know the feeling well. It sucks, doesn’t it?

You can’t give up though, can you? No, not if you really care about getting a job. You’re driven to keep on filling out the forms, submitting the letters, and tweaking this or that to adjust the resume to fit the job you are applying for. What does it take to land that job? The right person to see it and realize, “Hey, this person’s got some potential. Let’s give him a shot and see.” That’s really all I’m asking for, a chance beyond the erotica.

To add insult to injury, over the past few years I’ve read a number of novels by quite famous female writers and I just shake my head wondering. They were alright, but as modest as I am, I write just as well, if not better, than they do. The plot to one was over the top predictable. Another told me the story instead of showing me. That was even more annoying. A third contained some of the most two-dimensional characters I’ve ever encountered. Yet, there they are, out there, known, loved, embraced, accepted and appreciated for their skills.

A few weeks back I finished writing my ninth novel. I have at least three more in me patiently waiting for their stories to be told. Where will these go? I’m not sure I want to know. If I knew they’d never be shared with anyone but a handful of family and friends, would I make the effort to write them? If I knew they’d bring me millions, would I put more effort into getting them done? Will that elusive Right Reader that Betty mentioned EVER enter my life? Is it any wonder so many writers are slightly insane? How do I up the odds of making it? What about my queries is not getting through to the right person?

The doubts creep in and tear me apart all too often. All the encouraging words sometimes don’t do much to lift the spirits of the jobless man standing in the soup line. He needs the job. He wants the job. He KNOWS he can do that job. His wife, family and friends are encouraging and supportive. They tell him to keep trying. In his mind, he remains an unrecognized and unwanted failure.

That’s the place I am standing now, bowl in hand. I’ve not given up. I’ll persist a while longer. I’ll write. I’ll edit, rewrite and submit again and again. I’ll try and look at Lloyd and Betty’s visit as another nudge in the right direction – that little glimmer of hope offered to me over a honking big serving bowl of Chicken Alfredo with broccoli and sweet red peppers on a hot and humid Tuesday night in July.

How Modern Job Hunting Contributes To Unemployment

Job Hunting

I’ve known quite a few people looking for jobs over the past five years. All of them truly want to work. All of them have marketable skills in their chosen fields. All of them have done their best to get their resumes up-to-date and their applications out there.  What I’ve also noticed is how every single one of these people has complained about the changing face of job hunting.

Back when I was a fresh-faced kid out of high school my job hunting started at the ass-scratch of dawn with my Dad banging on my bedroom door ‘reminding’ me I needed to get up and go into town with him and mom to pound-the-pavement.  I didn’t have a car and living in the middle of nowhere in Upstate NY, public transport did not exist.  My only way to get anywhere was to ride into the city with my parents, find a friend or borrow my grandmother’s car. I certainly couldn’t afford a car because, well, I didn’t have a job!  Therefore, the fun often started at 6:00am. Mom and I were dropped off by Dad at around 7:30. Mom would head into her office while I would continue my walking adventure with a couple of tested pens, a dozen copies of my meager resume that consisted of my recent graduation from high school and some volunteer summer jobs I’d had, a good book, a packed lunch and a pair of sturdy walking shoes. I’d walk door-to-door, one shop to the next that held even the vaguest of employment interests to me. One application after another was filled out on the spot and stapled to a resume. When I ran out of resumes, my job hunting day was over. I did this weekly for months, centering on a different area of the city each time, making my name and lack of experience known to one and all. I was friendly and personable, doing my best to hide and overcome my introvert nature. By the end of that day, I was exhausted.  I’d trudge back to my mom’s office where we’d meet up with my dad at 4:45pm and head back home.

On my days off from this sort of job hunting, I would occasionally be able to drive my grandmother’s car or better yet, ride my bike – and I don’t mean a motorcycle here, kids. I mean a bicycle that you peddled with your very own legs! Remember, I lived out in the middle of nowhere. There was nowhere in town to get a job. Okay, maybe that’s not true. I could have tried at the lumber mill, the feed store or the hardware store, I suppose. The nearest large grocery store was fifteen miles away. If the weather seemed promising and Gramma’s car wasn’t available, filled my backpack with the above mentioned items, hopped on my trusty 10-speed and was on my way.  More applications filled out by hand. More resumes handed out.

Of course, the first words out of my dad’s mouth at the end of these days was always, “Find a job yet?” It took months before I could finally answer him with a yes.

Fast forward to today and the modern methods of job hunting.  You no longer walk door to door and if you do, you’re wasting your time.  Though it’s important to have your resume up-to-date, don’t bother printing out too many. Most places won’t take them. Hell, you don’t even need a frickin’ pen, let alone good walking shoes. Why? Because NO PLACE wants you to put the effort into filling out a paper application anymore. God forbid a person looking for a job should show any sort of true initiative when it comes to work! Time and time and time again, my job-seeking friends (every single one of them) has bemoaned to me the invention of the online job application. You can lounge at your computer in you sweat pants and wife-beater t-shirt while sipping shots of Jack Daniels out of your coffee cup if you want. Now there’s someone I’d be interested in hiring, NOT! No, give me the person who cares enough to get up early, shower, dress with a certain level of self respect and pound some pavement. THAT’S someone willing to actually work for a living.

Even if you fill out a dozen applications a day, you are nothing more than a faceless series of facts on a computer screen to a potential employer.  They have no idea who you are beyond that. There’s no information given to them that a person-to-person meeting can provide. There’s a lot to be said about first impressions.  Back in the day that first impression came the moment you walked into that building, your feet aching and your hand cramped and a ‘hire me’ smile plastered on your lips.  I believe in ‘vibes’, that we all give off certain vibes to others that we meet.  You could look at someone, check out how they dressed and the amount of effort they have put into getting the job they have showed up to apply for.  We’ll have none of that anymore.

I truly believe that today’s modern job hunting methods have actually contributed to the higher unemployment rates we now have. Despite Facebook’s best efforts, we have become a society of faceless bots without personalities or the know-how to judge others based on something beyond their ability to make themselves look good in writing.  Today, that first impression comes at the interview – if you are lucky enough to get that far. The good jobs go to those that can express themselves well in writing even if the jobs they are applying for have nothing to do with sentence structure or spelling.

I encourage all employers to PLEASE have paper applications on hand and be willing to accept that hand-written application and a printed resume instead of relying on corporate headquarters to do all the work for you. If you’re the manager, do some managing. Be proactive. Be responsible for who works for you on every level. Consider those few minutes it takes your potential employee to fill out that piece of paper your chance to observe from afar and to tune in with that inner part of each of us that takes first impressions seriously.  You could be missing out on one of the best workers you’ll ever have!  People want to work and I believe those that are willing to walk (literally) that extra mile to find a job, deserve more than to be turned away before they even have a chance with the off-handed remark, “Sorry, we only accept applications online.”