The Hunting of the Job: An Agony in 30 Fits

When I was a kid, a “job” was whatever my chores were- usually things to be bartered, swapped, argued over with, and foisted of on me and my sisters. “Work” was the thing that Dad did for most of every day- or a nebulous and vile entity that tended to call him at irritating hours.
“I have to go to work, Matt- school is YOUR work. Make sure it gets done.”
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“Yes, Dad….”

Right now, I am in the longest stretch I have ever gone without work, and I would give almost anything to bitch about a case of the Mondays again.

The last time I was jobless, the Black Hat Bakery was born, based on what I then called “The MacGuyver Priniciple.”

The MacGuyver Principle“If you need something, and you don’t have it, can’t find it, or get it, get started making it.”

This tied in nicely with another cozy saying:

“If Necessity is the mother of Invention, Desperation is the mafioso godfather.”

There are any number of websites and articles out there that will give you tips on job hunting- interviews, your resume, negotiating a salary, and so on. I have been burning through them in my maddening search for employment, and trying every shred of advice people have offered me.

In the end, the decision of whether or not someone hires you is NOT in your control. All you can do is present yourself in such a way that they MIGHT want to.

Here, so far, are what I have learned in going to 6 interviews, 4 working interviews, and firing off an average of 8 applications a week since I have arrived in Portland.

So You REALLY Want A Job In Portland…

1. Don’t be like everyone else- including not being like everyone else.
One of the first pieces of advice I got on coming to Portland was to make myself memorable to interviewers- dressing uniquely, bringing samples of work, etc. This works great… unless everyone else is dressing weird and being crazy too. Eventually, I realized- this was Portland. I was from NEW JERSEY. So I put on my best suit, carefully picked out a tie, carried 3 copies of my resume to each interview in a briefcase, and looked every interviewer in the eye with a smile and firm handshake.
You can be as weird as you want- and sometimes the weirdest thing you can be is a professional.
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Granted, a guy from Jersey showing up in a suit can have mixed messages…

2. Respect time- theirs, AND yours.
When I worked at a Scout camp in Barnegat, I was taught a simple rule about respecting time- “If you are 15 minutes early, you are on time. If you are on time, you are late. If you are late, you’re screwed.”
Hiring someone new is extremely costly- not just in time spent training, but in time spent interviewing and getting back to candidates that could be used more productively. Always respect your interviewers time, and come early.
By the same token, do not devalue YOUR time. If you want to be treated like a professional, BE one. Apparently, out here in Portland, it is common for employers to interview people and simply never get back in contact with them if they don’t wish to hire them. Anyone who has been on a job hunt knows that a job seeker is applying to many places at once, and crucial decisions may hinge on feedback from employers. Do not tolerate people that disrespect you or your time.
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Seriously, it’s just common friggin’ decency…

3. Job hunting IS a job.
Yes, the pay sucks, but make no mistake about it. I am firing off resumes to jobs daily. I am searching my email for replies, filling my schedule around interviews and stages, and baking regularly to keep my skills up. That is DEFINTELY work. Don’t get down on yourself- if you’re trying to find work, you’re not a bum. You’re WORKING.
If you figure out how to remind yourself of this at all times, tell me how. My girlfriend will thank you.
4. Take time off now and again.
Like every job, sometimes you need time off. As my friend Karen said, “Life is a balance between making it happen and letting it happen.” Many aspects of this process are not in your control. Remember to take some time to NOT think about it. Read books that have been sitting on your shelf for ages. Watch movies you’ve been putting off forever because you had to be up in the morning. Take up new hobbies or challenges that working kept you away from before. Don’t be a slacker, but don’t be a workaholic either.
One of the best things you can do is learn new skills or refine old ones- you never know what a future employer might find useful.

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Yeah, THIS ain’t happening once I get 4 AM shifts again…

5. Reach Out To EVERYONE.
Don’t shy away from talking to people or introducing yourself to anyone. You never know who might know somebody who knows somebody who might need someone like you. Just one personal connection can carry more weight with an employer than any CV you’d care to write.
Take advantage of any groups or connections you might have- religious groups, civic organizations, social clubs, whatever. The more eyes and ears you have looking out for you in the job market, the better- even more so if one of them can slip your resume to the top of the pile on someone’s desk.

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That dude you met at the coffee shop with the pizza-baking brother? CALL HIM.

Good luck to all you job-seekers out there. I’ll advise you all of my progress as well- truly I am a stranger in a strange land, but I’m slowly grokking the area.

Stay Classy,

P.S.- Bonus points to everyone that got that last bit.