Saturday, July 27, 2013

No. 313 – Don’t Let It Bring You Down

Performer: Annie Lennox
Songwriter: Neil Young
Original Release: Medusa
Year: 1995
Definitive Version: None

This is an important song in that to a certain extent, it’s a rubicon-crosser. Every song from here on is one of my favorites to the point where I could hear it over and over and not get tired of it … well, maybe if I played it 100 times in a row, I might get a little bored, but you get the idea. Before this song, I couldn’t have said that about each song.

Anyway, after I moved to Chicago in Fall 2005, Job No. 1 became finding job No. 1. Believe it or not, I started my job search with an interview the day after I moved.

While still in Columbus, I applied for a job as an associate editor at a pair of magazines that were run out of a single office in Highland Park. I’m pretty certain that I knew ahead of time how much the job would pay—$33,000.

On the one hand, it was almost half what I made my final full year at The Dispatch and wasn’t nearly enough for the job itself. On the other hand, beggars can’t be choosers. I took the interview.

The interview was around noon, which gave me time to at least see a copy of the publications. I went to the Highland Park library as soon as it opened and borrowed the most recent copies of Winnetka and Hinsdale magazines.

They were pretty much what I was expecting—pretty much what anyone who’s familiar with those communities would expect: The magazines consisted of features and news—on very glossy paper—that involved the upper crust of those two upper-crust suburbs. It wasn’t a job for me, but I had ulterior motives. I thought that by introducing myself to the editor, I might be able to wrangle a free-lance writing gig out of the deal.

I met with Susan, who was the editor of the parent publication—Chicago Home & Garden—and she quickly agreed that I probably wasn’t the right person for the job. But she said she, too, wanted to meet me and maybe I might be interested in doing some writing. She said she didn’t have anything now but would get back to me later in the fall. OK, we’re off to a good start.

A portfolio of free-lance gigs that paid enough for living expenses was ideal. I certainly had grown accustomed to setting my own work shcedule for the past two years, and free-lance could give me some flexibility to look for an ideal full-time gig if I needed more money—all while finishing up my book.

So I turned to looking for work full time. My job search consisted of looking both on free-lance sites and job sites, and before long I established a routine. I’d get up when Laurie did to go to her job, allowing her to clear out first while I ate my breakfast. Then I’d shower, get dressed and head out.

I had only dialup Internet service at Laurie’s apartment, and that wasn’t suitable to conducting large Internet; i.e., job, searches. However, my now 4-year-old Clamshell iBook didn’t have a Wi-Fi modem, so I had to go where I could get online via Ethernet.

I found two places that had such a connection, and I went to either depending on what else I had on my agenda that day. If I went to the gym or I had other errands to run, I’d go to Sulzer Library in nearby Lincoln Square. If not, then it was the Northwestern University library, where, as I think I mentioned, as long as I arrived before noon, I could get in without showing a student ID.

I liked going to Northwestern better, not only because I had more room but also the scenery (college-age babes … look at em!) beat that of the rabble at the public library. I also liked that going to Northwestern meant taking a long ride on the L, so I could play Sudoku, which I just discovered and to which I quickly became addicted.

Going to Northwestern, however, required a longer Ethernet cable, so I bought a 6-footer, which gave me enough line to connect to the Ethernet ports that ringed one particular reference room on the ground floor from any desk in which I set up shop.

Then I’d get to work—checking CareerBuilder and JournalismJobs and other sites. I had a rotation of about a dozen in addition to getting automatic notices. If I saw something that attracted me, I’d write a cover letter and tailor my resume to the particular job. I think I had about a half-dozen different resumes depending on for what type of job I applied.

In those days, I sent almost everything by mail, because few sites accepted attachments and clips. That required a separate occasional trip to Kinkos to copy clips and then the post office to mail off my file. Not having a job meant I could run all my errands during the day when lines were short.

I’d like to say that as the days grew shorter and chillier, the rejection notices piled up, except most companies don’t bother to reply to candidates in the negative. I suppose they probably get too many resumes to send out a rejection letter to everyone, but I respected those that found the time.

Eight years later, I ALWAYS call—not write—anyone I interview, whether it’s for a job or a writing assignment, whom I reject. I believe it’s just common courtesy. My policy undoubtedly is a reaction from the days when I was beginning my job search—hearing the telltale of silence—while Laurie seemed to have Medusa on every other day.

The good news was I heard back from Susan around Thanksgiving after two solid months of rigorous but fruitless activity. She had an assignment for me if I were interested. I said I was. Finally, a breakthrough.

(To be continued)

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