Cat-atonic

I’m exhausted.  It’s funny; if you’re in the dwindling majority who remain gainfully employed, you must be wondering what is so fatiguing about my life.  I practically brag about the relaxed pace of my so-called schedule: get up, have coffee with family, shuffle the 40 paces to my office, get online, check e-mail, check FaceBook, check the news, apply for work, graduate to beer (or whiskey), work on this blog, watch Netflix, leave my office, turn on some music, sit at my bar, graduate to beer and whiskey, eat dinner, go to bed.

Not much going on there at all.  What I just described, however, is merely a sketch of my daily life.  Check out the color.

First of all, applying for work sucks.  Today, people look for work online.  It goes something like this: find a job aggregator.  For those of you unfamiliar with the term, an aggregator uses technology to scour the Web for any job listing out there, and then provides a search engine to find the type of job you’re seeking.  I use indeed.com.

When you find a matching opportunity, you follow the link to submit your application.  Sounds easy right?  No; no it’s not.  First you typically submit your resume.  Fair enough—but then you are also typically required to fill out an electronic application that asks for all the information on your resume.  Allow me to repeat that.  They make you enter all your resume information on a form so it can go in a database that contains your resume.  Then you typically repeat this process with every new search.  It’s maddening the number of times each week I enter my name, e-mail address, and work history for the last 20 years.

Then you know what they do with that precious information?  Nothing.  A very nice and well intentioned person called a recruiter receives an e-mail message notifying him or her that you applied for one of 25 different positions, each of which has hundreds of applicants.  Unless God is the recruiter you’re screwed.  They can’t possibly pay any significant attention to your pathetic job history, which they don’t care about anyway.  Seriously.  Nobody cares.

I know recruiters; lots of recruiters at this point.  They mean well but they’re mere mortals and they don’t know you.  You’re just the next guy in a long line of people who are clogging up their inbox.

Next there’s the obligatory networking.  This is kind of like job searching, except that the only people you’re going to meet are the unemployed.  You go to these events and you stand around trying to pretend you care about the guy you’re talking to and you know what he’s thinking?  “Damn it.  I thought for sure you were a recruiter.”  Want to know how I know that?  I’m thinking the same thing.

Last Wednesday I attended two different “networking” events.

The first event was a meet-and-greet for professionals in the healthcare industry.  I know nothing about the healthcare industry but it began at 5:00 and was right across the street from the event I actually wanted to attend, which didn’t start until 6:00.  I came early to get parking because parking is in short supply downtown, which is where all networking events in Austin unfortunately occur. I mention that it’s unfortunate because I hate downtown.  No parking.  Expensive food and drinks.  Dorks that think being downtown amps your cool factor.  Drunk guys hitting on narcissistic girls who are well on their way to drunkville as well.  Networking events where ghosts with resumes wander around looking for the ever elusive recruiters.

To the point, I entered the first “hip” joint, J Blacks, and was immediately recognized by a former colleague.  We chatted briefly and then two women arrived and began talking to him.  He introduced me and the typical inane dialog ensued.

Me: “Hi. What do you do?”

Her: “I’m in PR, working for a health insurance company.  What do you do?”

Me: “I’m a freelance writer.”

Her: “In healthcare?”

Me: “No.  I have a marketing background.  I write case studies, brochures, whitepapers.”

Her: “In the healthcare industry?”

Me: “No; I’m just, just a freelance writer.  If you need content, I can provide it.  Whatever you need written, I can write regardless of the industry.”

Her: “So are you affiliated with a healthcare networking organization?”

Me: “No.  I was told I should attend because someone here might need a writer.  I’m just a writer.  I write; that’s what I do.  You’re in PR.  Do you need a writer?”

Her: “Uhm; no.  Have a nice evening.”

With that amazing success story complete, I checked the time and, as fate would have it, nearly an hour had passed.  I set down my beer glass and headed across the street to Molotov Austin for my next downtown adventure: a journalist meet-and-greet sponsored by the Austin American Statesman.

Upon arrival I registered, paid my $20.00, collected my two measly drink tickets and stepped up to the bar.  $20.00 seems like a lot for the opportunity to meet journalists, but hey; at least the first two drinks are free, and I am trying to get my column in this very newspaper, so fine.

I ordered a beer and then began to look around, wondering if they had cordoned off the journalists and posted a sign to make their presence known.  No such luck.  So I wandered around like everyone else seeking out prolonged eye contact, a sure sign that the person wants to be approached.  I assumed this would increase my probability of identifying a journalist but this tactic proved fruitless.  A number of people approached me—but no one in the newspaper business.

I met a friend of my wife who recognized me.  We talked for some time, and then he moved on.

I exchanged information with a nice lady who had a business with her husband selling maps to all the popular things for tourists to do in Austin.  The business name was kind of ironic given this venue: Walking Papers.  And what better way to promote your business than to show up at a networking event for the unemployed and remind them of that fact by introducing your company.

Finally, I met a nice lady who owned a business down the street that sells premium spices.  Yes; this is just the kind of contact who can assist me with my dream of Opinion Writer Syndication.  A condiment dealer.  As she said goodbye to find a journalist who could promote her store, I noticed an area that was, in fact, cordoned off, and in which there appeared to be some sort of official activity.

I made my way over to this conspicuous place I had somehow overlooked.  I was certain I would find local celebrities with press badges standing around meeting us, the common rabble.  No; of course not.  It was a face-painting booth.  The artist was a stunningly attractive blonde woman, and she was plying her trade to a man who appeared to be in his late 20s.  And his choice of face paint?  A ThunderCats character—you know that cartoon show from the late 80s.

I just stood there staring, glad that I was alone.  The sight of a grown man at a journalism networking event having his face painted as a character whose target market was 10-year-olds was so embarrassing I was rendered speechless.

Another half hour passed and I ran into the woman who notified me about these two events.  “Did you find any journalists?” she inquired with some annoyance.  “Nobody.” I quipped with a flat affect.  “Let me see if I can track down the coordinator.”

She began asking around and one of the waitresses pointed him out.  He was standing a mere five feet from us with his back turned, wearing a black T-shirt and blue jeans.  My friend tapped him on the back.  He turned around and, big surprise, it was the ThunderCat dude.  OK; so let me break this down for you.

I drove 25 miles from podunk Pflugerville to the live music capital of the world for the purpose of meeting contacts in an industry I’m trying to break into—and my fate lies in the hands of Mr. ThunderCat.

If you’re still reading this entry, you should be exhausted too.  Another month of this crap and I’ll either be catatonic or a full-blown alcoholic.  Wait; that’s what I said last month.  OK.  Add AA meetings to the list.

Guy-o

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