Tag Archives: job search

of praise and copiers

“The average company takes better care of its copiers than it does its talent.”

So says an article for BusinessWeek.

I recall many days/weeks/months when I was punching a time clock (well, since I was salaried, there really wasn’t one) that I, like so many coworkers and others out in the business world, were putting in the extra effort under the guise of “it’s the right thing to do.”

Or was that more “I have to do it. Otherwise, someone else will, and I’ll find myself in the ranks of the unemployed.”

So I stayed chained to my desk. There was one stretch at one company where I ate 9 straight meals at my desk. Sure, I got to go home and sleep (a little), shower, change clothes, only to be back with my shoulder to the grindstone. But as my loved one (who I was barely getting to interact with, let alone see) reminded me….

“If you dropped dead in the office, they’d just step over you on the way to the copier.” Turns out it didn’t really matter. Despite the heroic effort put in by the whole team, the agency still lost the piece of  business, which led to all but 2 or 3 finding themselves relieved of their positions.

Kinda harsh. Then again, this economic environment is harsh. Sure, there is good news on the horizon. Recent numbers are showing that there is an increase in jobs popping up on the horizon, with fewer people competing for these new jobs and other vacant ones.

As a current freelancer who hopes that the right full-time job will come along soon, this is good to hear. Sure, freelancing has been good. But there have been obstacles. As more freelancers compete for opportunities, it often turns into a bidding war. But just how low can you go? There is a long comment stream on a group posting for freelancers who (for the most part) chastised one freelancer for (albeit innocently, for all general purposes) charging too little and over-delivering. The mob consensus was A) the guy was doing a disservice to himself by shortchanging his contribution to this particular project/company, and B) ruining it for all of us by charging so little.

I’ve been lucky to find companies who appreciate what I bring to the table, and pay accordingly. That seems to be one of the positive statements in the BusinessWeek article. Seems that the workforce is starting to wake up and realize they don’t have to settle for just any job. There is something to dignity and self-respect, even in this harsh, competitive market.

Only those companies that make the effort to keep their employees productive by treating them decently can expect to see continued productivity gains.

I’ll continue to freelance while building relationships with local companies in the hopes that I prove to be too valuable to not bring on full-time. And when I do, I’m hoping to hear these encouraging words….

“We’re hiring you for your talent—now go do something brilliant.”

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I’m happiest just being a fish

As I continue finalizing my plans to move to Albuquerque, it’s interesting to hear some of the comments of fellow creatives and/or recruiters. Most don’t understand why I would even consider thinking about leaving SoCal.

Sure, I’ve had the pleasure of working on not just national, but international brands. I’ve had work recognized not just for creative excellence, but also for effective communication and measurable results.

But nothing has sent me giggling like a school girl than seeing outdoor boards I worked on this summer lining the streets and highways of Albuquerque. And the back-to-back print ads that appear in the “Best of” issue of Albuquerque magazine. I only wish I had seen one of the TV spots, or heard a radio spot while we were driving all over town looking at the vastly diverse neighborhoods.

Sure, there is some appeal to working on national messaging. And already this week, I’ve received 2 calls from recruiters for positions with companies here in LA. But, right here, right now, I much more excited about the prospect of working on regional — even local — ads. There just something satisfying about not only seeing the work around your neighborhood, but also seeing a business that is hopefully thriving in this current market because of it. (It doesn’t hurt that the agency I’ve been working with is comprised of a group of amazing people with no ego, just the desire to do great work that is best for their clients’ needs.)

With this desire to go more regional, does this make me think of myself as a big fish in a small pond? Absolutely not. I know I’m just a guy who uses the power of words to help market a wide variety of products and services. And as long as I get to continue producing work like this…

I’ll keep swimming along, content and happy in my lil bowl called Albuquerque.

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Loyalty vs Survival

In today’s job market, which is stronger? The need to remain loyal? Or the instinctual desire just to survive? Based on recent polling numbers, I’d say the pendulum is swinging toward survival when only 45% of those currently employed can express any type of job satisfaction. And seriously, when the second best reason those polled state as a “good thing” about their current position is the commute, there’s something very wrong.

When I explore my feelings on this subject, it’s from a different perspective. I don’t have a full-time gig. I’m one of those currently swimming in the independent contractors’ pool. But I AM being faced with a similar dilemma.

Do I continue to remain loyal to the small, regional agency I’ve been freelancing for over the past 9+ months with the hopes that the “job offer” they verbally extended months ago will actually materialize? Or do I respond to the job posting for one of their competitors?

My heart tells me to remain loyal because I’ve really enjoyed working with the agency. And feel the work has been outstanding.

My bank account says “go for the possibility of a regular gig that is currently open.”

Sure, this is totally hypothetical. First, the current opening is just a posting on a job board. There’s no guarantee that they’ll A) be interested, B) actually want to interview me, and C) offer me the job. Granted, there’s no way to know if any of that actually happens unless I pull the trigger and send out the email that has been sitting in my Draft folder for days.

The challenge with all of it, is an upcoming trip planned to the city where both agencies are located. I need to respond to the posting soon if I hope to have any possibility of an interview. But if I do, and because it’s a small market, do I run the risk of spoiling any possibility with the other agency I’ve been freelancing for? I mean, these people have to talk. And when I list some of the work, people are going to connect the dots.

I’ll admit that I’ve been struggling with this. I believe my pendulum continues to swing more toward the loyalty side. But I have to be realistic that, with our desire to locate to a smaller (and more affordable) market, my choices are more limited. Sure, I continue to get freelance from other agencies, but the whole battle to keep work coming in gets tiring. Especially if one of my biggest sources is the one agency.

I have about 24 more hours to struggle with this before I need to “shit or get off the pot.” And this decision is honestly causing mental hemorrhoids. And I’m not satisfied with that in the least.

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redundancy

I love the English languange. And in this particular case, I’m talking about the Queen’s English.

Recently, during a lull in freelance projects (Why is it that projects all come in at once, and then, like the ocean’s waves, all go out to sea at the same time?) I sat down and watched the movie, Kinky Boots. It’s the story of an old world shoe factory that has to come to terms with a changing marketplace.

And like so many companies, trying to create a niche wherever they can find it. (I won’t spoil the storyline of the movie by saying exactly what this niche was for this particular industry.)

But what I did find relevant, is that this factory was facing the same issues our current workforce is dealing with – layoffs. Or as the English like to call it….redundancy.

I’ve never felt redundant in any position in my life. I always felt like I was bringing something unique to the table. But apparently that isn’t always enough to keep your job. And now, those that are lucky enough to still have a full-time position, it’s not just a fear of redundancy that is creating tension.

Last Sunday, I was reading an article in the Los Angeles Times (pictured here with a link to the article). In it, they talk about the current workforce is toiling longer and harder just to keep their job.


Many U.S. workers are being pushed to toil harder and shoulder the load once carried by colleagues who’ve since been laid off. That can mean long days without overtime pay or raises, less family time, and more mental and physical fatigue.

Don’t like it? Walk out the door and you’ll join 15 million unemployed Americans, the largest segment of whom have been idle for more than three months. Your former boss will have plenty of replacements to choose from. There are about six job seekers for every opening.

I’ve been in those situations before. My first job after post-grad work was for a publishing company. My next door cube mate was released of his responsibilities, which I inherited. On top of all my other ones. And, of course, without any additional compensation. But I needed the job. So I did it. (Granted, I made more money working 3 nights/week waiting tables and bartending than I did in 40 hours there, but it was the experience I needed.)

Another time was back when I was managing a restaurant in Texas during the oil bust of the mid-80s. There were no PR jobs, so the only thing my recently acquired college diploma was good for was wall art. While managing, a sr. manager (to me) took a “medical leave” which left me doing all my normal duties AND hers. So when she came back, of course I naturally assumed that she’d take them back over. Oh contraire! I was actually reprimanded for not performing all these duties because “once I’d taken them on, I had to keep doing ’em.” Granted, what I didn’t know at the time was that this particular manager was “doing” the regional manager who just happened to be married. To someone else. But that’s a whole other story….

I can honestly say that, no matter how stressful the constant search for new projects can be, that this “break” from punching someone else’s clock has been good for me mentally/physically/spiritually (and probably kept me from punching someone’s head during the past few months of my most recent FT gig). And I’ve managed to do pretty good for myself, and produced work that I’m quite proud of.

And I know, that while I’m ready to consider (and hope to find) a position with a new agency or company, that I’m not ready to sign back up for 12+ hour work days. Or picking up additional work when someone is made redundant.

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colorful language

“Almost all words do have color, and nothing is more pleasant than to utter a pink word and see someone’s eyes light up and know it is a pink word for him or her, too.” (Gladys Taber)

Back in my post grads day at the Ad School in Atlanta, I had a copywriting mentor (the actual head of the writing department at the school) who did a lot to challenge my writing style. My first few quarters there were all about settling in and embracing the process. But, as she reminded me on a few occasions, writing is about a conversation. Not a lecture.

Or as she used to say to me…. “Stop being so preachy!”

She was the one who introduced me to the writings of Tom Robbins. Still Life With Woodpecker was the first of his novels that I consumed. And there have been plenty more since. Doreen (the mentor) encouraged me to loosen up (I was heavy into preppy clothing, and she chided me one time during an end-of-semester review that the ads and copy I was showing for the final “looked like they came from someone wearing suspenders and a bow tie”). She quipped that I needed to “fill your bed with Jell-O and roll around in it nekkid.” For a kid from West Texas, this was just too….wild. (But boy has that, well, boy changed a lot over the last 20 years.)

She was also the one on the other end of the phone line that would remind me that “I had a quirky writing style that not everyone was going to get….let alone like. The secret to my job searching success would be finding the right place with people who DO appreciate my writing.”

But over the years, I have encountered some polarity to my writing. I guess I’ve had to face it through every interview I’ve been in. Or every time I’ve shared my portfolio with possible agencies.

The best thing, though, is when I HAVE found those connections. Having clients/employers/partners who totally get what I’m saying through my word choices.

So, as I’m sitting here thinking about the possibilities that 2010 will bring, I’m reminded by not only the words of Doreen, the grad school mentor. But also the quote from Gladys Taber.

Gravitate toward those who gravitate toward me. Those who don’t just see “pink” but actually feel pink when they see the word.

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giving thanks

There are times where I’ve found that finding new business is one of the toughest parts of being an independent contractor. During these past few months of being a freelancer, I’ve been pretty lucky to have either A) been asked by former coworkers to help out on their projects, B) referred by previous coworkers to people who were looking for a writer, or C) found new clients/agencies through my own networking efforts.

What has been an eye-opening issue has been my relationship with the umpteen different temp agencies I’ve registered with over the past few years. Sure, I get calls occasionally from them about my availability and/or interest in temp gigs. But why is it that their pay scale is less than half of what I’ve been able to bill on my own? I understand they have to make money, too. But why is it an agency will pay me my asking rate, but not get even close to that number when it comes through a recruiter?

I’m hopeful that 2010 is going to be a great year for my career. But before we get there (there still are 25 “shopping days” til the end of the year…and my birthday), I’m making a point of remembering the opportunities I’ve been blessed with during 2009.

As the inside of the Thanksgiving card read that featured the artwork above (1 of 3 that I sent out), I give thanks for this year’s opportunities to express my unique brand of creativity.

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In these tough economic times….

Finding myself freelancing and looking for the next big gig has brought back some interesting memories. In fact, it was right after college that I experienced my first tough economic situation. Like so many of the new grads today, the job market (Texas in the mid-80s) was anything but friendly.

After completing my B.A. in Public Relations, I couldn’t imagine myself sitting behind a typewriter (yeah, I am that old) churning out press releases. But as a recent grad, I couldn’t find an entry-level job no matter how hard I tried. Seems the oil market had bottomed out, and I was competing against people with 3-5 years experience for the entry-level pay.  So I did what I had to. And spent a few more years in the restaurant business.

Granted, looking for a job back then was completely different. Instead of perusing the umpteen different job boards that are specifically targeting the ad biz (and I’m not even really including the ones like monster.com), I was forced to employ cold calls, cold letters, and listening to the once-a-week recorded message listing all the new PR jobs that had opened up in the DFW area as my only source of employment opportunities.

But looking back, it was exactly this pesky job market that led me to my career in advertising. First, through the alumni association, I met a CD working for a big agency in Big D. He was kind enough to meet with me, share some of his insight, and help me start to build “a book.” (I had no clue what a book/portfolio was, nor did I understand that it was necessary to help get a job in advertising.)

I also had the good fortune of meeting a gal who worked part-time at the restaurant where I made my daily tips. Seems she worked full-time for one of the big agencies in Dallas, and was able to get me in the door to meet the CD there.  He was not quite as helpful as the other CD, but did mention that there are schools out there to help you put a portfolio together, including one in Atlanta.

Coincidentally, my oldest sister and her family had just relo’d there. So, that meant I had a place to stay initially.  Applied, admitted, and funded, off I went. Finishing up in less than 2 years, armed with a slick (and laminated) portfolio, I hit the streets. Only to make some poor decisions early on in my career. But I’ve done well for myself since. I’ve had good jobs (and some not-so-good ones, too). And I have experience that people seem to want if for nothing more than freelance.

And now, even though I find myself sending out cold e-mails and introductory mailings to see who’ll bite, at least I’m starting to get some nibbles.

And I continue doing what I have to do to survive. Only now I do it behind a computer monitor instead of a Smith Corona.

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