It Wasn’t Love that Kicked Me in the Head


Now Playing: Carolina Mornings, by Micky and the Motorcars. “I’ve had Carolina mornings and California nights. Good times and places in between, I’m bound to be alright. But it feels so good that it’s understood, I’ll show up without a warning. And I’ll love you on a Carolina morning.”

A disclaimer: I write the following not to elicit pity but hopefully a few laughs … or at least chuckles.

I’m normally a confident person. Some – including my wise and wonderful wife – might say cocky.

But this ongoing  job hunt sucks. Which is what happens when you’re a journalist in a world that no longer thinks it needs them. Or at least very many of them. I get it. The world once needed people to make textiles. And to shoe horses. And to do all kinds of other jobs that no longer exist.

All that said, it can be a mighty cruel job market for a 50-something trying to break into a new career.

A couple of cases in point:

I had an interview a couple of weeks ago that I thought would be pretty promising. The company – a pretty large outfit here in the Greater Indian Trail Metro – wanted somebody who could write concise, clean, consistent copy about products in its stores – pulling info from manufacturers, store materials and other places. That I can do – despite the often-rambling nature of this blog. So I thought it could be a slam dunk.

Still, I was cautious about it. I left well ahead of time to get to the company’s HQ, about an hour’s commute away. I didn’t mind the prospect of a long commute. When I worked at the magazine, it took about 40 minutes during good traffic and a lot more during bad. I didn’t mind it. The drive provided a good retaining wall between work and home.

I got there a good 15 minutes early, maybe more. And then I ran into my first hint of trouble. There was a pizza-delivery vehicle ahead of me at the security gate. Security gate? Who exactly were they keeping out? Or in, for that matter?

The guard couldn’t figure out who the pizza was for or couldn’t find the person when she did. Cars lined up behind me. I’m thinking: Either let ’em in or send ’em on their way. If you need someone to taste test the pizza to make sure it’s not poison, I’ll do it. As long as there are no anchovies, that is.

They finally resolved that. But before she could tend to me, the guard went over to confront a car that didn’t have the proper stuff to get through the automatic gate but didn’t pull into the guest line. After me, by the way. Turns out the driver needed directions, and the ever-friendly guard obliged and sent them on their way.

By this time, it was getting tight. The guard came back to me, looked up everything to make sure I was legit and passed me through. And wished me luck on my job interview. Which was nice. But I didn’t tell her why I was here and what if I’d been trying to keep it a secret? Was it really necessary for her to know my business?

Anyway, I made it to the reception desk right at the appointed time. Only the receptionist was on the phone. And not for a business call.

Turns out it didn’t matter. Even when she got to me and called the HR person, I had to sit awhile. But the process started, first with her and then with three people from the department.

The job function was pretty much what I thought. But it was a contract job. For three months. Maybe more. And maybe we’ll hire you for a full-time job once the contract is up. Or not. And the pay is less than half of what I was making at my last job. And they wanted me to start a little more than a week later.

Still, I left with a good feeling about how I’d done. My chief worry was what to do if they offered me the spot. For a lot of reasons that I won’t go into here, it wouldn’t have been such a good deal. On the other hand, I sorta felt like I couldn’t turn it down. Luckily, it was easier to get out of the complex than get in.

Turns out I didn’t have to worry. I got an e-mail a few days later telling me they’d hired somewhere else.

I thought I felt bad then, losing out on a job that paid just about enough to fund the commute.

But that was nothing compared to my second jolt last week.

A little explanation:

One group of people who seem to be getting hired right now are web copy writers. Which is something I’m obviously interested in. The thing is, companies only want to hire other web-copy writers for these jobs. Never mind the more than 30 years in journalism. Never mind the clips. Never mind all sorts of writing samples I can provide.

I’ve even done a little web-copy writing, but for one reason or another, I can’t claim much of it. But it seems only reasonable to me that a guy who can write 2,500 pretty damn interesting words about a credit-union CEO or mobile-home manufacturer can probably write 250 words or fewer about nearly any topic.

Because it wasn’t working out, I decided to get some real web-copy writing experience the old-fashioned way. By giving my services away to a nonprofit in need. I found one I liked a lot and e-mailed the chief, offering writing, editing and consulting services for nothing but the opportunity to get some experience I could showcase during my job hunt.

A few days later, I got a response. The chief didn’t commit one way or another but passed me along to one of his guys. We set up a meeting in Charlotte, and I went in and again offered my services. He was excited and told me he could use me and another part of the organization could really use me for some web writing. I was really excited now, because I like the main organization and really like the offshoot, which works with kids.

My contact said he’d be in touch the next week. Didn’t happen. Or the next week, either. I e-mailed to see if we were still on, and he assured me we were and that he’d contact me the following week.

He did all right, to tell me that the charity – which isn’t exactly flush with money even during good times – couldn’t use my services after all. For free.

With full apologies to Dean Martin, ain’t that a kick in the head?

And the ego.

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