Sunday, November 24, 2013

Job Search Farce of the Week

This week I answered one rather-cryptic ad from someone looking for a long-term freelance writer. The ad called for somebody with media connections, but I figured that was just to weed out people with no experience.

A guy with a PR company (which I'm sort of tempted to name) called. He said he was from a standard PR company representing 30 or so clients.

Then in so many words the guy tells me they're looking for someone to write stories about their companies and then place them in media, presumably without telling the editor that they are being paid by this PR company.


Me: "I don't understand. I've been pitched by PR people before and then I go to my editor with the story and ask whether or not they think it's a good story*** but then I only get paid on one end of that equation - you know what I mean?"

Him: "Right. This would be a different model."

A credibility-annhilating model! I said I wasn't interested and that was that. Perhaps I'm naive, but I'm surprised this exists. I don't even understand how it's a good business model, because it just sounds complicated with too slim a chance for success.

I immediately emailed a friend who works in PR to ask, "is this a thing?!" She said she'd heard of something similar, but that it sounded shady. 

I had one freelancer when I was in Beijing who was constantly pitching extremely boring stories about cars. My predecessor had let her do one. I figured out eventually that her roommate worked in PR for a car company, I figured she was just being lazy with her pitches and/or trying to do her friend a solid. But now I wonder...

My eyes are open!

***I've actually never had a PR person pitch me a story I actually was a good idea. I'm not saying it couldn't happen. It just hasn't. The only person who has successfully pitched me was a school teacher who invited me to accompany her class on a service trip to a mountain village in rural Anhui. It was a good trip.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Looking for Jobz

If my life were a sports team, I reckon the next year or two are going to be rebuild years. It's not easy to go from one country, where I'd essentially reached the top of the heap and had a good-sized network, to another where I have very little network outside of Los Angeles.

On the upside: I have another longish article in the works and I have one freelance job that takes  little time and covers about 30% of what I need to live on.

I was at a birthday party last weekend making small chat with one of James' grad school classmates. He asked me what I do and I said, "Just looking for work at the moment." And, spoken like someone who has never been out of school and simultaneously unemployed for very long, he replied - in sincerity - "That must be nice!"


Grad schoolers. I always envisioned grad school as something people went to after they'd been out of school for awhile, learned about themselves and the world, articulated what they actually wanted to do in life, etc. But a fair amount of James' classmates went into his program straight from undergrad. I'm sure this will work out fine for most of them, but I think James is maximizing what there is to be gained from the program since he can relate it to previous work experience.

Although my period of FUNemployment has now shifted to just plain unemployment/semi-employment/scrambling - I'm still having a pretty good time. Craigslist job searching is nothing if not entertaining. Most amusing job ads of late:

Earn $$$ from home! It's so easy - you will be amazed!

This one is perennial. There's always some variation. Who reads this and is like, "$$$?! From home?! Eeeeasy?!?!? Sign me up!" 

There's never any more explanation, but I like the accompanying picture, which sometimes will also be a jet flying into the sunset. 

nude/topless housekeeper

I clicked on this ad out of curiosity (it's not a serious consideration...yet!), because I think if I were inclined to this line of work I would go through an agency and not respond to some random dude's Craiglist ad, which read: Please send your age (MUST BE OVER 18) along with a topless photo.

...Who sends topless photos for free?! 

Adult Sitter

I assumed this was an ad for a caretaker for a special needs individual. I don't know why I read it because I am neither qualified or interested in said work, but oh man... Duties will include dressing , feeding , changing(diapers), bathing, disciplining ect. He is able to move around and does not need to be carried or moved. It will be like caring for a toddler, likes to watch cartoons color and be read to. Please let me know if you are interested and availability. I would prefer to have the sitting done at your house, i will provide all supplies and food needed. There is nothing physically or mentally wrong with him and there is nothing sexual about this. It is strictly care for and treating him like a toddler boy, which is very therapeutic and relaxing. PAY IS $25 PER HOUR

$25/hour is a seriously low-ball figure for this business. Maybe he forgot a zero or two. I had to read this ad twice before I realized the person was writing in third person about himself.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Surprising stuff about America

Since I spent the majority of the last five years in Asia and then spent the summer in the relative seclusion of the Oregon Coast, I find myself still in a period of readjustment to American life. 

When people talk about "reverse cultural shock," I always have a negative knee-jerk reaction to the phrase, I think mostly because it contains the word "shock": nothing in the US really shocks me, but I do often enough find myself thinking "oh that's weird..."

Yesterday I saw this post on Thought Catalog about things non-Americans couldn't believe about the US until they moved here. There were several things repeated by various respondents, here are the ones I find myself relating to the most:

Americans don't carry cash
Yeah. Weird. At the store, I'll fish out my coin purse to get rid of some pennies, but then I feel a little bit of anxiety for taking the extra time that wouldn't be necessary if I were just swiping my debit. Americans don't really pay with coins it seems. Maybe we should just get rid of them.

Credit rating is important/necessary
In China, expats would sometimes complain about renting at the "foreigner rate" (i.e. above what a local would get). And yet, my landlord in Shanghai took me with no references, no proof of employment, no bank statements. I could've bought a plane ticket home and never said a word and she would have had no recompense (well, except my security deposit, which was a deposit + last month of rent). In short, my rent situation in Shanghai was more about money in hand, not paperwork.

Americans don't walk anywhere
This still gets me. We have a grocery story that's a 10-minute walk away, but I felt decidedly odd walking there last weekend. Saw at least one car passenger lean out his window to stare back at me, because apparently walking is very curious.

Public toilets are nice
This is great. We have seriously nicely maintained bathrooms. If right now you're thinking, "but at the mall/grocery/restaurant I last went to there was-" Nope. You are wrong. That bathroom was clean. If you'd ever had to pee at a Chinese bus rest stop, you would learn to have warm fuzzy feelings for the bathroom you just wanted to complain about.

Omg we waste so much stuff. When I was in Burma, a Czech MBA student reminded me this was kind of good/necessary since America is still the economic engine for the world, but it's nonetheless shocking if you've been away from it. So much trash we make, so much food we waste.

Public transit is pretty crap

Return police/free refill/customer service
I'm still going out and being pleasantly reminded of how enjoyable service-oriented culture is.

There were other things on the lists I could relate to, but these are the main ones I notice in my daily life. 

I'm also enjoying reintegrating into American consumer culture. Shortly after I arrived, James and I watched Extreme Couponing and Extreme Cheapskates. Both are more entertaining than inspirational. We went to Walmart last night and were surprised by the quality and price of the produce. 

Groceries will probably cease to be interesting to me once I'm caught up, but right now I'm enjoying reeducating myself on what's a good value and where to get it.

Monday, November 11, 2013

I am a Texan

Not really. I've only been here two weeks and I still haven't decided if I should pronounce it Tex-ez or Tex-ess.

I like Austin. Last week a friend of ours from high school who'd been living in Houston blew through town on his way to a sweet flying job out west in Midland. He mentioned he doesn't like the bad attitude much the rest of Texas has toward hippy-dippy, liberalicious Austin.

Is Austin's liberalism that in-your-face? Yes if you measure it in the number of heavily-tattooed people my age who live here and have earnestly devoted themselves to selling delicious fusion cuisine out of food trucks. But that's probably not an accurate political gauge. The majority of overt political messages I've seen have not been left-wing. Actually, all that comes to mind are bumper stickers with pictures of giant assault rifles that say "Come and take it." Mm, no thanks (wouldn't know how to use it, and all).

On the topic of guns and politics, I had an educational experience last weekend: James and I popped into a dive bar before a concert. The doorman checked my ID, but was engrossed in a book so didn't notice I was carrying a water bottle under my arm.

Bars. Alcohol. America. I'm still getting used to all this, having spent most of my drinking-age life outside the US where everyone is a way less persnickety. Apparently bringing a water bottle into a bar is not cool?

The bartender curtly told me I couldn't have the bottle inside and offered to take it, but I wasn't finished (and I was thirsty!), so I headed back outside.

But then the doorman told me I couldn't leave! Seriously! You can't leave with that! 

I could not leave the premise with a water bottle because it is against the law to take drinks away (or into) a bar. "It's the LAW!" he said, now in a tizzy and having finally pulled his nose out of his stupid book.

I guess at some point between the door and the bar my lame little water bottle transferred ownership, it was no longer mine, it was the bar's. I cursed a little, finished my water in the doorway and we departed, bound for somewhere with better service.

Why have I troubled to relay this anecdote? Because I think it's important for everyone to understand that in the great State of Texas you can bring a concealed firearm into the Capitol building, but you cannot bring a water bottle into a dive bar. Yeeeep.

I know the right to bear arms is a big deal, but how about the right to personal hydration? Juuuust sayin'!