Friday, February 23, 2007

Weekends Were Made for Job Hunting

Note: Written longhand earlier tonight, on my train ride home from work.

CRAWLING BACK TO MY corner at the end of a long, if chronologically short, week, I'm reminded of how boxers feel between rounds late in a fight. I'm slumped on my stool after the bell has rung, punch drunk, vaguely following the exhortations of my trainer, hearing the dim echo of my opponent's name coursing out from thousands of spectators' mouths. Five more weeks of this current workplace will feel like five more rounds with Ali in his prime. I'm either gonna end face down on the canvas or face up in the morgue.

Well, not that dire, certainly. Still, it's getting extremely hectic at work. My job hunt has ground to a halt during the unending chaos of these past two weeks. Previously, even right after our two junior designers left, I had a lot of dead time in which I could work on my resume, search for jobs, or study training options. Not this past fortnight. If anything, ever since the Super Bowl, my boss and I have barely had a chance to breathe. I can now legitimately add the skill of trafficker to my resume. My boss and I spend much of the day trying to figure out exactly where certain jobs sit in the production cycle. The folks doing our work in Outsourcistan don't seem to share what tips for efficient design, image specifications, and color handling we share with them. So the same problems will crop up from one job to the next, depending on who is laying them out. Untangling all of these difficulties is a job on its own, and I fully intend to list this as a marketable skill on whatever finally coalesces into the form of a resume on my computer.

Not that I get much of a chance to work on it. I need to shift my job-hunting efforts to weekends. By the time I leave the salt mine, I am so mentally fried from the trafficking gymnastics that any career work is half hearted at best. Not a good way to be five weeks from being on the street. The inbound commute might be a good time, but outbound I spend trying to fight off sleep so I don't wake up in Spring Valley and have to hibernate in a fucking storm drain until the southbound trains resume the next morning. Instituting a highly productive and regimented weekend routine would break this logjam. I recall this as one of the goals I set at the beginning of the year. I also recognize it as being critical for long-term development and discipline if I am ever to become a freelance worker or sole business proprietor.

All is not hopeless, however. As frazzled and pessimistic as I may be when interacting with select coworkers who sympathize with my plight and that of my boss, I am always optimistic in my words and goals about my future when I speak with them. I had a good chat today with one of the folks who offered some ideas right after I got the layoff news. She speculated that I might have a greater facility for learning and excelling in HTML and XML than I give myself credit for, especially if I were to take formal courses in them. We also discussed how having contacts at various companies can mean a lot more than answering a Web or, even less likely, a newspaper ad. This connected with another discussion I had at the beginning of the day, who was impressed that I also had editorial skills as well as design. He told me to give him a copy of my resume when I had it set, so he could forward it to a friend of his at one of the larger NYC publishing houses. Though I may grumble at current conditions, about my future, I always address it in hopeful terms, because nobody will want to help a crank who bitches about being fired. Which I've never really done. Hell, now that I see how things will be handled there, I'm happy to go.

Other environmental signifiers of possible futures have manifested. I found a stack of flyers in the company lunchroom for the Editorial Freelancers Association, apparently left there by one of our word-mashers. I'd never heard of the group before, but the flyer, which came with an application, caught my interest. Later in the week, I noticed in the Hoboken PATH station a poster for the Freelancers Union. This one I have heard of, though not in depth. Both groups offer health insurance options, however, a topic of keen interest to me with the bug of forming my own business in the back of my head. Insurance would be the biggest barrier to becoming a solo act. So this weekend, I'll check both of these sites out to see just what reputations they enjoy and whether they would be worth joining.

For now, though, I'm content to roll along the rails, watching the magenta dusk glow its last through the black naked trees and distant Newark office towers to the west, home to a warm bed and a weekend away from the Brazil-like absurdity of my final weeks of work.

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