Now my severance is exhausted, as is my unemployment, and I am scrambling every day for work. I had been a columnist, then the book critic for the P-I, enviable newspaper jobs even among my colleagues. Now I seek any writing or editing work that I discover, the latest being a history of a software startup for the four partners who sold their company for more than $100 million. What they're paying me scarcely merits inclusion in their millionaire checkbooks, but I am grateful for this project. It resulted from a longtime friend's recommendation.
What will follow the startup booklet is uncertain. One book-editing gig for an emerging publisher may lead to others. But I will not be doing book critic articles for major national web sites that I did at the outset of my unemployed days. Such regular writing back then provided psychic benefits in my stunned state even when the pay was a pittance (if there was pay).
Now, psychic benefits be damned: I need real work for real pay. Of course, that was what I was seeking while I was on unemployment. I honestly thought that I could land another regular job, even if I was a few years short of retirement. That turned out to be a Fractured Fairy Tale, as my blue file folder testifies.
That folder, now 3 inches thick, scarcely contains all the weekly logs of jobs that I applied for in order to qualify for unemployment - three jobs every week during two years of federal unemployment, then four jobs every week during six months of Washington State unemployment. That totaled 400 job applications, from my first to be communications director for a Seattle private school on 4/8/2009 to my last to be a technical editor for a staffing agency on 6/30/2011.
My weekly logs contain jobs in writing, editing, marketing and communications, jobs at non-profits, at publications and publishers, at retail concerns, at universities and colleges, at ad agencies, law firms, the zoo, even a few newspapers. Some jobs might have been a stretch for me, but there were far more I know I could have done. There were even some jobs that seemed perfect - one was adviser to a high school student newspaper (finally using my master's degree?), although I never heard back from that school. But I never heard back from most places I applied and only scored three in-person job interviews from my 400 applications, three in-person interviews that taught me how close I could come to landing a job and still not get it.
With such dreary results, applying for jobs turned Wednesday or Thursday into the downer day of the week, guaranteed. Just finding three or four possible jobs consumed hours of numbing Internet searches. But I still did it conscientiously because unemployment required it and also because it might result in work, although I soon knew that my experience and maturity were not assets that employers were seeking any longer, quite the opposite. Younger and cheaper are today's mandate.