Posts Tagged With: layoffs

Employed Nine: Post-mortem, part III: The cackler and 3%

We pick up the story of our hero about a year-and-a-half after his Pointy-Haired Boss was abruptly fired, without anyone bothering to share the news with our hero.

Things were finally stabilizing after doing the equivalent of three jobs for a year-and-a-half. An absolutely fantastic person was hired to handle the operational aspects of the job, which never should have been mine to begin with. And the publication I worked for was now under the purview of a new boss, who, unlike PHB, was a good person. He wasn’t very popular, but to be fair, even those who disagreed with his ideas or policies knew they weren’t done out of selfishness or with ill intent.

Please, for the love of GOD, make the cackling STOP!

This will instantly give away the new boss’ identity to anyone reading this who was with the company at the time, but whatever. His most distinctive feature was his laugh. It was a cackle that went in one ear, bounced around your brain while swinging a jackhammer and a hockey stick, and went out the other ear. This cackle could be heard from miles away, sort of like a train whistle, only nowhere near as pleasant.

That being said, I actually like the guy, and I still do. As I said, his heart was in the right place, although after PHB, the bar wasn’t set very high. Let’s put it this way: If I ran into the cackler in the street, I would stop, say hello, ask him about his job, and be absolutely pleasant. If I ran into the PHB in the street, it would take every ounce of self-control in my body not to break his jaw.

My main disagreement with the cackler revolved around the fact that he managed “by the book,” even when the situation demanded an alternative action. And the “situation,” in my case, was the fact that I did three jobs for a year-and-a-half without getting one extra dime, other than my annual “merit raise,” and I was determined to do something about that.

I’m sure everyone reading this has gone above and beyond the call of duty at their job at some point. No one ever handles their “job duties,” and nothing else, and no one really works 9-5. I’m not trying to sound like a martyr, or like the first person to ever take on a huge work load. But after doing three jobs for a year-and-a-half, being told that there was no way I could get fairly compensated because of “company policy” just didn’t cut it. Kindly find me the parts of the “company policy” that cover not being told your boss was fired, or that cover doing three jobs for a year-and-a-half.

“Company policy” can be bypassed under exceptional circumstances, and it took me another year of constant fighting to finally get something resembling a fair raise, even though it was one-half of what I deserved. After a year of trying to hammer my points home at every opportunity, the fight had left my body, and I settled for the raise I was offered. No matter how fiercely I believed in my cause, there comes a time to just let it go, and I had reached that point.

One thing that always amused me about the cackler was that he always attempted to pacify disgruntled employees with American Express gift cards of $50, and sometimes even $100. It was a nice gesture, and my hunch is that the money came out of his own pocket, even though he always made us sign an acknowledgement that we had received the gift cards. But in my case, I wanted recognition for my efforts and something resembling financial stability, not a gift card.

I mentioned our annual merit raise earlier. The way our company handled these raises was the source of my most frustration in the 13 ½ years I spent there — yes, even more frustrating than dealing with PHB — and it directly or indirectly led to my exit, depending on how you look at it.

Let me pre-empt my vent by saying that a 3% raise a few years ago, before our country’s economy went into the shitter, was quite different from a 3% raise now. I know that members of the work force who were fortunate enough to hold onto their jobs were subject to the elimination of raises altogether, pay cuts, being force to take unpaid vacation time, and other financial penalties. A 3% raise doesn’t seem so bad today. But at the time, it barely covered the cost-of-living increase. In my case, the increase in my rent and parking usually swallowed up the entire raise, leaving no opportunities to better my situation or to actually put money away in savings.

3%

That being said, moving past the amount of the raise, this was my issue, and I will fight this point to the death: Every single employee got 3%, regardless of their performance. Excuse my language, but this has to go down as the single fucking dumbest management move in history.

There are always some people who work harder than others. What is the point of going the extra mile, extending yourself, sacrificing things that are important to you, and burning yourself out, only to be “rewarded” with the exact same raise as the person who does the bare minimum, shows up late, leaves early, and never steps up to the plate when things are crazy? Where is the incentive to maintain that sort of pace when it’s not rewarded at all?

On a side note, while implementing its policy of 3% raises across the board, the senior management had the balls to call a special, all-hands-on-deck meeting with the purpose of having every employee come up with one “million-dollar idea.” Hey, jackasses: If I actually came up with a million-dollar idea, don’t you think I’d pursue it myself, rather than watching the company implement it and receiving a thank you and the same 3% raise? My “million-dollar idea” was the fictional doctor’s appointment that kept me out of that meeting. I have a few other million-dollar ideas, but I’m really trying to limit profanity on this blog.

The final straw for me came when we underwent another Dilbert-like reorganization for no reason whatsoever, and responsibility for the website I worked on was split between myself and another co-worker. Did you assume that when I said “split,” I meant that the work load was divided 50-50? You’d think that, wouldn’t you? Needless to say, that’s nowhere near what actually happened.

Our “split” work load was basically yours truly getting up early in the morning to edit and deploy a daily email newsletter, and then getting to the office at normal time, working a full day (doing most of the work), going home, and covering any stories that might have broken after-hours. Meanwhile, my co-worker (and I use the term “worker” very loosely) would show up at 11 a.m. on a good day, but often not until the p.m. hours, and vaporize by 5:30 at the latest, claiming that he was “working from home.” Yeah, that old gag, except that when two people work on a website, it’s pretty easy for one of them to tell what the other is doing, or, in this case, not doing.

My breaking point: One Friday, when the shit was hitting the fan, with several news stories breaking and most of the editorial staff wrapped up with closing the print edition, he walked into the office at exactly 2:30 p.m. Rather than making up some sort of excuse or apologizing, he joked, “I had a rough commute.” He lived on the same subway line as the office, about 10 stops uptown. Needless to say, I did not find humor in his attempt at a joke.

A couple of months after his 2:30 arrival, our fiscal year ended, and our merit raises went into effect. I actually heard this person on the phone, bitching to a friend of his that he had “only” gotten 3%. There have been few times in my life when I was mad enough to kill, and this was one of them. I had to leave the office and walk around the block a couple of times to stop the shaking. The person who did maybe 20% of the work got the same raise as the person who did the other 80%, along with a higher salary, yet complained about it? Folks, you just can’t make crap like this up.

So this is where things started to go downhill, about two years before my layoff. I still worked hard because I had pride in the website. If the website looked bad, I looked bad. But anything resembling passion had vanished, and, while I would still do my best to handle any important news that broke after hours, I absolutely refused to extend myself one minute more than necessary. What was the point? It wasn’t appreciated, and it wasn’t rewarded.

But our hero’s story isn’t done yet. In the next installment, I explain how I was uprooted from the publication where I had worked the entire time and forced to join another magazine with a completely different culture, only to find out that the move was made to save my non-working co-worker’s job. I shit you not.

Categories: business, life, sarcasm, venting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

When the tiles stop

When I was laid off from my old job a little over three years ago, one of the things that helped me kill time was Scrabble on Facebook. I still play a lot. I’ve taken up Words with Friends, as well, but the competitive bastard in me prefers Scrabble because it keeps win-loss stats.

However, one of the sad things, aside from the fact that my losses still outnumber my victories, is that in the three years-plus that I’ve been playing the game, three people who I knew pretty much exclusively through Scrabble have passed away, with the latest occurring last night.

I actually knew the first person to pass away well before Facebook, from the days when AOL was actually the closest thing we had to a social network, and not just a company for Arianna Huffington to mismanage into the ground. We met in a chat room about sports, and stayed in touch via IM and email, but never actually met, or even spoke on the phone. She had brain cancer, and after it appeared that she had beaten it, the disease came back with a vengeance. I found out because her sister posted it on her Facebook page.

The second happened a few months ago, and I found out the same way, but I have no clue what happened, and I don’t even know if the guy was sick. Other than occasional chit-chat during Scrabble games, we didn’t really interact with each other at all. I was still stunned to learn of his passing, even though I barely knew him.

This morning, I learned about the third Scrabble friend to pass away. He had been battling Crohn’s disease for some time, and was in and out of the hospital, often unnecessarily apologizing when he went days without making a move. Much like the second, I didn’t really know him, other than the same type of in-game chatter, but reading the news this morning still made me pause for a bit.

Death is a strange thing. It always seems to make people stop in their tracks, no matter how remote their connection to the deceased was. Even though I never really knew any of the three people I just wrote about, I hope they are resting easy.

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Employed Nine: Post-mortem, part II: The communications company that didn’t communicate

What if your boss gets fired, and no one bothers to tell you? Impossible, you say? Welcome to my world.

I already detailed in my last post why PHB and I were barely on speaking terms, so when a day-and-a-half passed without any conversations or emails between us, I chalked it up to good luck. Our duties were separate enough that unless there was something unusual going on, regular back-and-forth wasn’t really necessary.

Then, a co-worker stopped by my cubicle, and we had the following discussion:

Co-worker: Hey, what happened to PHB?

Me: What do you mean?

Co-worker: Well, I went by his office to ask him something, and it seems to have been cleaned out. And then I sent him an email and got a response that he’s no longer with the company.

Me: WHAT THE FUCK?????????

It turns out that PHB was fired the morning before, and here we were, the next afternoon, and no one had bothered to tell the one person who reported to him. Ponderous.

I still don’t know the reason why he got canned, and truthfully, other than the curiosity factor, I don’t really give a crap. It had nothing to do with the strained relations between the two of us. I didn’t have that kind of clout, trust me. Our upper management had an overinflated sense of importance, and tended to keep everything hush-hush and top-secret, to the point where you wanted to shake your head and say, “Dude, this is a publishing company, not the Joint Task Force.”

I heard three different rumors, all of which were theoretically possible, but I doubt any of the three were correct. Without going into details that would bore anyone who wasn’t working there at the time, let me just explain by saying that just because someone is an asshole, it doesn’t mean they will do things that are out of character. I didn’t like PHB at all, but the rumors I heard just didn’t sound like things he would do. When you work with someone for years, you learn how they operate, and the rumors I heard didn’t pass the smell test.

So, what ended up happening? I went into PHB’s boss’ office and received nothing resembling an explanation, an apology, or any plan of action for how to handle PHB’s duties. I spent about 20 minutes listening to hemming and hawing that reminded me of Ralph Kramden babbling when he doesn’t know what to say to Alice.

The plan of action, for the next year-and-a-half, basically involved yours truly doing the equivalent of between two-and-a-half and three jobs, depending on the time of year, with no help, no guidance, and, not a shock considering the cheap bastards I worked for, no raise, other than the typical garbage annual hike. I can’t begin to tell you how many conversations I had that went like this:

Random co-worker: Who’s responsible for handling this?

Me: I have no idea whatsoever.

Random co-worker: Well, PHB used to take care of it.

Me with a sigh: Leave me the details, and I’ll try to figure it out.

I wish I could say I learned a lot during that time period, but I didn’t. Actually, I should edit that thought: I learned a great deal, but what I learned was only useful when dealing with the company that my company took over a few years back, which ran all of our Web operations under a proprietary system. Bottom line: What I learned was only useful at that particular job, at that particular time, so I wouldn’t exactly classify it as “career development.”

For the next year-and-a-half, I kept pressing PHB’s boss both for more money and for some help, receiving only vague acknowledgements, and no progress on either front. Voice mails and emails would often be ignored completely, but if something happened to go wrong, such as an email newsletter not deploying properly, then it was conveniently very easy to find me. Go and figure.

I do apologize to my co-workers during this time. I am sure I was a total son-of-a-bitch to deal with, but I was stressed beyond belief and getting nothing in the way of answers or rewards, so while my disposition may have been far from sunny, it wasn’t directed at you guys.

Finally, after a year-and-a-half, an absolutely spectacular person, who I would not utter a bad syllable about, was hired to handle Web operations, and I got a new boss who turned out to be not quite spectacular, although nothing along the lines of PHB. And that, my friends, merits an entirely new entry, so I shall say farewell for now.

Categories: life, venting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Employed Nine: Post-mortem, part I: The Pointy-Haired Boss

Now that a little more than three years have passed since my layoff, and now that I am finally working full-time again, I wanted to get a few things off my chest about what went wrong at my old job.

The Pointy-Haired Boss

I’m not going to name names, but anyone who knows me and my history can figure things out if they really want to. So be it. I’m not concerned about burning bridges, because most of the people I’m going to mention are people I would absolutely never work with again, under any circumstances. In one particular case, the night shift at the Dunkin Donuts around the corner, at half-pay, would be more appealing.

My old company barely exists, and the two publications I worked with were sold to another company in late 2009. And as long as another person on my “no way in hell” list still occupies a high-ranking position at the new company, I will not set foot in the office.

Now that the preliminaries are out of the way, let me begin with the first indication that things were starting to go south at a company that I spent 13 ½ years with. Those of you who read Dilbert (and if you don’t, shame on you) are no doubt familiar with the Pointy-Haired Boss. I had the misfortune of working under someone who could easily have qualified as the inspiration for the PHB character, hairstyle and all.

PHB and I got along at first, but the initial sign of trouble was the condescending tone he began to adopt in conversations and emails. The single most irritating thing any co-worker has ever done was a PHB specialty: If there was a typo or other mistake of some sort on our website, rather than pointing it out and asking me to fix it, he would saunter over to my cubicle and, in a voice nearly identical to another fantastic fictional boss, Bill Lumbergh from Office Space, say something like, “Yeah … go on and take a look at the homepage. Yeah … do you notice something that’s a little bit … off?”

Bill Lumbergh, Office Space

It took every ounce of self-control in my body to not grab him by his pointy hair, slam his head through the monitor, and scream, “Listen, asshole, I am fucking working, and I am swamped. If you need me to fix something, tell me, or get the hell away from my desk. I don’t have time for a God-damned scavenger hunt.”

Then, the hypocrisy began. The most glaring example was the issue of working from home. I am a huge proponent of working from home. As long as you get your work done, in a timely fashion, with no drop-off in quality, what’s the difference where the work gets done? Obviously, working from home is not an option for every line of work, but when you’re writing and editing for a website, all you need is an Internet connection, and you’re good to go.

PHB would liberally work from home, often two or three days per week, and even on days when he did come into the office, he would often arrive in the afternoon, claiming to have worked from home in the morning. Yet every time I chose to do it, for legitimate reasons (repair appointments in the apartment, doctor or vet appointments, etc.), I found myself on the receiving end of a condescending speech or email babbling about how I was needed in the office.

The topper: The New York area got hit with a huge blizzard. While I could have easily done my job at home, I didn’t want to hear any bullshit, so I made my way into Manhattan from the upper west side of Hoboken (not an easy task in any weather, much less snow), only to find that PHB was working from home. Why did this annoy me so much? PHB lived across the street from me. I am not exaggerating: PHB literally lived across the street from me.

The absolute final straw between PHB and I was a prolonged argument over my vacation. When I was still a full share in a beach house on Long Beach Island, I would always take my vacation the week before Labor Day, so I could enjoy the last few days of the summer. I put in for that week at the beginning of the year. Sometime during March, I believe, I got an email from PHB asking about vacation time, and I put in for that week again.

During a routine meeting in early August, PHB mentioned that he would be off the week before Labor Day. I looked at him and said, “That’s impossible, I’m off that week.” PHB claimed that I never requested those days off, and that I would have to reschedule my vacation. Unfortunately (lesson learned, trust me), I didn’t have the email exchange from March saved, but this was a situation where having a friend and softball teammate in IT helped tremendously.

The next day, I walked into his office, dropped a print-out of the emails from January and March on his desk, and walked out without a word. His response later in the day: “Well … you shouldn’t have assumed those days were approved.” This was where I absolutely snapped, and this was when our already frayed relationship was destroyed beyond any repair. My response, word-for word (dates may not be exact, but you’ll get the point): “Well, it’s Aug. 6 now. My vacation starts Aug. 27. Exactly WHEN THE FUCK were you going to inform me that it wasn’t approved? Aug. 24 at 5 p.m.? I am going on this vacation, period. Fire me.”

We ended up reaching a compromise where I did some work from LBI, mostly early in the morning and late in the afternoon, but from that point on, any conversation we had that wasn’t work related was ended abruptly by one-word answers from yours truly. I had absolutely no desire to speak to the man, and I still don’t.

You certainly don’t have to be buddies with your boss, and you don’t even really have to be friends, although it doesn’t hurt. But when you have zero trust in a person and zero desire to see their face or hear their voice, it doesn’t make for a great working environment, to say the least.

Categories: Hoboken, life, venting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Employed Nine!

On Oct. 2, 2008, I was laid off from my job of 13 ½ years. On Sept. 12, 2011, I officially became a member of the full-time work force again. Three weeks shy of three years, the misery has finally ended. If I were a betting man, I’d have risked my entire bank account on the prospect of finding a job in three months, and I’d have lost all $27.14. I never thought it would take this long in my worst nightmare scenario. But it’s finally over.

Praised be Jeebus!

So, what the hell am I doing? Well, I’m still blogging, for mediabistro.com, the same company I’ve been with on a per-post basis since June 2009. But rather than posting on a couple of different blogs, I am now the lead writer for AllFacebook. If I have to tell you what it covers, I’m going to punch you in the head.

If you happen to see a ton of activity on my Facebook page, it doesn’t mean I’m goofing off at work: It means I’m working. I have liked a bunch of pages I have no personal interest in, played a bunch of games I have no desire whatsoever to play, and downloaded a bunch of apps I would not normally use on my own. But it’s for a good cause: a paycheck. If you see Facebook Scrabble activity, however, that definitely means I’m goofing off at work.

One of the best parts for me is that I can still work from home. It’s not like I’m antisocial, and if the job required being in the office, I’d obviously comply, but there’s nothing I can’t do from the Hoboken bureau. All I need is an Internet connection and a phone line. I find the one-hour commute each way to be completely wasted time

And I get up at 5:30 a.m. every day to compile the Morning Media Newsfeed for mediabistro.com, so I’m already deep into work by the time most people are flailing at the snooze button. Why break the caffeine-fueled momentum just to be surrounded by miserable people on the PATH train?

So, anyway, shameless plug: If you’re interested in the goings on at Facebook, check out AllFacebook, which has several talented writers besides yours truly. And if you’re really into the nuts and bolts behind the social network, check out sister blog Inside Facebook. Those guys go into painstaking detail, and it’s a fascinating read if you’re into the subject matter.

Three weeks shy of three years: All I can say is, about freaking time.

Categories: business, Hoboken, life, technology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Marriage, after one year and one day

Exactly one year ago today, my wife of fewer than 24 hours and I were on an airplane bound for Hawaii. Right now, as I type this, I’m on my terrace, enjoying the first 80-degree day we’ve had here in Hoboken since September, with my laptop, the leftover kosher wine from Passover, and an interesting Foo Fighters cover on AOL Radio. Hoboken will never be Hawaii, but all things considered, this doesn’t suck.

One-year-old wedding cake ... yay

Marriage after the first 366 days doesn’t suck, either. I’m very happy, and I’ve never had any second thoughts, or wondered, “What if?” The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is picking my spots when invited to events like drinking or games. I can’t just say yes to everything, because there’s another person to consider, so I’ve really tried to carefully choose when to do things apart from my wife if it’s an event she’s not interested in. I try to factor in how many nights I have plans for during the week, how much time we’ve spent together, whether I can afford it, and other factors, and make the best decisions. Have I been perfect? Certainly not, but I think my efforts have been pretty solid.

I’m very happy with our marriage, and while there are things in my life that I would like to see get better, overall, I’m pretty content. The only negative that continues to weigh on me is my job situation.

I absolutely hate the fact that I’m bringing so little money into the household. It has never been a source of friction, and I’m not conforming to the old-school notion that the husband is required to be the bread-winner, but putting in hours that are comparable to those of a full-time job in exchange for about one-quarter of what I was making at my last full-time position is really starting to wear thin.

And thanks to recent events, I don’t see it getting any better. The blog that I had been editing and writing pretty much by myself for nearly two years, WebNewser, was folded into another blog, SocialTimes, at the end of March. A bunch of people write for SocialTimes, and there are only so many stories to go around, so even though I’m putting in the same effort to try to find interesting topics to write about, I’m probably doing about one-half of the stories I used to post. Considering the fact that I get paid by the post, this is not a good trend. I am positive my paycheck for April will be much lower than March’s, despite missing an entire week of March for a short and much-needed vacation to the Dominican Republic.

I’ve had a couple of close calls on full-time jobs over the past few months, but close doesn’t pay the bills. I especially thought I had a job I interviewed for in February, but my hopes were dashed in March. It was the best I’ve felt about a potential position since being laid off in October 2008, but it didn’t happen.

Still, all things considered, the situation could be a lot worse. I really enjoy the work I’m doing, and wish I could carve out some more opportunities. And I’d be lying through my teeth if I tried to say I don’t love working from home. Still, it would make me feel a lot better to contribute more into the pot.

In closing, let me switch gears altogether and say that the tradition of keeping wedding cake in the freezer to share on your first anniversary is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever experienced. The blob of fondant in the picture hogged up much-needed freezer space for a year and, while it didn’t taste anywhere near as rancid as I expected it to, it still lost a great deal of its flavor. Good riddance to the cake, and welcome to the newly opened freezer space.

So, this is where I am, one year and one day in, and counting. Things are great, but they would be even better if this job situation would resolve itself one way or the other. Unemployment or partial employment aside, I’d do it all over again.

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Unemployment Nine: Meh

Meh. That just about sums up my mood these days.

MEH

I had a really great, really long job interview in early February, which followed a really great, really long phone interview. My potential boss and I seemed to hit it off very well, both professionally and personally, and I was actually called in to interview before the position had even been listed, as I had previously applied for a different position with the company.

While I was told that the job would have to be listed, due to company policy, this was the strongest I’d felt after an interview in my nearly two-and-a-half years of unemployment. The subject matter covered by the magazine and website isn’t something I’m particularly interested in, but it’s far from boring, and if I could draw up a list of job duties I’d like to be tasked with, it would be a perfect match with this position. I really left the office feeling good.

Well, I’m not feeling too good anymore. One of the things that was stressed during both the phone and in-person interviews was that they really wanted someone to start sometime in March, as the person vacating the position was leaving April 1, and they wanted some overlap for training purposes. And yet, on the day between the Ides of March and St. Patrick’s Day, I have not heard a peep.

I’ve always believed that while I’m a candidate for a job, the best policy is to split the middle between showing no interest at all and acting like the kid in the back of the car who yells “Are we there yet?” every five minutes. I sent a thank-you e-mail the day after my interview. I followed that up with another e-mail at the end of February, as I was actually asked to do, and never got a response. I sent one more e-mail this past Friday, written in a polite and professional manner, trying to determine my status (or lack thereof), and I still haven’t gotten any response whatsoever.

Truthfully, I’m stunned. Anyone who walks out of any interview thinking that they have the job is foolhardy, but I thought I made enough of an impression where even if someone else was selected, I’d be told about it. Neither the phone interview nor the in-person one was a run-of-the-mill interview, and I don’t see myself as a run-of-the-mill candidate.

I realize there’s still a chance that my candidacy isn’t dead, and any number of events could have changed plans at the company, but I’m not hopeful, and I would really like to know one way or the other.

Categories: business, life, venting | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Unemployment Nine: It’s 6 a.m. … I must be lonely

The Awl, a New York-based Web site with the motto, “Be Less Stupid,” published a brilliant blog entry by Josh Duboff, The Night Blogger Blogs Alone. I’m going to quote from it, but I definitely recommend reading the entire piece.

6 a.m. gets earlier and earlier ...

Duboff talks about how lonely you feel and how little human contact you enjoy while blogging. I’ve never had a night blogging job, but even working from home during the day, many of the observations he made hold true for myself, as well. And, starting Monday, I will be taking on a new assignment for my existing blogging job, which will involve being bright-eyed and bushy-tailed while sitting at my PC at 6 a.m. every weekday. While 6 a.m. may not be as lonely as the middle of the night, I doubt I’ll have any company. Not only will none of my friends be online, but even the cats will be asleep.

He writes about going hours without actually speaking out loud, which isn’t a problem for me with three cats either trying to kill each other or objects in the apartment. Duboff added:

As is so often the case, this blogging took place at the desk mere feet from my bed, meaning that as I would blog the night away — fueled primarily by almonds and Diet Coke — the end of the tunnel was always an arm’s length away. The modern isolation of your standard blogging job — the lack of non-virtual people around, the relentless Internet tunneling, the lack of sunshine or regular movement — was multiplied by the lack of even having digitally present coworkers, the darkness outside, the silence.

Substitute Snackwells for almonds and iced coffee from Dunkin Donuts for Diet Coke, and this is a very familiar feeling. Before Facebook and Twitter became mainstream, I always used email from friends as a way to take quick sanity breaks between stories, often leading to snarky responses like, “Do you EVER work?” when, in fact, I was utterly swamped.

During my normal work day, I constantly take breaks to read personal e-mail and check in on what’s happening on Facebook and Twitter. As I said in a blog I posted earlier today, anyone who claims that they don’t do this is full of it. The only way anyone can be 100% focused on work and nothing but work for several consecutive hours is if it’s fueled by the adrenalin of a crucial deadline, or a large sum of money at stake, and even then, sanity breaks help.

But for people who work at night, or, in my case, for people who will be starting before the sun rises, the e-mails, status updates and Tweets are few and far between. And for me personally, one of my favorite diversions will pretty much be rendered useless, as no one will be making any Facebook Scrabble moves at that hour of the day. More from Duboff:

Now that I’m working during the daytime hours again, I feel like I have returned to the land of the living — back in the sea of hyper-stressed, closed-off New Yorkers. While I’m generally happy about this, I have to admit there are certain mornings where I catch myself feeling sort of wistful when the alarm goes off at 7:30 a.m., and feeling sort of ordinary on the subway at 8:25 a.m. I miss the Starbucks barista, Kevin, who would hand me my drink at 6 p.m. every night with the resigned look I imagine he reserved for people who order venti iced coffees past sunset.

I had a freelance job from May-September that required my presence in the office during work hours, dressing like a human being, commuting and all that stuff. I felt a lot of the same things Duboff did, although I’d have to replace Kevin, the Starbucks barista, with Punjab, the Dunkin Donuts clerk. At this particular job, one of the things I missed most was reliable Internet access: Both my PCand the Web connection were horrible, which made me miss the comforts of home that much more.

As I said in my post earlier today, there are plusses and minuses about working from home and, if this relates to you in any way, read Duboff’s post. You won’t be sorry.

Categories: business, cats, life, technology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Unemployment Nine: Interesting survey from SABEW

While hunting for subject matter for the blog I actually get paid to write, I found a story on the results of a survey by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. I didn’t participate in this research, but I might as well have, as the results really hit close to home.

According to the SABEW survey, freelance journalists earn an average of $25,000-$30,000 per year. Sadly, that’s dead-on accurate for me right now. Two out of every five were laid off, like yours truly. Three out of four respondents said they make less money than they did when they worked full-time, with one out of five reporting a difference of more than 50%. Yeah, that sounds familiar.

However, some of the results were completely different from my situation. The most glaring example: Two-thirds of respondents said they wouldn’t go back to a full-time news job. My desire to find a full-time position has not wavered one inch since the day I walked out of my old office. I would start tomorrow if I could.

Freelancing isn’t all bad. I love working from home. I love working in a T-shirt and shorts in warmer weather, or in a sweatshirt and sweatpants when the temperature drops. I love taking the laptop out on the balcony when the weather permits. I love the fact that I have the flexibility to run errands, schedule appointments, and take care of things that full-time employees could never find time for during the work week.

As for things I don’t miss, I certainly don’t miss trying to look busy during periods that aren’t busy. Let’s be honest: Unless it’s crunch time on a vital deadline, no one works 100% of the time. Anyone who tells you they don’t use the Internet connection at work for personal matters is completely and thoroughly full of horse crap.

I don’t miss commuting one bit. Commuting sucks no matter what your destination is, but when you’re forced to navigate a tourist-laden landmark like Grand Central Terminal, it’s much worse. I certainly don’t miss the once or twice every winter when I caught a cold that would slay the Greek gods from someone on the PATH train who sneezed or coughed on me without bothering to cover their mouth.

Six of the 67 respondents to the SABEW survey said they were earning more than $100,000 annually by freelancing. God bless them. If I could pull in that kind of cash, maybe I’d join the two-thirds who say they wouldn’t return to a full-time job. But at $25,000-$30,000? Um, yeah, full-time it is — if I can ever get anyone to actually hire me, that is.

Categories: business, life | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Unemployment Nine: I suppose it could be worse … I could have interviewed with Google

I may have had an interesting experience or two in my two years-plus of being unemployed, but at least I’ve never been mocked during an interview, even on those when I knew in minutes that I had no chance of landing the job. I suppose I should be thankful that I never interviewed with Google.

Google douchebaggery

In my travels around the Web this morning, I found the story of Alyson Shontell on Silicon Alley Insider. Shontell, a recent grad of Syracuse University, had quite the unpleasant experience during her phone interviews with the search-engine giant.

I wholeheartedly recommend clicking on the link and reading the entire story, but this was the part that struck me the most.

She was asked to estimate how much money Google makes every day from Gmail adds. This would seem like a reasonable question, except that she was asked to guess without a single bit of data. I realize employers want people who can think quickly, but they might as well have asked her how many Doritos were in a bag in someone’s apartment in Weehawken. How the hell was she supposed to answer this? If it were something she was given time to research, that would make sense, but the way the question was posed, I don’t see any result except embarrassment.

Speaking of embarrassment, here’s how her second and final phone interview ended, in her words:

“Estimate the number of students who are college seniors, attend four-year schools, and graduate with a job in the United States every year.” This time I remained poised.

“There are about 300 million people in the nation” I began. “Let’s say 10 million of those are college students at four-year schools. Only one-quarter of those 10 million are seniors, so that would be roughly 2-3 million. If half of those students graduate with jobs, you’re looking at about 1.5 million kids.”

“Would you say that number seems high, low, or just about right?”

“I would say it sounds low, but maybe that’s because I’m going through the job-search process and I’m wishing the number was higher.”

I didn’t even get a sympathetic laugh. “That’s all. Good luck with your job search.” The phone clicked — I was stunned. The abrupt sign-off was a clear indication that I wouldn’t be considered for round two. Interviewing can be demoralizing, and that’s just how I felt as I sat with my cell in my hand, vowing to switch to Yahoo for life.

As I’ve mentioned many times in this blog, I know companies looking to hire can pick and choose and wait for the ideal candidate, with so much competition out there, but is it really necessary to belittle applicants who don’t make the cut?

Categories: business, life, technology | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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