Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Don: I’m Gonna Make You An Offer You Can’t Refuse

The Godfather was on TV this weekend. How have I missed this classic until now?

The irony? It played like my job search. As I watched characters make requests to Don Corleone on his daughter's wedding day, I felt like one of those poor unsuspecting supplicants. Or, worse yet, the object of Godfather's coercive offers.

Case in point: a phone call in response to my résumé. A phone call guaranteed to put your average job seeker on edge, wondering when the dreaded bloody horse-head-on-the-bed is going to appear.

It started with a call to schedule an in-person interview.

Yes, sweet success! Somebody actually thinks I'm qualified to do an important job at a reputable company for an impressive salary.

Well, hold on. Not so fast.

I guess it's an important job. They really didn't say.

I guess it's a reputable company. They really didn't say.

I guess it's an impressive salary. They really didn't say.

This drama unfolded with a blind newspaper ad. You know the kind: "Local company seeks . . ." No company name. No company description. No industry listed. Very few details in the job description. No address—just a PO box.


That's all I got from the call. The administrative assistant is named Holly. No, I don't know her last name. No, I'm not sure she's actually the administrative assistant.

Not much info you say?

This is all the solid info I gathered. Everything after Holly's name was vague. All details dried up from that point forward.

Caller: "Hi Ariel, I'm Holly. We received your résumé. I'm calling to schedule an interview with our CEO."

Me: "That sounds great. Which company you are with?"

Holly (hesitantly): "Um, we're a healthcare company. You responded to our newspaper ad."

Nope, doesn't ring a bell. I respond to lots of blind ads.

Alright, maybe I've not yet met my daily caffeine-intake quota for the day. I'm usually more attentive than this. Did she actually say the company name? No, I don't think so.

Me (trying again): "What is your company's name?"

Holly (lowers her voice to a near whisper as if afraid to be overheard): "Uh, it's XYZ Health Partners."

Hmmm . . . I've been in healthcare nearly 13 years, and I've never heard of these guys.

OK, there you have it—the informative part of the conversation. From there it just got weirder.

Holly couldn't talk about the position.

She didn't know the salary.

All she could say was I needed to meet "Don", the CEO, two days hence in a location three hours from my house. Don's phone number was an Alabama area code even though the company was supposedly in Georgia.

A cell phone maybe? They run the business with cell phones? Not usual, but probably not unheard of either.

Hmmm . . .why did she seem afraid to reveal the company name? Even when searches are posted confidentially it's common practice for reputable companies to disclose the company when arranging the interview.

How does one prepare for an interview with nothing to go on?

A quick Google search reveals no XYZ Health Partners at the listed address or any other information. Further investigation shows the location given to me as in a strip of store-front office buildings—with the indicated suite currently being unoccupied. Something is definitely off with this one. I'm also cautious about the abundance of job search scams that seem to lurk around every job board these days. But I'll reserve judgment until I speak with the mysterious Don.

I call the number. Here's how that went down:

Telephone Answering Person at XYZ Healthcare (Receptionist? Holly?): "Hello?"

What's up with that? A business number where they answer with "hello"? Where's the "XYZ Health Partners. How may I help you?" part of the greeting?

My imagination starting to run wild, I wonder: Is it safe to travel to this interview? Will I be coerced into the Family? Will I owe Don a favor if he hires me?

Don? This guy's name is actually Don?

I cannot seem to stop myself from thinking of him as "Godfather Don" at this point.

Holly promises to have Don call me later today.
Again I wonder how to prepare for this interview. How should I start my introduction? Perhaps I should take inspiration from Luca Brasi? Something like, "Don Corleone, I am honored and grateful that you have invited me to your deserted strip mall office suite on the hiring day for your HR position. May all your ventures by profitable ones."

Hearing nothing from Godfather Don by nearly 5 PM the next day, I call his office again.

If they want me for an interview tomorrow, don't they have to tell me when and where they want to meet me? And will I need back-up? To be safe, I should probably take somebody with me. But, wait, everybody I know has a job. Well, except for my mother. (Yeah, that should strike cold fear in the Don's heart: me showing up with a little old lady in tennis shoes.)

Feeling more and more uneasy, I make some calls. People in the industry actually do know "the Don". The consensus: "he's different" but "probably" not dangerous.

This time, Holly explains she can't transfer me and asks me to call Don's cell phone. Several rings later, the infamous Don answers.

Don (sounding annoyed): "Look, I don't have much time. Holly says you have questions. I'll answer some, but can't tell you much because your last job was with our competitor."

Ah, well, now maybe that explains some of the weirdness.

But wait, that competitor RIF-ed my job. Why would I rush to them with Don's corporate secrets?

Nevertheless, I listen carefully as Don's explains the job.

I don't know why they called me for this one. It's not even remotely similar to the job posting. I don't remotely have the skills for this job. Eventually, Don figures it out, too.

"I don't think this sounds like a fit," Don tells me with finality.

With my head still spinning, I wonder what happened and how my hopes for an interview evaporated this quickly. Well, at least, we got to the answer without delay. See, I'm a bit like ol' Don Corleone myself—I am one who "insists on hearing bad news immediately."

The good news is, I'm not "sleeping with the fishes". No horse heads under my sheets this morning either. I'm relieved there was no offer that I couldn't refuse. As I push thoughts of "Godfather Don" from my mind, I focus again on my job search.

These mysterious jobs at mysterious companies with mysterious people are becoming the rule rather than the exception. Actually, I think I'm getting the hang of them. No time to dwell on this one. There are other mysterious job postings at other mysterious companies with yet more mysterious people for which I must submit my résumé.

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Just for Fun: Watch The Godfather Movie Trailer:

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And for More Fun: Check Out:





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Photo Credits:

Don Corleone and Cat: <div xmlns:cc="http://creativecommons.org/ns#" about="http://www.flickr.com/photos/beatles/3429398512/"><a rel="cc:attributionURL" href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/beatles/">http://www.flickr.com/photos/beatles/</a> / <a rel="license" href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">CC BY-SA 2.0</a></div>

An Offer He Can't Refuse: <div xmlns:cc="http://creativecommons.org/ns#" about="http://www.flickr.com/photos/beatles/3429441886/in/set-72157616496731255/"><a rel="cc:attributionURL" href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/beatles/">http://www.flickr.com/photos/beatles/</a> / <a rel="license" href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">CC BY-SA 2.0</a></div>



Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Life on the Dole: Options A Through Z

Plan A:
Be hired for a full-time human resources executive job with a great salary and fabulous benefits, including health insurance.

(Well, duh!)

Plan B:
Consider a wide range of full-time job options that come with health insurance and a modest salary.

(Long as it’s legal, moral, and ethical and doesn’t involve a chicken costume, that is.)

Plan C:
Apply for work at the Department of Labor.

(Didn’t the unemployment office’s “She-beast” threaten to quit?)

Plan D:
Take on two or more part-time/contract/temp jobs—any field, any hours, any title, any pay, any location.

(The plan known in some circles as “delivering pizza in the evening for Domino’s while working half days as a Starbucks barista.” And, um, what about health insurance?)

Plan E:
Start my own business as a _____________________.

(Insert dream career here as soon as I figure it out. Wasn’t  human resources supposed to be my dream career?)

Plan F:
Go back to graduate school to earn a second master’s degree.

(Yeah, great plan; my first master’s degree is making me so desirable in the job market that a second degree should make me twice as desirable. Um, wait, two times nothing: still nothing.)

Plan G:
Go to beauty school.

(Hey, does that come with free haircuts?)

Plan H:
Sell the family heirlooms.

(Hmmm . . . so far I’ve inherited lace doilies from one grandmother and frilly aprons from the other. Anybody know what these valuables are fetching on the open market?)
Plan I:
(Are scholarships/ student loans/health insurance hidden somewhere inside that teeny-weeny car?)

Plan J:
Become a contestant on the TV show Survivor.
(All the things I love: Communing with nature. Eating fresh, raw, natural food. Losing a lot of weight in just a few weeks. Comes with shot at $1 million.)

Plan K:
Get chosen for The Amazing Race TV program.

(Cheap vacation; exotic locales; yet another shot at a cool $1 million. Bummer, have to share the big check with a teammate.)

Plan L:
Become a Big Brother house guest and live with TV cameras 24/7.

(Hey, a chance for free room and board. As long as I could get past conniving house mates stealing my toothbrush and blabbing my secrets.)

Plan M:

(I’m sure America will be entranced by my riveting impersonation of a HR manager. Has the line “You’re fired” been done yet?)

Plan N:
Get my own reality show.

(How about “Survivor: 101 Ways to Survive Without a Paycheck” or “The Real Unemployed”? I hear Emmy calling. Hope she’s bringing food.)

Plan O:
Win the lottery and never work again.

(Could somebody please lend me a dollar so I can do that?)

Plan P:
Enter the world of busking (street performing).

(Can I really stay quiet long enough to mime? Can I master the art of being a robot? Pretty sure people would pay me NOT to dance.)

Plan Q:
Make and sell unique handcrafted items.

(Genius idea! In this economy, crocheted pot holders or purses woven from soda cans will sell as fast as soybean hotcakes.)

Plan R:
Sell my hair.

(Since I have an abundant natural resource.)

Plan S:
Become a pork chop hijacker on the streets of Atlanta

(We at least know that job pays well.)

Plan T:
Stand on a street with cardboard sign: “Will consult for food.”

(Will someone offer me a burger or throw coins in my hat to see me perform instant HR on demand? Or, will people say to their friends, “Don’t give her any money. She won’t buy food; she’ll just blow it getting a caffeine fix.”)

Plan U:
Dress in a chicken suit and stand on a corner flapping my arms to advertise a restaurant.

(Bleck, darn feathers keep getting in my mouth!)

Plan V:
Explore a new career, Option One: Apply for a job at Tootie’s Poop Patrol.

(If 19 years in the business world doesn’t qualify me to shovel poo I don’t know what would.)

Plan W:
Explore a new career, Option Two: Here’s one I saw recently: “San Francisco: Nitpicker wanted. Looking for someone based in San Francisco to remove lice and eggs from people infected with lice. Qualified candidates should have valid driver’s license, great close-up eyesight, feel comfortable going into people’s homes, be personable, good with children, and extremely detailed oriented. Squeamish people need not apply. A good sense of humor a plus! . . . We will train qualified applicants . . . Candidates who apply out of sheer desperation will be strongly considered.”
(I especially like that last line.)
Well, I’m coming up dry. That’s all I can think of. But, not being one to leave any option unturned, I called my Mom. She’s usually an out-of-the-box thinker, and she does not disappoint me this time. Here’s what I got from her: 
Plan X:
Mom says, “Marry an alien.”
(Honestly, that woman NEVER misses a chance to campaign for grandchildren. Um, does she mean “alien” as in a person with no green card or does she mean “alien” as in a little green person? But . . . has she not seen a single episode of “V”?)

Plan Y:
Mom says, “Marry a 112-year old rich geezer.”

(Are we picking up on a theme here? Uh, Mom, about those potential grandchildren . . .)

Plan Z:
Mom says, “You can move in with us.”

(Nooooooooo. I’m not THAT out of options! Now, where DID I put my application for that nitpicker job?)

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But Seriously. . .Wondering About Your Own Options? Check Out What Color Is Your Parachute? 2010: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers by Richard N. Bolles
Author Richard N. Bolles has been the voice of solid career advice for 30+ years. Updated annually with job search advice current for today's job market, What Color Is Your Parachute? 2010: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers has sold more than 10 million copies and has been translated into 20 languages. Not only does Bolles offer solid job search tips in today’s difficult economic times but also tips for discovering your life’s passion. Readers will come away with solid job search skills and additional career options.

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Photo Credits:
Wedding: Sherry Main from USA
Jobless Not Hopeless T-shirt:

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Does Life on the Dole Make Me Look Fat?

It has now been seven months since I lost my job. Yep, seven long, comfy, cozy months in stretchy-waist sweat pants—the ones Dad disparagingly refers to as "no-class pants".

Gym membership and access to a treadmill at work: Gone.

Entertainment (hiking trips, swimming): Gone.

Daily restaurant lunches of slimming salad and/or lean meat: Gone.

Expensive home dinners (lean meat: steak, shrimp, chicken—on sale or not—and fresh veggies—some organic): Gone.

Name-brand diet cola and fancy bottled water: Gone.

In those pre-dole days I could tell instantly by the snugness of the fitted waistband on my dress slacks or by the ease of fastening buttons on my suit jacket if I had gained even a pound. Stretchy "no-class" sweat pants are much less telling.

The reality is, life on the dole can ambush a healthy lifestyle. My new fitness "regimen" is quite different:

Entertainment: Sedentary stuff such as TV, computer and books.

Beverages: Store-brand diet cola and tap water.

Clothing: Those stretchy-waist sweat pants that don't pinch until you gain the equivalent bulk of the Matterhorn.

Food: Whatever is on sale and within my food budget (I spend 10% of income for food while the USDA recommends spending 30% of income for food.)

Truth is, the cheapest food is starchy and full of carbohydrates: rice, potatoes, beans, bread, pasta. (Ever wonder why poor people are frequently overweight?) I haven't yet resorted to ramen noodle-based concoctions like another on-the-dole American blogger.

You have to wonder then, does life on the dole make people fat?

With trepidation, I step on the bathroom scales.

Seven pounds lost.

What? Wait? LOST?

Obviously an erroneous reading

I step off the scales and then back on again. Yep, lost.

To make sure I'm not imagining it, I take out a few business suits from my professional life. My favorite green jacket fits—ironically better than it did last fall. The brown pants? They fit, too. Daring to hope, I try on my rarely used interview suit (mostly phone interviews these days). Yes, it fits, my heart sings.

Seven pounds lost! How is this possible?

Why haven't I packed on pounds while on the dole? Some of my unemployed friends definitely have. Maybe it's because life on the dole requires creativity. When you are worried about bills and missing paychecks, it's hard to get creative. The other problem with creativity is it takes time—and that I have in abundance.

Exercise still matters. Therefore, in place of that pricey gym membership, I walk in my neighborhood. 

Mid-morning walks in the cool air take longer but are way more entertaining than a treadmill. I hear birds singing. I spy dogs, cats, snakes, turtles, brown thrashers, blue birds and cardinals along the way. A Swainson's Hawk (rare in this locale) lives in my neighborhood. I rarely saw these creatures while I was away at work. (And, as a bonus, those occasional snake sightings elevate my heart rate quicker than any speeding treadmill could.)

Rainy days find me indoors doing yoga, strength training or cardio with private trainers—free because the local library offers a wide selection of workout videos. Denise Austin and Jillian Michaels are my new personal fitness gurus. Even in my former employed life I could not have afforded these superstars.

These days, I cook real food. I've always loved from-scratch cooking, but never had time to do much of it. I especially enjoy meals made with natural whole food ingredients (and, no, I don't mean from the Whole Foods grocery store—I mean actual, real whole foods). In other words, slow food.

I have time to watch TV shows such as Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. I read nutrition blogs. I care about healthy ingredients. I learn about the Slow Food movement, community-supported agriculture (CSAs) and local foods. I have time to visit nearby farmers' markets that are open only during hours I used to be at work.

I'm eating well. I'm exercising.

The irony: Life on the dole is making me healthier and slimmer. Scales don't lie (even if I sometimes wish they did). I actually feel better than I have in years.

No, life on the dole is not making me fat. Those stretchy, roomy sweat pants? I wear them for comfort, not for hiding fat. See, Dad, these pants are OK after all. Wearing them is not a fashion statement; it's only a comfy concession to life on the dole.
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Just For Fun: Check Out My Favorite Food & Nutrition Blogs:
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Want More: Check Out These Great Items:




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Photos Courtesy of:

Sumo Wrestler: http://bit.ly/bwQ016

Scales: http://www.flickr.com/photos/alancleaver/ / CC BY 2.0

Swainson's Hawk: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dobak/ / CC BY 2.0

Sweatpants: http://www.flickr.com/photos/simonk/ / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Fruits & Veggies: Pam Brophy / CC BY-SA 2.0