Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Thoughts on a New Year's Eve

I know I should be out partying on this New Year's Eve, but with a 4-year-old getting ready for bed and my wife at work, I'm home with the dog.

I had a job interview this morning, and it made me think of several aspects of the job hunt and the job I want to find. I'm not big on New Year's resolutions, but the interview left me thinking about resolutions for 2009 related to my job, whatever it turns out to be. One of the questions was about my management style, which I thought was a good question and one I'm happy to answer. And I think my answer tells a lot about what I want to do next in my career and what type of workplace I want to be in.

I last worked at a newspaper, so I described my management style in how I dealt with reporters, and encouraged the interview team to contact any of my former reporters for more information. My basic approach was to let them find the news, and to be proactive as their editor early in the reporting process so that together we answered any questions the typical reader might have well before the story got to me to edit. I was trying to prepare, and teach my staff to prepare, as early as possible for any roadblocks they might encounter in researching a story.

Another thing I tried to get my reporters to do was to have long-term stories, or goals, that they wanted to do each week. Being a reporter at a daily newspaper can be a grind, and writing short, news-of-the-day stories can numb the brain. I tried to have each reporter I was working with have at least one long-term project going that was thoughtful, analytical and would be a fun read. I wanted them to have a reason to come in to work every day with a sense that they would do some journalism that they set out to do early in their careers. I wanted them to see a long-term goal and reach it. I wanted this for their satisfaction much more than mine.

I could go on and on about how I managed my team of reporters, but the styles I used the most were to work with them early on in the work process so that problems wouldn't arise later, and to help them do some long-term stories they wanted to do. Part of both of those efforts required time. Time to get out and find what they really wanted to do, and time to report early and often. I tried to give them this time by having them either write fewer daily stories, or turn those stories into briefs so they could spend time on the big things.

Those management styles, if you want to call them styles, are what I'd like in my new workplace. To be able to spend time on quality, and have help dealing with the little things early enough so the job was done right. I realize that all work requires some mundane tasks that have to get done, and I'm willing to do those. But at the end of the day I want my work, and the work of others I'm spending eight hours a day with, to matter.

As we enter a new year, that's my small resolution: To find a job, a career, where I can make a difference. I know that's probably asking a lot, but that's what I have to offer -- the chance to make an impact. I know it will take a lot of work on my part to find that job, and I plan to find new and bolder methods.

Have a happy new year's eve and come back in 2009 to "Unemployed Dad" for more unemployment adventures. It's going to get interesting.

This tale was brought to you by

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My Year in Review

My year in review:
June 26, 2008: Fully employed.
June 27, 2008: Unemployed.

Those are the highlights and lowlights of the year. There were birthdays, an anniversary, holidays, laughs, discoveries and many other things thrown in throughout, but those are the dates I'll remember most about 2008.

In an effort to remain optimistic, I bought an appointment book for 2009 that I plan to carry with me often and keep filled with things to do as I continue the job search in the new year. I'm not into making New Year resolutions, but the main one I have is to find full-time work and if not that, then continue doing everything I can and exploring every avenue in finding a new career. I hope you find what you want in 2009 and continue coming to Unemployed Dad for tips on finding the job you want.

Some of my posts will be moving to, such as this one on getting employers to call you back for an interview, which I've covered here before, but I'll always provide a link here to get to it easily. AOL is paying me for these, so that's where they're headed. Some will have the title "The Job Hunt" so they should be easy to find. Or just bookmark my entries, where I'll have plenty of job hunting posts. I'm looking forward to doing more work for them next year and getting more exposure for the blog and thus a job.

If you do nothing else on the final day of 2008, vow to make a change that will help you find a job, whether you're employed now or not. Join a network, acquire new job skills, update your resume, take a class, volunteer, buy a new suit, get organized. Do something.

This tale was brought to you by

Return calls, now on AOL

I've written about not getting calls returned from employers in your job search, and I've expanded on it in this post I wrote today for this personal finance web site run by AOL. It's about how to get a callback for a job interview.
Along with getting paid by AOL, I'm trying to increase and improve my workload for them by writing about some of the issues in this blog, mainly being unemployed and looking for work. That's what this blog led to, I'm happy to report, so it's time to start writing more about those issues for that audience.

This tale was brought to you by

Monday, December 29, 2008

Ad whore

OK, I've become an ad whore. I've been a capitalist from the start, and with Google's AdSense program running like mad on this blog, I thought it was time to add some more ads to see if they can help an unemployed man get some cash.

I've tried to make them a little interesting. I read books (or at least I want to when not with the kid or writing for someone else for a few dimes), so the banner ad on top features books. The ad on the bottom and the "cloud" ad on the right side feature products based on what's written on this page. I expect a book about whores to be on sale here sometime soon. Go ahead, buy.

This tale was brought to you by

Texas job hunt

I live in California, where we have a home that would be difficult to sell in today's economy, and where most of my family lives. Today I'm putting in the mail a job application to be an information specialist in the governor's office in the great state of Texas. It would be quite a move, culturally and geographically, from California.

Luckily, my father-in-law lives in Texas, and that's the main reason we'd consider moving there. As long-time readers know, we went to Texas a few months ago to visit, and I came away with an appreciation for Texas and its still living economy.

Still, it's a little difficult to be applying for a job that I doubt I'll get because if I were in their shoes, I'd want to hire someone from Texas who knows the political ins and outs of the state. It's a longshot, but a longshot may be what I need now. Dec. 27 marked six months of unemployment, and it's time to move on.

This tale was brought to you by

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Another blog

This is one of the early photos I took of Emma, and one I'm most proud of. Not only is it adorable, which I'm bound by law to say as her father, but I like it as a black and white photo. I wish I had taken more black and white. This doesn't have much to do with my job search, but has a lot to do with the other aspect of this blog, which is how the job hunt affects my time with my daughter. Partly it has by allowing me more time with her, such as the time I took off over Christmas that I might not have had if fully employed.

A great gift I got for Christmas was the Flip Mino, a small camcorder that fits in your pocket and is about as big as a cellphone. After taking too many short videos of our excursions after Christmas, I decided to bore her relatives with them by putting them on the Internet. I've now created Digital Emma, a blog linked to this one where it is mostly videos, along with a few photos and even fewer words, of Emma. I don't plan to devote much time to it, less than 20 minutes a day, as a way for her grandparents and other relatives, to see how she's growing up.

Now, back to work. I wrote two blog posts for, one which I think is interesting to job applicants everywhere. It's about a short, two-page application for the federal bank bailout, and the five-page job application for a barista in Portland. Look for it online by 8 a.m. Monday at WalletPop, an AOL personal finance Web site I write for.

And with the help of a webmaster I met through this blog, I've added a tagline below to help readers get back to the blog if they only get to this post.

This was brought to you by

Friday, December 26, 2008

Princess time

A princess for the princess. Ha! Video done with a Flip Video, which I recommend as a fun gift. It was a fun Christmas and the joy of job hunting will continue in a few days.

Ice skating

The Christmas break continues with ice skating in downtown Walnut Creek.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas! I got a Flip Mino from my lovely wife for Christmas today. Here's the first video. More to come. Enjoy.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Closing the deal

Closing the deal is something I've tried to do after an interview. I've asked questions to see what they think of my qualifications and if any red flags go up in considering me for the job. At the very least, I try to find out what their next step is in hiring and when a decision will be made and when I can expect to be contacted next.

I rarely respond to reader comments, but the one for the post below "Is Santa hiring?" deserves a post because it is so well thought out and helpful. They're tips I plan to use in my next interview.

Here's an excerpt from the comment: "Once the interview is complete, ask them "trial close" questions like, "Based on this interview, do you think I am a good candidate for the role", or "What is the next step for us to move forward in the process", or "Do you see any strengths that would make me suited for the job, do you have any red flags" or even "Are you interested in hiring me". Never leave an interview without knowing exactly where you stand, the waiting and uncertainty will hurt more than a no. Whenever I interviewed, and I didn't prefer a candidate I would say "We are reviewing other candidates", but if they pushed me for a no I would provide one. Why waste anyone's time. People respect candor."

I've asked a few of these, or variations of them, and will continue with trying to close the deal. One of the last things you want an employer to do is forget you, so I also send out thank-you notes and either call or write a week or so later for an update on the hiring process. If you have tips for how you closed a job interview that was successful, please send add a comment below.

To get away from job hunting at Christmas, I promise that any posts on Thursday, Christmas Day, will only be about the joy of Christmas and may include some photos of my 4-year-old daughter opening presents. So it might be a little too sweet for anyone who isn't a relative. I wish you all a Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Is Santa hiring?

Santa Claus will be here soon. I hope he brings me a job. I hoped to hear back from a potential employer last week, and was told a hiring decision was expected by Christmas week. Everytime I wait and wait for a call, it means they've decided to hire someone else. I'm trying to keep my hopes up with the response that they're obviously busy with the holidays and that I'll get a call next week after Christmas.

I sent another potential employer a Christmas card today, reminding him that I'm still very interested in the job and hope we can meet soon for a second interview. I also have another job interview next week, so at least I'm talking with with people who can hire me.

One of my goals is to get multiple job offers, having employers competing for my services and allowing me to pick the best job. Although that doesn't mean I'd pick the best job based on pay. There are many other factors that rate higher.

So with this week of job hunting essentially lost to Christmas, and next week to New Year's, I don't expect too much to happen. I'm trying to enjoy the holiday and the time off, but as always, the voice nagging in the back of my mind to find full-time work soon is there.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Leave the driving to them

As far as commutes go, I've been spoiled my entire working life. Except for two years when I drove 20 miles to Antioch, from home to office I've driven five to 10 minutes each way since my first job out of college. I get home while many others are still driving or taking public transportation. I'm sure it has relieved a lot of stress in my life.

And I've said to myself many times while stuck in traffic for whatever reason, that I'd do everything I can to take public transportation if my job allowed it and was far from home.

Today, I made a decision I may come to regret as job prospects lessen, but for now I've decided to stick to my mantra of a short commute and turned down a job interview in Sacramento. Driving there, one-way, would take about 90 minutes for 75 miles, and about $5 in gas. The potential worksite isn't near public transportation, which would still be a haul, and three hours in a car each day is a lot of time.

I felt bad about declining the offer for a job interview. I think it would be a great job that would use all of my talents. I don't want to sound ungrateful for the chance, but lifestyle has to factor in, and losing three hours from my family each day is a lot to give up.

At some networking meetings I've been to, new members are asked how far they're willing to drive for work. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, and most say 30 minutes or less. For me, that leaves out San Jose and San Francisco, although San Francisco is easily accessible by BART. I'm willing to battle other commuters for a BART seat, but to battle over a highway lane is something I'd like to avoid unless I absolutely have to. At least on BART I can read or listen the radio. Or get something done, like work.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Finding a meaningful career

One thing I was told again and again by friends and people I'd run into when discussing being laid off, at least in the early days of my layoff, was that things happen for a reason and that the best will come of this. I agree with fatalism to a certain point, but I also think we each make our own path based on the decisions we make. I was laid off almost six months ago (June 27, making the day after the day after Christmas a six-month anniversary I don't want to celebrate) and while I can partially agree to the premise that all things happen for a reason, I'm still searching for the good behind losing my job. Maybe when I find one the clouds will clear and I'll know where I stand in the universe.

But until then, I continue looking for full-time work. And one good thing I can pull from this search is that it gives me a chance to explore careers I probably wouldn't have if I was still working at a newspaper. For example, as a newspaper reporter and editor, I could never take a stand on an issue, for fear that it would look like I had a bias on a story. I tried to keep my opinions to myself on politics and the like, and I didn't appear at community events such as a fund-raiser for a local politician I supported, because I worked at a newspaper and was to remain objective. I didn't mind because I loved my job so much.
Now I'm free to choose a career where I can have an opinion and if not actively advocate for a position, at least support it openly. For example, I want to work somewhere where I can not only make a difference, but can do work that will benefit the local community, if not the world. I want my writing, speaking and any other work I do in the job I'll eventually find to help benefit that cause. One arena could be in the "green" field, such as solar power or other energy fields, as I strongly believe that America should be rid of its foreign oil habit and be a leader in ending global warming.
As in journalism, I'd like to work somewhere that benefits people and serves a greater good. I enjoy informing people and helping them learn things, and helping them solve their problems. It may sound like an oxymoron, but I'd like to work in government for those reasons. I think government can help people achieve their best and provide services to make their lives better.
That's partly why I volunteered in the November election to help re-elect U.S. Congressman Jerry McNerney. He was a good candidate and someone with views that I could get behind. The writing and other work I did on that campaign gave me a lot of experience that I hope will lead to a job. It was a great learning experience that showed me I'm on the right path.
A few months ago someone from a career center at a community college reviewed my resume and was so impressed she said she couldn't think of much to change or add to the resume, just a few tweaks. She was amazed by my experience and was confident I would find a good job soon. I was doing everything she could think of to find work, such as networking, getting informational interviews, adding to my job skills and polishing my resume. I was a bit down because I had sent out many resumes and had interviews without any success. She pointed out that everything I'm doing is like a gardener planting seeds, and that all of the contacts and other things I've done in the job search would lead to some flowers growing and that I would have my pick of jobs.
I've planted plenty of seeds, and plan to plant more. I just want to see some start growing.
(NOTE: I've added multiple paragraph marks between paragaphs, and they aren't working. Any blogger experts, please advise.)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Even a hooker knows to collect first

What career did the telegraph writer go into when he got laid off? Did the horse and buggy driver take six months to find a job when his job was eliminated? Did typewriter repair shop owners polish their resumes on a typewriter when computers took over? Will the last auto worker in Detroit please close the door?

As an unemployed newspaper journalist, I can see how workers in dying professions, or at least massively changing professions, must have felt as their jobs ended. I expect newspapers will survive in some form, but as news content moves to the Internet, they're starting to learn how to get there before they die.

The Detroit newspapers recently made a smart decision, I think, that is at least an effort to keep from going under. They will publish three days a week and charge people to read their content on the Internet. Hooray! Finally, a newspaper is charging to read it online. I hope it's a success. At least a prostitute knows to get payment on top of the dresser before services are rendered. Instead of giving it away, the Detroit papers are asking for money upfront to read online. The Detroit Free Press online is $12 a month or free with a home subscription.

That move is too late to save my job at a California newspaper, but it gives me hope that newspapers will find a way to survive and be profitable.

I doubt if I'll work in newspapers again, although the news business is a career I love. I just now hope to either do it online or find another career equally exciting. Like autoworkers, who face a dying profession unless GM and Chrysler can get their act together, journalists are being laid off left and right to keep newspapers financially afloat. In the end, this may come back to haunt the newspapers, which rely on strong reporting and editing to produce a product readers will want. The cuts they've made may be so deep that readers will notice the little local news that makes it into the paper.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Unsuitable for children

A warning: Some of this post may not be suitable for children.

Fuckyoupenguin is now one of my favorite blogs to read. Not so much for what it's about or the content, (The subhead is: "A blog where I tell cute animals what's what") but because of the way it's written. Very funny. It even has a tipline: "Do you know an animal that needs a good talking to?"

I bring this up here because it has 1,394 followers and could be a potential goldmine. Call me a sellout, but I'm looking to try to make a little cash from this blog if possible, and try to do that by providing insight into the world of an unemployed dad and attract readers and thus advertisers. I have seven followers, who I'm all thankful for, and get a fair amount of page hits. But if I had 1,394 followers, I think I'd be getting mass advertising to get some cash money.
As I've noted in a few recent posts, I'm looking to expand this blog with more useful content and possibly start another blog on a yet-to-be-named subject in an attempt at bringing people to it. I've just got to figure out what my passion is and go from there. I enjoy writing, so I'm trying to determine how to work that in. One idea is a site devoted to storytelling. We'll see what develops.
In the meantime, read and find out why anyone would cuss out a prarie dog.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

What to do if you get laid off

As I sit bundled up in my living room on a cold night, I warm myself by the computer and write this blog entry for Miss Orinda, who made a request in the comment section of the post below to give an update on the seminar tonight on journalists looking for jobs after working at newspapers.

Interested readers would probably be best served by going to the One Big Bang web site or contacting Luther Jackson or Sara Steffens of the Newspaper Guild for details, but here's my quick rundown and a test of my short-term memory:

A panel of former Contra Costa Times journalists gave their tips on how to find a job after newspapers. All but one left well before the layoffs in the past year, and left on their terms. They stressed that journalists' skills are well regarded in the corporate world and are in demand. And that when inteviewing for a job, getting along well with the interviewer and showing real enthusiasm for the job are necessary. Job areas that should be considered include public relations, government, public companies, universities and freelance work.

There was also a handout at the meeting from the California Media Workers Guild. Contact the guild at for more information, but here are the basics of what to do if you get laid off:

1. Contact the Guild immediately to get help at the bargaining table and for technical assistance.

2. Don't sign anything immediately. Take time to read the severance package and get your questions answered.

3. File for unemployment. File online at Benefits in California are capped at $450 a week for 26 weeks with extended benefits available.

4. Attend a Rapid Response workshop. The company or the Guild will often arrange a formal meeting with local government officials to explain services available to the unemployed.

5. Begin networking and informational interviews. Join LinkedIn.

6. Visit a One-Stop Career Center.

7. Find support, including family and friends to deal with grief, depression and feelings of failure.

8. Create a routine and don't waste time getting started.

9. Know thyself and create a first-class resume and cover letter.

My additions would be to joing CPC Job Connections in Danville, a huge networking group; volunteer if you have time, which can lead to job leads; learn new skills as soon as you can, such as Internet skills.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Another unemployed dad

I've found my Internet equal, another unemployed dad with a 4-year-old at home: unemployeddad1. From reading his blog, it looks like he hasn't been laid off as long as I have, but deals with the same types of problems at home with his child underfoot. Best of all are the cartoons he draws and writes on the blog. Funny and full of meaning for other dads out of work, and anyone else too who wants a good laugh. His site doesn't have a bio or an e-mail address to contact him, although I did leave a comment on his latest cartoon and will see if he replies.

After a few reader comments on the issue, I'm going to start beefing up this blog a little more to help make it a resource for the unemployed and people who have been laid off recently. While I still plan to focus on unemployed dads and my place in that world, I want to try to give readers a little more help. While I haven't found a fulltime job yet, I hope that my endeavors and hard work are an encouragement to others to continue looking during this recession. So if you have ideas of what more you'd like to see me cover, please leave a comment or email me.

Wednesday looks to be a full day: A job interview in Sacramento, then back home and a career seminar for out-of-work journalists near my old place of work in Walnut Creek.

And speaking of my former employer, a daily newspaper, I'm now getting telephone calls from a collection agency, seeking $12 for a newspaper subscription that I never wanted to continue after I was laid off in June at the same newspaper. When I first started working there a daily subscription was free. Then they got cheap and decided against this employee benefit, forcing us to pay for something we could grab for free at work. The cost was half off, and I normally didn't come into work until late afternoon, so I ponied up the money so I could get the paper at home in the morning. Well, after I was laid off, I never really wanted to read the paper at home much anyway, so I didn't renew. But the papers keep coming, so now I'll call and cancel. Do they know that everything in the newspaper is free online? story on oil spill published

That's the place to go to read by San Francisco Bay oil spill story on Other Web sites or newspapers are welcome to pick up the free story, which was funded through "crowdfunding." The check to me is in the mail. Nice to have some freelance work published. Now on to my next story for, about the cost of installing solar power in your home.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Going global

I was thrilled to see a comment to the entry below, "Future of Newspapers" from a reader in the United Kingdom. He recommended this story about the fall of American newspapers. I have a story pitch on about the future of Bay Area newspapers, focusing on how they will deal with the Internet. Read the comment for yourself in the posting below. He advised blogging for a niche, which I'm doing here but plan to expand on in another blog somewhere down the road, hopefully soon.

At the newspaper guild meeting today in San Francisco where owner Tim White discussed how to make money from blogging. He had many great ideas, but the basic one was to find your niche and blog about it deeply. That's the issue I have to figure out over the next few weeks. I'd like to start another blog about something I feel passionate about, but my problem is that I don't think I'd want to blog about something I'm a fan of (such as Oakland A's) because it might take away from the fun of going to baseball games if I have to think of blogging about it all of the time. I'm interested in a lot of different things, and need to focus on one and blog on it in the hope that it will reach a large audience and thus get some ad clicks.

Sample topics I'm thinking about starting another blog include: chocolate, high thread count sheets, storytelling through journalism, Hawaii, favorite foods from around the country, and chocolate chip cookies. I must be hungry, I'm listing so much food.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Future of Newspapers

I'm doing another story pitch on, a community funded reporting web site. This story is on the future of newspapers in the Bay Area and how they will change their Internet presence in 2009 and how they plan to increase circulation and advertising.

My story on the Bay oil spill a year later should run next week, and I'm also working on a story about the costs of solar power.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Getting through Christmas

Christmas is less than two weeks away, and while I think I have the holiday spirit and truly enjoy Christmas, this year is obviously a bit of a downer. Not from the standpoint of having family and friends around, but from the "spend, spend, spend" mantra of Christmas in America.

I've done minimal shopping and I don't plan on doing much. Normally by this time I've bought many gifts online and have contributed to the economy. But without a job and with unemployment benefits to expire for me in less than two months, my mind isn't so much on the holiday as it is on finding a full-time job and being able to pay the bills. I'm still enjoying the Christmas season, but that nagging feeling is always in the back of my thoughts.

I can count on one hand the number of job interviews I've had since being laid off in June, and I'm optimistic that more will be coming. I hate looking at a calendar and seeing that with two weeks left in the year, it's unlikely I'll fulfill my goal of having a full-time job by then. I don't expect employers to be rushing to fill vacancies during Christmas week or soon thereafter.

For the first time since in a long time, I'll have the entire Christmas week, and the week after, off. My daughter will be off for all of that time too, and my wife will be off for a few days, so I'm looking to make the best of it and enjoy the time off.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Workshops approaching

The weekend is almost here (although I honestly sometimes forget what day of the week it is; part of the joy of not working) and I'm already looking forward to next week. I don't have any job interviews scheduled, but I'm attending a San Jose Newspaper Guild meeting on Monday in San Francisco where a speaker will show us how to make money from blogging.

I'm already making a little cash from it, but want much more money. Much more.

And on Wednesday, I'm going to a workshop by former newspaper workers called "Life After Newspapers" about how to get a job after working at a paper. It looks like it could be a precursor for layoffs at my former employer, but hopefully not. It will be good to hear more ideas, network and talk with former colleagues again. I'm doing all I can to find full-time work, and until then, these type of workshops keep me energized in my job hunt and thrilled to learn more on this unchartered course I'm in.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Employer gifts

Once again, I give thanks to United Reporting for being such a kind employer. One of the bosses there sent me a box of candy with a Christmas card, note and best of all, a $50 gas card at Arco. While that may not sound like a lot to Google employees or others, it's a lot to someone like me who has spent his entire career working at newspapers. I won't again go into the meager Christmas thanks I've received at newspapers for a year's labor, but it was rarely this good, and not even close in recent years.

Working for United Reporting was the first part-time job (now at 6) that I found after being laid off at the Contra Costa Times in June. I've said it here before and I expect to say it again, but UR has treated me well and gone above and beyond in letting me know they appreciate my work.

I wrote a blog for AOL's recently about gifts for the unemployed. Check it out if you want ideas for other things to give the jobless this holiday season. And take a look where yours truly ranks on WalletPop's bloggers.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Weekdays off

It's no fun looking for a fulltime job, and it's no fun having that job search in the back of your mind constantly, and it's certainly not fun without a steady income. But it is fun to be able to take a day, or at least part of a day in the middle of the week, to go do something fun and avoid the crowds.

Friday, Emma and I went to Martinez to check out the snow city workers created, and we did a little sledding. On Tuesday, the whole family jumped on BART and went to San Francisco to look at the Christmas sights. We took a trolley, a cable car and walked all around the city. Beyond the joy of visiting San Francisco, it was great to get out on a weekday afternoon and not have to fight the weekend crowds. It was a peek into what life must be like for the rich or retired, but not something I want to keep going for much longer without a regular job.

Updates on job interviews: I called an executive about a second interview, and await a callback. At another job I'm applying for, the interview for Friday was called off by the employer after a work emergency forced some delays, and they expect to call me in the next week or so to reschedule. Let's hope it happens before Christmas.

Monday, December 8, 2008

PowerPoint grad

Success at last! At least a little bit. As you can see from this beautiful Certificate of Completion, I have taken a PowerPoint 2007 class. I'm on my way to employment, I just know it.

All kidding aside, I took this class last week to improve my skills and help me in my job hunt. PowerPoint, I've come to learn from various job postings, is a skill very much in need in many of the jobs I'm applying for. And since I'm always seeking to better myself, either through volunteering, my part-time work or classes like this, I decided to make the $120 investment and take the PowerPoint class at a local adult school. It was a lot of fun and I hope to put a PowerPoint presentation together this week to e-mail to an agency I'm trying to win a contract from.

About half of the people taking the class with me were in it for the full 10 weeks, taking all of the Microsoft Suite classes that could lead to administrative assistant or similar jobs for them. Many of the people I met in the class were unemployed, like me, and said it was something they needed to either find a job or for the job they currently have.

Because of all of the classwork last week, looking for a job and doing my part-time jobs was difficult last week, but I think I'm back on track now and moving forward again. I plan to call the executive soon this week to see if an interview is forthcoming, and I have another job interview Friday. I'll post updates on those as they happen.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Return calls

I realize that often in life you have to move on when things don't go your way. But in a job hunt, it's difficult to move on and forget the job you've applied for with all your heart when you don't know what's happening with it.

For example, in the past few weeks I've had an interview and have sent my resume and other info to a few jobs that I thought I was well qualified for. I don't want to seem like a pest or desperate, but part of me wants to call the employers to try to find out what they think of my application and if the interview process can continue so I can get the job. In this rough job market, I want to go above and beyond other job candidates and stand out from a crowd. If it takes writing a sample press release or whatever, I'm up for it. But again, I don't want to seem pushy. I just want a job -- a fulltime job that I'll enjoy.

I know some companies go slow in their hiring. I had an interview two weeks ago at a public agency and while I made the initial cut, I'm waiting for the executive director to hopefully call me back for another interview. I'll give him a call soon, and hope to prove to him that I can do the job and am eager to start working. I've also applied for a few jobs that I think I'd be perfect for -- writing jobs and such -- and I'm trying to contact them to appeal for them to look at my resume and get moving forward on hiring me.

But the question remains: How soon is too soon to call and at what point are you a pain in the neck for asking how to get yourself to the front of the line?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The power of working for AOL

It's amazing what having a job, although a small one, with Internet giant AOL can do. Not only am I getting paid to write about personal finance at AOL's Web site, but my personal blog about looking for work in these troubled economic times is seeing a huge increase in page hits, etc. since I started writing for WalletPop on Nov. 11. And thus my money from Google's AdSense program is turning from a few cents into a few dollars.

For example, the number of "page impressions" on Nov. 10, the day before I started the AOL job, was 30 for this blog. The next day it jumped to 121. The highest has been 262 on Nov. 19. But more important are the number of "clicks," which I'm still trying to figure out what they mean to AdSense. But they reached a daily high of 13 on Nov. 30, equating to $12.81 for me on that one day. People are reading my blog, and it's starting to pay.

But possibly better than that is the fact that more people, and hopefully employers, are taking a look at what I'm doing. I've received some positive feedback from some readers lately, wishing me luck on the job search and some have shared their job hunt tales with me.

If you don't want to miss my musings on personal finance, bookmark my postings at WalletPop and keep up. And if you have story ideas on how the economy is affecting your spending, e-mail them to me.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Ho, ho, ho

Another month arrives, probably the favorite month of the year for a lot of people, and I'm trying all I can to look forward to it without a full-time job in hand. As I've written here before, it's difficult to relax and enjoy things when at the back of my mind is the constant dread of having to either look for work or at least do something to improve my chances of landing a job.

For example, today I started taking a week-long PowerPoint class. It's a skill that is often called upon in the business world. I also spent some time today doing a mock interview for a second interview that I hope will come for a job I recently applied for. Then after Emma went to bed about an hour ago, I'm applying for a job someone kindly forwarded to me on LinkedIn. Other than taking care of the kid, most of the day, from 8 a.m. to now, has been spent preparing for a job, interview and applying for yet another job. I realize there are plenty of seeds to be planted before I find a job, but it's getting tiresome.

And I don't want to waste time in December because I expect that within two weeks companies will basically shut down for the year as far as hiring goes. I can't imagine they get much done from the week of Christmas through the first week of the new year.

Friday, November 28, 2008


$1.64 is the ad income I'm waiting on from Google's AdSense program that runs on this blog. For the past 30 minutes or so I've been doing the multiple verifications that Google wants for my account before it will forward the money to my checking account.

Click thru on more ads to make this worth my time in the future, please. And if anyone has tips on AdSense and how to get it to work better and be more productive on this blog site, please let me know.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thankful for the little things

As one of my favorite holidays of the year approaches, (what could be better than gathering with friends and family and eating?) I try to remind myself of what I'm thankful for this Thanksgiving and how it relates to my job hunt:

I'm especially thankful for the family and friends who have encouraged me during my job hunt and who try to help in many ways.

I'm also thankful for the many part-time jobs I have and to the state unemployment department for keeping me off the streets by providing me some money in exchange for my hard work or my taxes. It seems like every day I add up how much I'm making, or about to make, from my part-time work, so that I'm sure I'm making progress. I've detailed these before, but here are the many jobs and/or projects I'm working on that are either bringing in a semi-regular paycheck or I hope will soon someday:

1. United Reporting. A great company that has treated me well as I collect police arrest logs for them.
2. AOL's personal finance site,, where I'm among a host of bloggers who write daily. I've said it before, but if you want to read my stuff that would have made it to this blog, at least some of it, then bookmark this:
It's a Web site I plan on writing more for, and a job for which I'm very grateful for because this blog led me to it.
3., a community funded reporting Web site where "crowdfunding" is used to raise money for serious journalism in the Bay Area. I have two story pitches there, one of which I plan on writing soon.
4. Writing, editing and designing city newsletters. With only one client so far, the work is sporadic but gives me hope for the future. This is work that I think will start to increase early next year as I push to plant more seeds for my consulting business.
5. Investigative work for a company that does background checks on executive hirings. Early next year I expect this job will start, where I'll go to courthouses and gather public documents on potential hires.
6., a Web site devoted to people 45 and older. It's an Internet startup in Mill Valley and so far I'm not making money at the blogging and few stories I do for the site, but I hope it will someday pay off well, as many people who work at startups look for.
7. The, a noncommercial news site for the Bay Area that is expected to go live with news in January. The site is already running, and for now mostly deals with the need for alternate media. I'm volunteering at this Internet startup as an editor, although I don't expect it to be a paying job anytime soon. For now I'm helping coordinate stories and I'm also blogging about the media.

Lots of work, although I'm trying to concentrate on the actions that pay and less on the ones that don't, because bills still have to be paid. I'm writing in four blogs, only one of which pays, so some of that writing may have to be cut back. All of that doesn't leave me much time to look for full-time work, which is my ultimate goal, so it may soon be time to rethink my strategies. My hope is that some of these part-time jobs and volunteer work will lead to full-time work somewhere down the road. This blog, a non-paid effort, led to a part-time gig for AOL, so at least that worked.

For all that, and all of you faithful readers, I'm thankful. Have a nice Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Why we work

Beyond paying the bills and keeping the electricity on, I'm always in search of a larger "why" in my job hunt. Why apply for this or that job? Why do I want to work full-time again? One answer is this video, which really doesn't have a purpose to it other than Emma dancing and repeating her preschool friend's name in it. Bear with it, it's a long 45 seconds, but the final shot of her sweet face is enough to keep me searching for full-time employment. It's why I can't think of taking a job outside of the country and leaving my family for awhile. It's why I wake up in the morning and try, try, try again to find a meaningful job that will be fulfilling and something I can enjoy and be proud of.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Success Team success

Finally, the Success Team I started a few months ago in Concord (since moved to Pleasant Hill) has succeeded by having one of its members leave the group and get a job. The Success Team is part of the CPC Job Connections networking group I've mentioned before.

I won't mention her name, but I hope she returns for a Monday morning meeting sometime soon to tell the group what worked best in landing the job. When she first joined the group, she wasn't sure which direction she wanted her career to go. She had a few paths to check into, and I'd like to think that our group helped her a little in figuring out which path to take.

That's one of the great things about this kind of group: You work hard together to help everyone in it find a new job. The upside is they leave the group because they've found a job. The downside is they leave. The goal is to get a member to leave the group.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Beer results

Look at the beer drinking poll on the right for the final results, but here's what actually happened at the end of the meeting: I went home without a drink. The meeting started late, lasted late, and I didn't reach BART until 10 p.m., which isn't incredibly late, but I still didn't make it home until 11 p.m. Again, not incredibly late, but late enough when you have a babysitter to relieve, a kid sleeping upstairs, and a wife on her way home from work. And I was fighting off a cold, which I'm still coughing from.

The meeting? Long discussions about stories in SF that I don't know if they'll get done. I plan on talking to the founder more on Thursday morning when I volunteer to see where I fit in.

At today, I wrote three entries: Spam (the meat), what Citigroup and other newly laid off workers should do when competing against their former colleagues for new jobs, and what most people will use their gift cards for this Christmas: Check them out, and many others by yours truly.
Bookmark this:

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Podcast resume

My job search now includes a podcast! I was at the CPC Job Connections weekly meeting on Saturday morning, where Ian Griffin of Executive Communications was giving a speech about how to do a podcast to aid in a job search. At the end he picked a name out of a hat to interview someone about their job skills, and my name was chosen.

Listen to the podcast here at his Web site. Or go to:

It was a lot of fun and why I someday see this as a way to promote myself, it seems like it would be a lot more useful as a way to get out the word about a hobby or something you want to tell the world about. Maybe I'll do some news or feature stories, AKA Studs Terkel, and put those on a podcast. While the learning curve doesn't look to steep, it does look like it will take some time and a small investment for software, equipment and a server.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Drink or go home

Tonight I'm going to an editorial planning meeting of The Public Press, an online source of noncommercial news for the Bay Area that I'm volunteering at. It's a nonprofit.

After all of the heavy discussion about content and the direction of the news site, the talk will eventually turn to going out for a drink. The offices are in San Francisco, and I've heard that some people are talking about going to North Beach afterward for some drinks. My dilemma: I have to take BART all the way back to Concord after the meeting ends around 9 p.m. or so, so my parents can be relieved of babysitting duties and go before midnight. My wife is working tonight, as she does most nights. Journalists, as you may have seen in a few movies, can drink. There are plenty of Facebook groups dedicated to them.

It's not the worst possible problem, I admit, but I am torn: Beer or home to family life. Vote now!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

2 days at

Some of my blog entries at a site owned by AOL that pays:

Items so far are: Price of chocolate, work for bald men, a $95 doll, and layoffs.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Blogging for pay

Exactly two months after I started this blog, it has led to a paid job blogging for an AOL web site about personal finance.

It's called and it's devoted to personal finance. I'll continue writing about my job hunt and how it affects my daughter, but I'll be expanding to layoffs, budgets and other areas of personal finance. My blog entries can be found here:

This blog, will continue, but the other will take precedence since it pays. It all adds up to another part-time job for me (five total now), but I continue looking for full-time work with benefits. And to think, just two months ago I was a blogger hoping this would lead to a job.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sick and still tired

It's tough enough taking care of a 4-year-old who has a constant stream of energy coming out of her, but having a cold makes it much, much worse. I got sick Sunday night and this afternoon and evening was difficult as I sneezed, downed vitamin C by the glassful, and tried to take a nap while the kid watched TV and ran around screaming. I couldn't find the pills fast enough.

But now she's asleep, and the job hunt continues. I learned tonight that a government agency wants to interview me for a communications job I applied for at least a month or two ago, so I'm preparing for that. (I'm getting superstitious and don't want to reveal the company name until hired.) I enjoy preparing for interviews, partly because I get to use a reporter's skills in researching, but also because it's a fun chance to learn something new about an organization I didn't know too much about before I applied for the job.

Today was also spent doing an interview for a story I'm pitching for, so all wasn't lost in the tea-filled haze I've been in. I will also have some good news to report on the blog, which I expect to have available for publication by the end of the week. Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Oil spill story pitch is going live Monday, Nov. 10 in an official launch, and I have a second pitch for a story about the Cosco Busan oil spill a year ago in the San Francisco Bay. If you've donated, thanks. If not, check it out and see what you think. And for people who have pledged to make a donation, please remember the final step of actually funding that donation with your credit card.

I have another story pitch about solar power if you're interested in that one. Both are stories I think are important and I plan to do many more for if these are successful.

The site, you may remember from previous blog entries, uses "crowdfunding" to raise money so journalists like me can report and write these stories. That type of funding was popular in President-elect Barack Obama's campaign, where he raised millions of dollars through small donations on the Internet. So far, is focusing on the Bay Area but the ultimate goal is to someday get it everywhere in the country.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Volunteering again

Only a few days after the election, and I'm already renewing my vow to volunteer as a way to help some groups out and to lead to a job. After successfully doing some writing for Congressman's Jerry McNerney's re-election campaing (which he won), I've committed to helping two groups out, both of which I've written about in the past week or so here.

One is, a Web site focusing on an often overlooked group on the Internet: 40 and older. I wrote a short story for it Thursday about testing for Alzheimer's Disease, and won't get paid for it. I plan to continue writing for it every once in awhile, partly to show that I can write for the Web, but also to hopefully lead to a paying, full-time or part-time job for the site someday. It's a for-profit Internet start-up, so the payoff may not be for a long while. I also hope to start blogging there and become an expert on aging issues.

Another place I'm volunteering is at, a site I've written about before. It's a nonprofit San Francisco Web site that aims to be a news source in the City and Bay Area, and I think is a strong option for the future of journalism. It won't run ads but will survive off grants and donations, much like public television. I'm already blogging there about journalism, as are other members of the group, but the main work I'll do is as an editor. It will likely be similar to the work I did as an assistant metro editor at the Contra Costa Times, and maybe more, so I won't be over my head. But one purpose of volunteering, at least for me, is to grow my skills, so I plan on learning, or trying to learn, how to manage a Web site there and see where that takes me.

That's one great thing about these two sites: Since they're online, I'm forced to learn some online skills that I didn't have in my print days of employment. Also, the Public-Press could end up being a paying, editorial job for me somewhere down the road if the project is successful. I met with the editor on Thursday, and I plan on volunteering at the San Francisco office for a half-day each week. The place is full of Spartans (San Jose State University), so it can't be too bad.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Ski bum, Part II

In response to a reader comment on today's Ski Bum entry, here is contact info for Job Fair. First 100 people get free movie tickets. I also included links to Bear Valley and Kirkwood in original post when those spots were listed at top of entry.

Good luck:
To find out more about open positions visit or
Job Fair -- Saturday Nov. 8, Empire Theater, starts at 11 a.m. and runs to 3 p.m.
Movie -- Friday Dec. 5, two shows: 7:15 p.m. and 9:15 p.m.
The Stockton Empire Theater is conveniently located in the heart of Stockton at 1825 Pacific Ave., Stockton, CA. (209) 943-7469

Ski bum

Here's a job fair that sounds fun, but I don't think will pay the mortgage: Bear Valley Mountain is hiring Saturday, Nov. 8 in Stockton for jobs at Kirkwood Mountain Resort for the upcoming ski season.

I can't ski too well, but it would be a fun job. One of my most memorable jobs, which paid minimum wage, was at Great America Amusement Park in Santa Clara when I was in college. I worked at two rides: the Sky Tower and the Merry-Go-Round, and had a blast while getting a tan. I didn't have a car so I had to catch a bus in Fremont, transfer to another bus, then walk a ways before getting to work early in the morning.

For young people without a house to pay for and no family, these are the types of jobs they'll never forget.

From the ski resort's job announcement: "Job seekers should attend with resumes and be ready to fill out applications and participate in interviews, as hiring managers will be making job offers on the spot! Both Kirkwood Mountain Resort and Bear Valley Mountain are looking to fill positions ranging from: administration and management, ski instructors, lift operators, food service, rental center technicians, childcare, parking lot attendants, lodging and much, much more."

And the perks? "Seasonal employees receive excellent perks, including housing assistance and free lift passes!" the company says.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The problem with freelancing

One problem I'm running into as a freelance journalist is identifying myself as such and being taken seriously by sources. Or getting callbacks.
As you may already know, I have a story pitch on, a Web site where people donate money to have a story done. One story I'm working on is a follow-up to the oil spill in the San Francisco Bay a year ago. When asked what news organization I represent, I respond that I'm a freelancer working for and that my story may be picked up by newspapers but will most certainly be on the Web site and other Web sites. So this morning I make a few calls and after the source checked out the Web site, I could almost hear her laughing in her head about who I represent and how the official I'm trying to reach may not want to talk to me because of his limited time and because I'm from a startup Internet site. But, she said, I could talk to her (the public information officer), which is OK but not like going straight to the source. Frustrating.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Go vote

A few notes on my last day of volunteering in a Congressional campaign:
* Calling undecided voters to remind them to vote on Election Day doesn't result in much feedback, other than getting answering machines to leave messages on.
* A senior center in Pleasanton didn't adequately mark that it was a polling place, so a few people from that neighborhood called our candidate's campaign headquarters to see if we could help. Myself and another volunteer drove out there with a new sign "Vote Here" that I taped to a bench outside. The only other visible sign was s 2-foot high American flag on the sidewalk that was blocked by a car, and a flag no bigger than your hand taped to a post outside the main door. Get signage, folks!
* A rumor (?) that text messages were being sent to some cell phones telling Obama supporters to vote Wednesday.
* It was fun listening to a campaign lawyer chew out election officials over the phone for not having provisional ballots available at some polling places.
* I asked the two communications people from Jerry McNerney's campaign to call me when they get time after today so we can talk about me getting a job for some member of Congress as a writer, spokesman, etc. We'll see what develops. I think I proved I can do what they needed, such as communicate.
Oh, and if you haven't done so already today, get out and vote.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Letter to the next president

An open letter to the next President of the United States:

Dear Mr. President:

The election will soon be over, and whoever wins, I congratulate for winning a difficult race. Now your real work begins. And as someone who was laid off, I'd like to offer my advice on what you can do as president to help me and the many others who are out of work in this poor economy that is quickly becoming a Recession.

Create jobs. Fast. Put all of your other campaign promises aside for now until you explore every possibility for getting more Americans to work again. Once more people get back to work, the economy will improve and most of your other issues will start to take care of themselves. Consumer spending is down becasue, surprise, people either don't have jobs or are worried about losing their jobs. That leads to more companies cutting jobs because people aren't buying their products. It's a vicious circle. Create jobs and the spiral will stop.

Before being laid off in June, I worked as a journalist at newspapers my entire professional career. I should have seen the end coming and started looking for a job earlier, so now I'm depending on unemployment insurance payments, and five (yes, five) part-time jobs that I currently have to stay afloat. My wife went from part- to full-time at her job, and we worry that her job may also be eliminated. We have a 4-year-old daughter, a mortgage that we're not in default on, and other expenses that make the constant job hunt an urgent goal.

As for where to create jobs, you can help solve a multitude of issues -- reliance on foreign oil, creating renewable energy, creating jobs that pay well -- by going green and having the federal government help finance renewable energy businesses such as solar and wind power. Those kinds of jobs would lead to a long-term solution to America's economy and energy needs, and should help lessen our military need to protect oil fields across the globe. Maybe like the New Deal era, it's time to federally fund energy programs and national infrastructure to bring the energy to where it's needed.

The jobs should be full-time with benefits such as health care. Improving the nation's health care system should be your next priority. It's one of the main reasons, besides a steady paycheck and retirement plan, that I want a full-time job again. I'm slowly making enough money to equal a part-time job with my five part-time jobs that range from a few hours per week to maybe 20 hours of work every few months. But none of them offer benefits because it's easier and cheaper for employers to hire part-timers, or contract for a few months, than to hire them for 40 hours per week.

It has been a long campaign and I'm sure you're tired. But now is the time to get to work and get the country back to work. And if your name isn't Barack, then good luck getting these deals done with Congress. I'll let you know how you're doing when I find a job. Or e-mail me at this blog if you find any jobs I'm qualified for.


Aaron "The Journalist" Crowe

Sunday, November 2, 2008

McNerney for Congress

As the campaigns end, so does my volunteer work for Congressman Jerry McNerney, above, who is running for re-election to the House on Tuesday. I'll be at his Dublin headquarters on Tuesday morning, answering phones and doing whatever is needed on Election Day. McNerney supports green power, which I support, so I hope he wins.

The volunteering was interesting, and I spent most of the time doing what I wanted to do -- write. I was glad to help and I learned a lot about how campaigns run. I'm still waiting for lunch/meetings with McNerney's communications director so I can either learn how to get into such a job, or work in his office or somewhere else as a staff member and help the public with their problems.

After Tuesday, I plan to continue volunteering while looking for fulltime work, and plan to volunteer at The Public Press and other media Internet startups. It should keep me off the streets.

Coming Monday: My endorsement for president and what the next president should do to fix the economy and create new jobs.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Howdy partner

Another video that has nothing to do with my job search, other than Emma possibly wanting to move to Texas if I get a job there and thus visit Grandpa Don a lot more.

I'm still awaiting word from the newspaper in Texas where I interviewed, and also waiting for metro openings at the paper in Austin. Newspapers are laying off almost weekly, but the Texas economy, I'm told, is doing much better than the rest of the nation and its newspapers are often hiring. And the wait continues.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

My story pitch

I have a pitch on to write a story about solar power in the Bay Area and why we don't see more solar panels on homes. I want to find out why it costs so much and what companies are doing to bring that cost down.

If you read the previous blog on making the media profitable again, then you have an idea of what is doing: Using "crowdfunding," like Barack Obama did in his presidential campaign, to raise a lot of small sums through donations on the Internet.

Ten percent of the money raised for a story goes to an editor for fact checking and the rest goes to the reporter. So for the solar story, the total cost is $1,000 and the editor would get $100 and I'd get the remaining $900. A good way to keep me off the streets. If you can afford a small donation of $10 to $25, then please donate. If not, pass along to someone else who can. It's a great way to support important journalism.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Making money at journalism

Newsrooms throughout the country continue to lay off workers, in hope of saving money and trying to figure out how to reinvent themselves as the Internet takes their advertisers and readers. The Christian Science Monitor is ceasing print publication and will be online only, the New York Times reported today. Time Inc. announced plans to lay off more than 600 people. The layoff news just keeps getting worse.

Despite the slow death of Old Media, as David Carr reports, online sites must still get their news from somewhere since most don't have their own reporting staffs and rely on newspaper stories for content. And as newspapers slowly redefine themselves, Internet news sites such as are moving to fill the void by asking readers to pay for journalism that they're unlikely to see elsewhere. Take a look at the site, I have a few story pitches myself that I'd like to work on: why solar power is so expensive for homeowners and why more isn't being done to lower that cost; and a followup to the Cosco Busan oil spill a year ago in the Bay.

My favorite newspaper, the NY Times, wrote about and crowdfunding a few months ago. It's a great idea that I hope takes off, and not only so I can collect a paycheck again.

Newspapers will always be around in some form, whether in print or online, and I'd like to see them succeed and go online. People will always want somone to tell them the news, tell them a story, and show them how the news affects their lives. But if they don't, and continue cutting their staffs to the bone and leave coverage holes, then groups such as, The Public Press and will jump in and find a way to make money on the Internet, or at lesat break even. Redwood Age, for example, is an interesting news site because it targets people over 40, an underserved market on the Internet who want their news without all the social networking of Facebook and without having to give up private information about themselves online.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Public Press

As the election comes to a close and I look for another volunteer opportunity that could lead to a job, I've decided to get involved in at least one non-profit and for-profit Internet startup as a writer and editor.

The first is The Public Press, not to be confused with Public Press. Both have .org at the end of their Web addresses, and only a hyphen separates their Internet addresses. For the immediate future, I'm going with The Public Press and will volunteer as an editor and sometimes writer and blogger. I recommend reading the Web site, but I can tell you that its main goal is to provide a noncommercial press in the Bay Area, although the focus for now is on San Francisco.

I'm also going to write for another Internet startup that also provides news without ads, and when the site goes live (hopefully later this week), I'll be sure to write about it here and extol its virtues while asking for reader participation. It's a great concept that relies on readers to pay for content that they're unlikely to see elsewhere. When it goes live, I'll have plenty of links to it and to other stories about it to give Unemployed Dad readers a clear view of what it is.

Halloween costume dance

Halloween is almost here, so we bent and bought Emma a costume. At first she wanted something scary, such as a ghost or skeleton, but once her mom took her to a Halloween costume store, the tike wasn't up to it. So she went with a poodle skirt from the 1950s, and to show her appreciation, she did a dance in it before we went to the Concord Halloween parade downtown on Sunday.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Happy hour

Aaaah Aaaah yes, the weekend. Who doesn't look forward to the weekend, a time to relax and enjoy a few days off after a week of hard work? But being unemployed, relaxing on the weekend has taken on a different tact. Relaxing after looking for a job all week has sometimes been difficult.

As I soon learned after being laid off, days tend to run into each other and I sometimes was unsure of the day of the week, and often didn't know the date. I stopped wearing a watch every once in awhile. But I still looked forward to the weekend, when my wife would be off (unless she had to work one of the weekend days) and we could do something together as a family. But it's still difficult to free my mind and do fun things on Saturday and Sunday because it's always in the back of my mind that the job hunt isn't easy and I have to continue looking every hour that I have available.

I remember a few months ago at a CPC Job Connections meeting on a Saturday morning when a fellow member said he had to treat himself to some time off alone and spent the afternoon going to a movie after looking for a job for months without a break. He needed to get some sanity back in his life. At first, I was anxious to spend every hour looking for work, but now I've slowed down to weekdays. But with unemployment benefits set to runout someday, the clock slowly continues ticking in the back of my mind.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Good and bad days

Everyone, whether they're searching for a job or not, has bad days. The trick to getting past them, I think, is to find some small accomplishment to proudly point to and not feel like the day was a total waste in the job hunt or whatever it is you're doing.
Some days feel like you haven't accomplished a thing, while others feel right on target with many accomplishments. Today was a mixed bag for me, but a lot of positives to take on a day that didn't start out so well as I ran into a lot of traffic on I-680 on my way to an informational interview. The talk, with a former CCT colleague, went great and was an inspiration to keep trying. I wanted to know how someone who has been a life-long journalist moved into another field and how they overcame the barriers employers throw up to people witih transferable skills, but maybe not the exact, defined skills they desire. The guy I talked with, for example, found a great job in corporate communications, but had never done such a job before. He turned his managerial experience at newspapers, his abilities under deadline pressure at newspapers, and other skills he used as a journalist, and turned them into a job in corporate communications. I'd like to do the same, among other job possibilities, and he helped me see how to do that better.
Other bonuses today: A friend who works for the state government forwarded a job opening to me, which I will apply for on Thursday. I'm looking into taking a PowerPoint class at the local adult education center in December, the earlies it's available. I plan to go to the local community college on Thursday to look into working as a guest lecturer and taking classes, if I can afford them.
Those were the highlights. The low? I found out from a recruiter that a Nevada newspaper is going forward with two candidates for an editor position, and so far isn't calling me in for an interview. And awaiting callback from Texas.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A wild time

These photos don't have anything to do with finding a job, but have a lot to do with keeping our daughter entertained. We went to a wild animal park Sunday in Texas, and as they say at the end of stories in community newspapers, a good time was had by all. Animals that you thought would be wild are enticed by free food, so they come right up to and sometimes into your car for a handful of some type of pellets they like to eat. The zebras tried to get food from Kristen, in the last photo, and I handfed a deer that kept chasing after us. Emma also had a blast, throwing some food (first photo) and getting a close look at one of her favorite animals.
It was a great trip and a state that I'd like to visit again. We didn't have enough time to explore Austin, although the city does offer relocation guides to anyone thinking of moving there. I never did get a "Don't Mess With Texas" shirt, but I did get a T-shirt with the state flag on front. Nice flag. Again, a state worth considering living in, if only I could find a job there. I did have an unexpected job interview while in Killeen, but haven't heard back yet.
With the short vacation over, it's now time to get back into job hunting mode. I'm now looking to take classes for accreditation in Microsoft Suite, which is something many job listings call for. I'm looking at adult school, but those look costly, so I plan to look at the local community college, which may also be costly. Maybe I can find some type of discount for the unemployed.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Moving questions

As we prepare to fly out of Texas this afternoon, I contemplate some questions that many people must face when moving out of state. For me, these are some of the issues we will look into and think about as my job search continues:
* Even if you find a great job, what happens if it sours in a year, or sooner? Some jobs look great going into them, only to learn the many pitfalls once you've arrived. Moving from California to Texas, for example, is a big step and I wouldn't want to have to start a new job hunt after moving.
* How important is family and a support group when moving somewhere new? Most of my family lives in California, while some of Kris' relatives live in Texas and others in North Dakota and Minnesota. I think it's very important and I'm sure I'd be happy living in Texas, but am torn from leaving my home state.
* Weather. Texas gets very hot in the summer, which Kris enjoys, but I'm not a big fan of such heat and would have to have a backyard pool.
* Big city vs rural. We didn't get a chance to explore Austin, which we'd like to do, but much of what we've seen so far is rural, or at least what I'd call rural-suburban. Concord is definitely suburban, but we're near BART and can get to SF or Oakland in 45 minutes or less. And while we don't get to those cities as much as we'd like to with Emma so young, we look forward to taking her out to events in San Francisco when she gets older, and she already has some favorite landmarks. If we didn't live in Austin, we'd probably want to live close to a big city for all of the options it offers.
* Politics, etc. We're Obama supporters and have seen all McCain signs. That was expected. But Texas politics would be quite a change from California politics. It would also take some getting used to seeing cowboy hats and other Texas things, although I do like the state flag. And BBQ.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

BBQ, Texas style

My view of dining out at someplace you haven't been before is to go with what the restaurant's specialty is. When at a hamburger stop, have a hamburger, not a chicken sandwich. At a pizza parlor, go with the pizza and not the pasta. At a BBQ, go with the ribs or brisket. Friday night we went to a BBQ joint outside Killeen, Texas, and it had the look of a place with some great food. While it was a good BBQ dinner, I don't think the food lived up to the lived-in feel of the place.

And it was an interesting place: Long picnic tables inside with rolls of paper towels, stuffed deer heads and other animals lined the walls, and probably best, a line to stand in to pick your meat that was just steps from the outdoor grill so the chef could cut and weigh it. Then to another line to get potato salad, onions, pickles, bbq sauce, cornbread, beer, beans and other typical BBQ fixins. It was all good food that I happily ate, but not as spicy or melt-in-your-mouth good that I expected from Texas. I had my new Texas T-shirt on and was prepared for one of the main things Texas is known for: BBQ. Maybe next time.

As for the job hunt, today and on Sunday evening we're working with my father-in-law on bidding on a government contract for writing work in the Bay Area. It's a long, complicated document that must be filled out correctly or the bid won't be accepted. It's a new world to learn about.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Texas job interview

It was a quick interview this afternoon at the Killeen newspaper, and worthwhile. We discussed the many job openings the editor has in his newsroom, with the city editor job opening the one I'm interested in. We quickly discussed my qualifications, which he said were excellent, and how busy the newsroom is now with so many openings to be filled.

The editor told me I'm overqualified for the job, and that me walking in the door with my resume was better than finding a diamond in the rough. I agreed and told him I'm still interested in the job. He said he hoped to have the general manager call me, and maybe even interview me, before we fly out Monday afternoon.

With the Texas economy doing much better than California's, I plan to look at other papers in some of the metro areas to see if they have any openings.

And I now have my first Texas T-shirt, a simple one with the state flag on the front. I'll wear it tonight when we go out to an authentic Texas BBQ. I'm still looking for a good "Don't Mess With Texas" shirt.

Texas job hunt

It's only 10:30 on Friday morning in Texas, and I already have a job interview set up. We arrived Thursday afternoon to visit my father-in-law for a long weekend, and I mentioned to him that his local newspaper in Killeen may not have a city editor and that I've tried for weeks to get the top editors to call me back. I noticed on their Web site that the city editor position didn't have a contact name or phone, so I assumed they were looking to fill that position. Now they're ready to and Don, my father-in-law, apparently used some Rotary connections to get me an interview today.

Luckily, I have my resume and clips on our new laptop computer, and I also have them on a portable disk drive that I brought along. So they're all printed and ready to go. Unfortunately, I didn't bring interview clothes, just jeans and shorts, so it looks like I'll be in shorts.

I'll update later on how it went. Go Texas!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Preschool Picassos

I washed paint brushes, helped paste new fall leaves to paper, and ate grahamcrackers on Monday morning, and it was more fun than you'd think it would be. It was at Emma's preschool in Walnut Creek (note that the photo above isn't from the preschool, but from our back yard), where I volunteered for a few hours Monday morning. My lovely wife normally does this duty, and last year she did all of it. And she'll probably do most of it this year, due to scheduling problems I have on Monday mornings with a networking group and a part-time job. But with the Columbus Day holiday, this week was different, so I went over and helped out for only about three hours.

Emma had been asking me for a few weeks when I'd come to her preschool for a morning, and I'm glad I finally got to it. It was nice to see her running around and then come up to me with a "Hi, Daddy" before continuing on to play with her friends. While it was a lot of fun and time well spent, it helped prove to me that I'm not up for that kind of full-time job and my hat is off to anyone who does it.

And while it was only a few hours of helping the preschoolers, it was enough of a good time to remind me that something as simple as washing out a paintbrush can be a good way to start a day.