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.

Going national

For my entire life, California has been home. But what if my family has to move to another state because that's where I find a job? Leaving home is never easy, and leaving a place you love and where you have roots must be one of the most difficult decisions anyone can make.

Simply looking for work outside of the Bay Area can bring to mind all of the benefits and drawbacks of a new location. Applying for a job, no matter where it is, can instantly send you into daydreaming about the job and put you behind the desk, at least in your mind. You can imagine working at the company, the commute, possibly living in the city where you work, and all of the social activities that go with that area. For us, for example, the question of "Is there professional baseball nearby?" looms large.

So how far do we go and still feel comfortable? Texas, North Dakota, Minnesota, Connecticut and Nevada are all possibilities, although some much slighter than others. And can we sell our home in this horrible housing market? Or rent it and hope to break even why paying rent or another mortgage in another city? Or do I bypass these out-of-state jobs and continue looking in the Bay Area, hoping something will happen before unemployment benefits run out?

Besides the great weather, San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley and San Jose being so close, my parents and many life-long friends live in the Bay Area. We love our neighborhood and the friends we've met here, not to mention the schoolmates and friends Emma has met.

So this week we're taking a closer look at one state, Texas, where we have relatives and where we think at least one city, Austin, might be a good place to live. We don't expect to spend much time in Austin, but will try and will check out other areas of the state whose unofficial motto makes me want to at least buy a T-shirt. Later in the week: Blog updates, including BBQ restaurant reviews, from Texas.

Wherever we end up, it will be an adventure. Maybe if we're lucky, like Dorothy, we'll end up back at home.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Weekend update

It was a fun weekend, but didn't include much job hunt activity, so I'm feeling a little guilty. I'm also feeling a little guilty about spending so much money on such activities when I'm without an income. At least a full-time income outside of unemployment insurance.

On Saturday, we took our daughter to a wildlife park in Vallejo, buying three season passes and a season parking pass. For only a few dollars more than the cost of admission, you can get a season pass and go the remainder of this year and all of 2009, so the pass will pay for itself after two visit. Such a deal! It was a fun place that I hadn't been to since I was in high school, and Emma had a lot of fun. It's definitely a fun place we will go to again, even if we didn't buy the pass.

Then on Sunday we went to the Oakland Zoo, where we've had a family season pass for two years. Granted, this pass is a lot cheaper than the Vallejo wildlife park, and is also a deal that pays for itself in about three or four visits. Both places are educational, I reason, because of the animals, although Emma would prefer to spend most of the time on the rides.

If I use something often enough, I've always been the type of person who would rather spend more money upfront and save money longterm, instead of buying it again and again. But in this case, without a steady income (from me, not my wife), I wonder if it's an expense I shouldn't have made. In the long term, I see the cost savings and benefit to my daughter and family, but in the short term it feels like I'm spending money I don't have. Thoughts? Please e-mail them to me .

Another informational interview

Again, my calls for help continue. In discussions with others who are out of work and newspaper union people who have seen many newsroom employees be laid off, I've raised the issue of how to prepare for a career change from newspapers to any number of other jobs that are hiring. For example, I've been applying for positions in corporate communications, online writing and other areas where writing and editing are needed. But, as I've noted in this blog before, I've run into many brick walls and have been told that I just don't have the specific experience (such as Web writing) in the area they're hiring in.

So I've started doing many things to get around that, including informational interviews. As most people probably know, these interviews don't necessarily lead to a job, but give the job seeker a chance to explore the working world by talking to someone who is either in a position to hire or can tell you more about what they do and possibly introduce you to someone who can maybe hire you somewhere down the road. It's a great way to learn about a job. For instance, I was at AT&T Park a month or so ago, and met a marketing official there, and also talked to another marketing person there, and learned a lot about the job, even there were no immediate openings.

Lately I've been searching to talk with someone about how a former newspaper editor/reporter can break into online writing or corporate communications without having any experience in that field. Through the newspaper union in San Jose, I've found a former colleague at the Contra Costa Times, who is now in corporate communications in the Bay Area. We plan to meet next week over coffee, and I really want to pick his brain for tips on overcoming the "no experience" replies. It should be an interesting talk, and I'll update the blog after the meeting.-

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Resume help wanted, apply within

There are plenty of places to go for help in writing a resume if you're willing to pay. And there are probably fewer, but still good, people who will help review resumes for free. Today I went to one of the free ones, and I'm happy to say that other than a few tweaks, my resume seems in good shape. It's a few posts below this one if you're interested, and I plan to rewrite and move a few things around and will have another version posted by early next week.

Today I went to EastBay Works in Concord, where a kind person from Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill looked at my resume and gave me a few tips. We also discussed my job search, and I was glad to hear that I'm doing everything right in looking for full-time work. I'm doing everything she said she'd recommend to people hunting for jobs: I'm spending half of my time networking and the other half applying for jobs I find on craigslist, Indeed or other such Web sites; I'm going on informational interviews; I've joined a networking group; I'm volunteering, I'm looking for work I'm qualified for and tyring to move my job skills from one field to another, and I'm doing freelance work related to my field.

Since the top third of a resume is what gets looked at the most and quickest by an employer, she suggested that I move my excellent work experience up and take the "Skills" section and incorporate that into the accomplishments bulleted in my professional experience. I plan to make those changes and to try to spice up the look of the resume by early next week. After that, I'd like to try to find someone who hires for Web writing jobs and see what they think.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Spam I not am

I've had enough of the e-mail spam offering free Viagra, quality medications, and millions of dollars if I'd only help a prince in Nigeria with a money transfer. Can't he go to Western Union? But the e-mail offers of riches got a lot richer when I started posting my resume on job sites such as, which I now loathe.

Hours after applying for a job at CareerBuilder, I was sent the e-mail below (I left out some of the boring details) from a woman with a gmail account, offering me a job. She even calls it a job "scheme." Red flag. It sounds like money laundering. Just check out steps 1, 2 and 3. I cash their check, transfer money, get 8 percent for my troubles. If that's not money laundering, I don't know what is.

"We have reviewed your resume at website and are eager to inform you that we are ready to offer you a vacant position of the "Financial Agent".
The position of the money agent will require from you a half-day activity.Your work will consist in transferring money among our clients.
Job scheme will comprise the following:
1. You get a check by mail.

2. Than you cash it
3. You transfer the money to our clients
Your earning will be 8 % of the amount of each check.
Additionally we are going to effect you $ 1500 as your salary at the end of each month.
Required skills to start this job:
- Honesty, responsibility and promptness in operations;- Prior customer service experience is a good benefit; - Internet and e-mail skills; Experience in online work; Good communications skills

In addition we will be able to offer you $ 2500 as a monthly payment after completion of the trial period.
In case you are interested in the position, please answer this message. We will get in touch with you within 2 working days."

Needless to say, I didn't respond and labeled it as spam. As my dad told me, "If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is."

During my job hunt, I've also received at least a dozen requests for interviews from insurance companies wanting me to sell insurance. These are probably legit, but I wonder about businesses that can so quickly find my resume and consider me qualified for such a position when I haven't worked in sales since I was a paperboy outside the Fremont BART station selling newspapers one at a time.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The new resume

It may not look as sharp here as it does as e-mail attachment or on paper, but here is the newest and most improved, resume. Let me know your thoughts.

Aaron Crowe
Concord, California 94521
Residence: (925) 680-2557 Cell: (925) 482-5934

Editor ~ Researcher ~ Internet writer
Page designer ~ Complex decision making ~ Team Building

Extensive background in writing and editing news stories and designing pages at daily newspapers as reporter, copy editor and assigning editor. Analytical, critical thinking skills used daily under deadline circumstances. Able to ask probing questions and synthesize complex information into understandable prose. Excellent written and verbal communications skills. Part of a Pulitzer Prize winning team.

Communication: Excellent written and verbal communication skills, working as a reporter, copy editor and assigning editor at daily newspapers. Also writing for city publications, blogging, and writing communications for Bay Area Congressman.

Problem solving: Headed weekend coverage at Contra Costa Times, overseeing reporters and working with every department in the newsroom to coordinate newspapers and ensure story packages were complete and accurate.

Analysis: As an assistant metro editor, coordinated news coverage and worked with reporters on getting timely, analytical, accurate news stories daily.

Project management: Oversaw two weekly newspapers at the Contra Costa Times, along with weekend coverage, requiring coordinating many departments.

Employee training: Trained newsroom staff on QuarkXPress for a year and helped with implementation of a new computer system.


July 2008-Present

Owner of AC Consulting, a communications firm offering freelance writing/editing. Clients include city of San Ramon and writing/editing quarterly newsletter for city; United Reporting of Sacramento; and writing biographies for retirement community residents.

Blogger at, about looking for work while keeping a young daughter occupied.

Volunteer at a Bay Area Congressman's re-election headquarters. Writing and researching for campaign's deputy communications director.

Leader of a Success Team of Community Presbyterian Church Job Connections in Danville, the largest networking group in the Bay Area. I formed and coordinate a Concord group, which meets weekly.

CONTRA COSTA TIMES – Walnut Creek, California
Assistant Metro Editor (2004 – 2008)
Direct supervision of staff, including successful management of all compensation, scheduling, training and employee relations issues.
Responsible for all story budgeting components of four different newspapers owned by the Times.
Led team of reporters throughout Contra Costa County to organize and edit all publications and meet critical deadlines.
Make daily decisions based on complex and conflicting information.
Strong customer service skills exercised both internal and external to the organization.
Critical thinking skills used on a daily basis. Led team of reporters in analytical stories and in-depth projects.
Extended experience interacting with cities and their various branch offices.
Facilitated daily and weekly brainstorming sessions with staff and the management team.
Copy Editor (1995 – 2003)
Extensive editing experience within the Business and News Departments
Responsible for teaching pagination system QuarkXPress to staff.
Design news pages using text, photos and graphics.
Have also worked as copy editor and reporter at newspapers in Fairfield, Tracy and Ridgecrest, California.

Part of 1997 Pulitzer Prize winning team for Public Service for coverage of Grand Forks, N.D. flood.
California Newspaper Publishers Association first-place award for illustration for a weekly publication in 2005.
CNPA second-place award for page layout for a weekly publication in 2005.
CNPA second-place award for public service for a weekly publication in 2005.

San Jose State University, Bachelor of Arts degree (with distinction) in Journalism, Minor in English

Software training includes Microsoft Word, JazzBox, InDesign, QuarkXPress

Monday, October 6, 2008

Scream of joy

"Daaaady," came the yell that in the second that it screams out of her mouth can denote fear that something terrible just happened, but in this case didn't. "I just made a 'W.'"

Emma was at a table in the living room, trying to write her friend's name on a piece of paper, while I was in the kitchen making dinner tonight. In the hundredth of a second when I heard her yell my name, my mind raced that something had gone wrong. It was nothing. She had written a letter of the alphabet and was thrilled to share the news. So was I. I went over and congratulated her, kissed her on the head and went back to cooking.

It's moments like those, taking only a few seconds, that make me glad I'm home with my daughter, even if I don't have a job. Granted, the same thing would have likely happened if I returned home from a full-time job, but who knows? But while making dinner for the two of us, because the sole bread-winner is away at work for the night, I was thinking how difficult it is to find a job while taking care of a 4-year-old. Finding a job is supposed to be a 40-hour-a-week job, and lately I haven't been close to that many hours. Everyone has commitments that take away from the job search, but for me, giving my daughter my full attention limits the job hunt. For example, we went to the park, went to the store, then home to wash the car and play some more before making dinner, then her bath, Sesame Street, more playing and story reading before off to bed. My mornings are somewhat free, but I'm using much of that time networking, volunteering or working at my part-time job. Where is the time?

I could prop Emma in front of the TV for a few hours and then go online and work on my resume, apply for jobs, make calls, etc., but I'd feel bad about that. So I'm doing what I can to remind myself to enjoy this time with her and make the best of the time we have together. She's only 4 once, and unemployment won't last into her teens.

Rewriting the resume

Writing a successful resume is one of the most difficult parts of the job search. For the past few weeks I've been focusing on rewriting my resume after discovering that it was geared more toward newspapers and less toward other areas where I want to work, such as the Internet. I don't know why it took me months to figure this out, but with the help of someone during an informational interview, I learned that my old resume wasn't going to get me a job. I'm trying new things and expect the next one to do more.

There are tons of Web pages about how to write resumes, and plenty of people are willing to do it for a price, or even for free, and I could even add some power words to spice it up and attract some more looks.

One trick is to put words from the job description, such as the common "communication skills" in the resume so that when a computer scans it for keywords, those will pop out and move it up the pile. I like to take the approach of having as many people look at it as possible, getting their feedback, and using what I think is best. On Thursday, for example, I'm going to EastBay Works to have my resume reviewed by a professional for free. I've also given it to my Success Team at Job Connections for their input, which has been the most valuable so far, and changed things around. Another idea is to give it to a potential employer, probably during an informational interview, and see what they think and if it's what they're looking for in a potential employee.

Once I get it completed, probably by the end of the week, I'll post it in a blog and see what the readers think.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A strong gesture

Everyone loves getting gifts. But getting gifts, or even small perks, from an employer can mean much more than they cost. During my many years as a journalist, I was rarely treated to the Christmas bonus, free meal, free drinks or other such thing at work. If something was given, it was usually during a holiday. To get a birthday gift was unheard of.

Well, something unusual happened last week. United Reporting, a Sacramento company I started working for part-time in July, sent me an American Express gift card for my birthday. They've also sent me a few Starbucks and Shell gas cards as thanks for the work I do, and I really have appreciated them. But this gesture went above and beyond and it's something I won't soon forget.

Maybe it's because I worked at newspapers for so long, and expected to be treated poorly. Many people have told me that when I do find a full-time job outside of newspapers, I'll be very thankful because at least I'll be treated better. Other companies remember the small things, such as perks like free water, soda, birthday gifts, Christmas gifts beyond a frozen turkey, and treat their employees with respect. Maybe those things won't come in my next job, and that's fine, but the respect it shows by offering even small tokens of appreciation is huge and helps show how a company values its employees.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Birthday wishes

Oct. 1 was a happy birthday, complete with homemade chocolate chip cookies made by my wife and daughter, cards, clothes and best of all, Thomas L. Friedman's new book "Hot, Flat and Crowded."

I'm excited because it's a book about the need for a Green Revolution, a cause I believe strongly in and a field I'd like to write about for somebody. While the newspaper business is slowly killing itself, the art of storytelling is very much alive and is moving to the Internet as more and more people get their news online.

I don't want to sound like a politician, but what this country needs is a new type of New Deal, or Green Deal. FDR put Americans to work building roads, and the next president should put people to work building solar panels and windmills. It's time for Americans to wake up to global warming and the effect we're having on the environment and do something about it. It's time for big steps, such as a Green Deal for the country.

Another book I'm looking forward to reading is Barbara Ehrenreich's "Bait and Switch," about white-collar unemployment. It looks like my blog kind of dovetails into her book, as I'm sure many other blogs do, in telling the tale of finding a job in a lousy economy but with many of the job skills you'd think would lead to fulltime work.