Friday, May 13, 2011

My New (Temporary) Studio

Here's my new temporary studio. Looks a lot like a garage, doesn't it? Yeah, nothing like oil drips and snow shovels to make an artist feel right at home.

I moved out of my studio at the end of April. It was a pretty big job getting everything packed up, sold, given away, thrown away, and moved into a storage unit. Then I had to get the storage unit organized so that I could actually find things. (Photo of the storage unit forthcoming). Then I had to take care of a lot of other things, so today was the first day I actually set up my easel and an unfinished painting and slopped some paint. It felt pretty good to be able to do that. Did I do any good? Not really. It takes a while to get the rhythm going. At least I was able to put the finishing touches on this painting, sign it, declare victory, and get ready to move on to the next one.

My main occupation these days is job hunting. Part of it is going well: I'm finding lots of interesting jobs. The problem is, none of them are finding me. It's a very frustrating, maddening experience. The job deck is stacked against the job hunter these days, and the old rules ("old" being anything older than 3 years) no longer apply.

One of the things that has really hit home is that resumes have to be written for the specific opening. Generic resumes don't work. The reason is that most employers are now using automated systems that scan your resume and (maybe) your cover letter for specific keywords. The keywords are different for each job and, of course, you don't know what they are. Your best guide is the job announcement itself. So you take your resume and cut/paste/reorganize it to match what the job announcement says they're looking for, using as many of their specific words as possible. That will, hopefully, get your resume past the automated system and into the hot little hands of a real person.

Another is that each halfway-decent job announcement will get dozens, or hundreds, of applications. With so many people looking for work (thank you, Wall Street), the competition is really fierce. So your resume has to out-shine not only the next guy's, but a whole boatload of others as well.

Even if the resume is top-notch, you may be cut out for really bullshit reasons. There was one really cool job where I made the first cut. The next step was to take a written test. Yes, this was a government position, no civilian company that I'm aware of requires written tests. The test could only be taken in person, in their HR shop. I suggested that they email me the test, or mail it to a contact in the Asheville city government and they could administer it, but no. Had to be there or else. So it was "else". They could afford to be dickheads because there were so many people applying.

Lots of job-hunting guides tell you to network, to meet people working in the company that you want to work for, and establish personal connections. That's fine if you're living in a major city and not planning on relocating. But I live in Asheville, which is one of the 10 worst cities for finding a job, and I'm planning on going somewhere else. Our goal is San Diego, where we have family, or possibly some other place if needed. You can't personally network from a couple thousand miles away. I'm doing what I can with emails, social networking, and phone calls, but distance is definitely an issue.

On a personal note, I find myself getting angry with TV and print advertisements. It's like they're rubbing salt into my jobless wound. Yes, I would love to buy a new Mustang, but I need a job first. All these ads are populated by sleek, well-dressed people, and the message I'm getting is "this stuff is for successful people, and you're NOT". In my head, I know that's not right, but that's the feeling I get anyway.

So I keep going. Get up, search for jobs, network, send out notes, work on an application for several hours, fire it off and forget it. Repeat. Something will break for us.

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