Just a quick post to examine how key words and SEO, or search engine optimization, are king in recruiting and finding a job to match your skills these days.
I have been applying for a job as a copy editor for months. One of the recruiting websites–a big player in the game–sent me a job link I’d “be perfect for.” It was with a company called Pizza Press that is looking for a Pizza Editor. I thought the company name and job title sounded odd to begin with, and then I read the job description. “Pizza Press” in not a publisher–not even a cookbook publisher–and “Pizza Editor” is not a job in revising copy–not even copy about pizzas. Rather, Pizza Press is a pizza joint and the Pizza Editor makes the pizzas, packages them, chats with customers, does the dishes, empties the trash, and cleans.
Now I make a pretty mean pizza, and my many years as a mom have made me nearly professional-grade level at doing dishes, cleaning, and putting things away, but I don’t think this is the job for me. Sorry, Glassdoor.
What this is, though, is a prime example of how job posting companies and job recruiters use key words and SEO to not only find jobs to post but vet candidates.
Usually Glassdoor, as well as Indeed and LinkedIn, get it right and I’m sent job postings that are a close fit for me (although some of them don’t seem to understand the difference between copywriting and copyediting, but that’s a post for another day).
In fact, just last week I was alerted to a few jobs that I finally got called up for, one of which I accepted. But once in a while job posters get it woefully wrong and end up with egg–or in this case, scrambled egg pizza–on their faces.
Of the 35 jobs I’ve recently applied to (28 since February 1), only one company has been so kind as to provide me with a proper rejection: Wayfair. How nice it was to, for once, send my cover letter and résumé into the vast void that is the Internet and to actually receive acknowledgment for my effort.
Be it bot-generated or not, Wayfair’s response was a breath of fresh air at a time when so much energy goes into applying for jobs against stiff competition in this day of far-reaching job ads. And the rejection came the very next day. No wasting my time with hours’ long tests or getting my hopes up after Indeed notifies me that my application was reviewed. What I got was a good, old-fashioned “thank you for your time, but” email. And for that, I am grateful.
This may be an understatement, but job hunting in this age is convenient but also frustrating and quite a bit sad. I am applying for work that I know I can do because I’ve done it before, for decades even. But I’m still not even getting to the interview stage.
I don’t know for sure, but it’s hard not to take the rejection as personal. It’s personal to me, because isn’t that what “personal” means?
On a good day, I picture prospective employers (who are human in my mind and not computer programs) being inundated with applications, too many to review, and understand that a cutoff has to be made somewhere.
On a bad day, I envision those reviewing my application and résumé doing the math, realizing I must have graduated college before they were born. Maybe they’d be more comfortable supervising Gen Yers or Gen Zers younger than themselves. Or maybe they feel people my age would be out of touch with the new generation and the ways and means of working in today’s world. But I have been employed consistently throughout my adulthood, I’ve taught myself how to use–and keep up with–new technology and programs that friends my age have never heard of.
Still, that aspect of employment is ever changing, and maybe they’re right. Maybe I wouldn’t be the best fit. There’s definitely a comfort level with technology the new generation has that we baby boomers do not. I’ll catch my 21-year-old, who has grown up in the age of screens, his fingers dancing and skipping around the keyboard like nobody’s business, while I want to save just about every file to my desktop and even print out a hard copy for safekeeping.
But hooking a job is more complicated than just being tech savvy.
Until I get a “welcome aboard” email, I’ll keep plugging away and see if anything turns up. And if not a job, I will hope for at least a kind rejection letter.
Sometimes you’re batting a thousand, and at other times life throws you curve balls. Actually, those both sound like OK scenarios to me. Right now, I’m at the plate waiting for that pitch to come . . . and waiting . . . and waiting . . . and waiting, but it never arrives. Oh, the pitcher is on the mound, for sure. He’s even winding up at times. He just never releases that ball, it never connects with my bat, and so I stand there, looking like a fool.
This is how I feel at the moment trying to find freelance editing work. As of 42 minutes ago, I have applied to 24 jobs since mid-November. I have gotten a couple hits and taken a few tests, but nothing has come of any of it. And I’m applying to positions that fit my experience pretty much to a T. I’m not one of those people sending in resumes to jobs in search of the next head publisher at Penguin Random House. I know my limitations, know what I can do, and I have a great track record with plenty of experience to offer.
So what does this have to do with Michelle Williams? Let me just say that if you’re feeling a little too upbeat, life is going great, and the sun never stops shining, stream a movie starring Michelle Williams and you’ll come quickly crashing down to earth. Watch her movies when you’re receiving rejection after rejection and you can pretty much guarantee a day or more of sheer misery.
I did this on Sunday. The skies were grey, I had been awash in rejection, my best friend was not feeling like talking to me, and I have fear of the unknown in my future. I streamed the indie movie called Wendy and Lucy, and it just resulted in more pain. The 2008 film is about a down-on-her-luck young woman who’s traveling in a beat-up old Honda from Indiana to Alaska. She and her adorable golden mutt break down somewhere in Oregon, and one heartbreak after another ensues. Just when you think Wendy has hit rock bottom, things only get worse.
Of course Michelle is great in this film. That’s the problem: She’s too convincing. I FEEL YOUR PAIN, MICHELLE WILLIAMS. I. FEEL. YOUR. PAIN. And this role fits her like a glove, which is why I must stop watching her movies. Have you ever seen her in an upbeat rom-com costarring Tom Hanks? Do her characters’ lives ever reflect happiness, good fortune, or even the mundane, for that matter? Of course not.
So, I am steering clear of any Michelle Williams/Debbie Downer movies until the pitcher is not only on the mound, but he’s released the ball that has connected with my bat that was misplayed in left field that got me on first base, then second, then third, then to home plate, the crowd is cheering, and endorsements are flying my way.
There has never been a year in my nearly six decades on this earth quite like 2020. There have been bad years indeed, but 2020 brought the entire world into a gripping tale whose pages are still being written. How will the pandemic play out? Who will be the winners? Who will be the losers? Who will be the heroes (although hospital workers, including the maintenance crew that empties the contagious waste from ICU cells, top the list, along with essential workers of every kind and the scientists formulating the new vaccines)? And who will be the villains (which is pretty obviously that hideous dictator and his mob, which includes every sycophant who helped put him into office or kissed his boots while there)?
All obvious drawbacks aside, there are some wonderful things 2020 wrought. On a personal level, being able to once again work mostly from home has been a godsend for me. Same for my husband, who no longer has to deal with the daily stress of driving an hour’s worth of heavy traffic each way just to travel 18 miles.
Unlike many other workers who found themselves struggling to adapt to working from home for the first time ever, I have many, many years of freelance work under my belt and the self-discipline and strong work ethic to go with it. I almost look forward to sitting at my desk at a scheduled time each day, powering up my computer, and working away for hours on end. (I realize I am fortunate to no longer have young children at home who need my time and attention while I work. I do remember those days well, and I respect that 2020’s parents have the added obstacle of being their child’s schoolwork facilitator in addition to tending to their own work.)
There is a slower pace to life now. The rat race is still there, I’m sure, but I think people finally realize the cheese is always going to be there, so what’s the hurry?
Another huge blessing of 2020 was the free time I now have to take a daily walk and–added bonus–to walk with a book or a podcast to entertain and educate me. I have consumed more books this year than I have in decades past because of that 30 minutes or more of bliss. Today, with Tom Hanks in my ear reading Ann Patchett’s The Dutch House, I was able to cover more territory than usual because I wanted to keep listening to the Conroys’ story).
A third plus has been staying in contact with friends. It’s times like these when we realize who our true friends are. The one friend I see makes an effort to meet for an occasional socially distanced walk or a half hour talking on her front patio. Another friend, whom I’ve actually become closer to through all this, calls every few weeks to see how we all are doing and keeps me up to speed with her and her family’s life. And I and my best friend have had regular, almost weekly phone chats to stay in touch. I miss visiting her and will never again let a year pass without seeing her.
What I miss could fill many blog posts (our annual weeklong vacation, being able to fly, gathering with family and friends on holidays, seeing my daughter and son-in-law get married in front of a roomful of well-wishers), but that’s for another time. I’m just happy that there are silver linings in that godawful year and, more importantly, there is something to look forward to, with a new administration and hope for not just going back to normal but for a new normal of equality, compassion, and change.
The week didn’t start out so great: A friend of mine wanted to know if I could take a walk with her, which I was totally up for, having seen very few people outside my immediate family and strangers in the grocery store these past months. Then she told me she and her husband had just been on a cross-country flight home from the East Coast, where they went for no other reasons than because flights are dirt cheap and to see the colors change. After giving it some thought, I texted her to say I wasn’t quite comfortable that she had been on the opposite coast and in an airplane and we’d get together in a couple weeks. She took it well.
I did not want to chance meeting up and possibly being exposed, being we have had a couple COVID scares, mainly from my son, who is an essential worker (if you consider making people overpriced coffee drinks essential) and who has had coworkers test positive.
But that’s not the only reason I didn’t want to see her. I also was having a big, fat case of FOMO, failure of missing out, and it put me in a funk. I have worked from home almost my entire adult life, but because I was also raising four kids and money was tight, I couldn’t take advantage of the “freedom” people now working from home during COVID think it gives them. Add to it the fact that my friend didn’t think twice about taking her husband, who is not in the best of health, on a cross-country jaunt that entailed breathing in stale, recirculated airplane air for 5 hours and mingling with people whose DNA does not match their own, and it kind of made me mad. What they do is their own business, of course, but is sneaking out of town and risking getting or spreading COVID on your return worth it? She also told me she was going to a shower the next day. A shower? My daughter, who got married a few weeks ago in a quickie ceremony in front of a city worker, had no wedding, let alone a shower!
The weather is turning hot again after a couple seasonal days last weekend. And I hate it. This kind of weather gives me migraines. Could it also mess with my serotonin’s juju, I wonder? Whatever the reason, I was not in a good mental state Monday, Tuesday . . . well, all the way through to today, Friday.
I feel like the world is flying by. Four family birthdays whizzed past with little fanfare, including a couple that were milestones and should have been properly recognized. My daughter’s wedding–our one big family event ever–has come and gone with no celebration. Her birthday is coming up in a couple weeks, with mine a month later, and Thanksgiving and Christmas are on the horizon, but nothing will have changed by then.
Halloween is tomorrow. The county and state authorities are discouraging trick-or-treating, which is fine with me. I don’t have little ones anymore. But today was a Halloween celebration at work, and, because of my funk, I decided not to go. I was not up for dressing in costume, which I never do anyway, or seeing people I work with, even though some I haven’t seen for a while. I just thought it was unnecessary and just a way to further alienate those women I work with who are older and not in the best of health and therefore not able to participate because they are considered high risk.
To shake my bad mood, though, I vowed to do something about it, and the one thing I thought I’d do was go to a pumpkin patch. I love one that is on a farm about a 45-minute drive from our house, but I knew I didn’t want to drive that far. The car I have been driving doesn’t run too smoothly anymore–and that’s our newer car. So, I decided I’d use an older vehicle we own and go to the farm that is fewer miles from home. But no sooner did I pull away from the curb than I noticed the flat-tire symbol on my dashboard light up. The diagram pointed to the rear passenger tire. So, I ran a quick errand and went to a nearby filling station for air.
Getting back in the vehicle, I saw the symbol was still on. I then decided to return home, pick up my husband’s key, which isn’t as badly falling apart as mine (thanks, Honda, for using the cheapest plastic ever on your key fobs), because I worry that the guys in the shop would break it further, and head to Costco for a tire repair. But I was almost home when I looked down on the dashboard again and saw the flat-tire light had disappeared! Yes!
I decided to chance it and drive the 23 minutes to the closer farm. It was thumbs-up the whole way, with no more flat symbol. I pulled into the rural farm and took a look around. It was lovely there! There was a small pumpkin patch (tomorrow’s Halloween, so I didn’t expect much), a nursery, a coffee bar, outdoor seating, lovely photo op spots, and a sweet gift shop. I was in a small bit of heaven. I could feel the dopamine leveling off and I was, dare I say it, happy for a short while. This feeling ended, of course, when I turned on the engine upon leaving and saw the flat-tire symbol again. Ugh!
I made it home, without incident, though. The symbol went off again on the drive, which made me sing along with Tom Petty. I was free-falling, indeed. Since luck was on my side, I decided to stop at the nearest grocery store and grab a few things while I was out. Of course, the flat-tire symbol returned when I started to drive away from the parking lot. But I got a little piece of peace today. My brain is less frazzled, and if Trump is voted out of office on Tuesday, it may last for at least four years.
Not too much has changed since my last Corona Diaries post, other than more people have become infected with COVID-19 and more have died, including three young children in New York State. How sad is that?
I still am working from home, which I love. On the down side, I was denied unemployment insurance benefits because I was told the money I earn from the part-time job I currently hold–and held concurrently with the one I lost–is $9 more than my benefit amount. You read that correctly. Nine dollars! I make $9 more weekly than what the employment department philanthropists want to pay me in benefits. That’s just over one dollar a day more.
What does this even mean? Here’s how I feel:
I still lost my job.
I still am losing income every week.
There are no jobs to be had to make up for the lost income.
At 13 hours a week, I barely earn much as it is–it’s certainly not enough money to even afford the average monthly one-bedroom rent where I live.
How, then, can the government deny me benefits? Because I still hold down another job that pays barely much more than the one I lost? How is that OK? Should I ask my other employer to let me go too? Would that be better, to be completely unemployed, at which time my benefit amount would be much higher? I’m not asking for more than I deserve.
I have a friend who lost one of his two part-time jobs too. Because the one he lost brought in less income than the one he currently has (same as my situation), he was denied a claim as well. We are both diligent people, trying to make two part-time jobs work because full-time jobs with benefits are so scarce. Yet, we are penalized when we lose one of those jobs.
This government that is denying my claim because I earn nine measly dollars more than they think I’m worth, mind you, is the same one that has bailed out the banks and General Motors and every other conglomerate that has caused hardworking individuals to lose their jobs because of corporate greed. Un-f*&$#ing-believable!
Both my friend and I went out of our ways to notify the employment department that we currently still hold part-time jobs so they wouldn’t overpay us if thinking we lost both our jobs. Most people would not have done that, I believe, and would have taken whatever handout they received, whether they deserved it or not (see my reference to the banks, General Motors et al. above). But in being forthright, we are without the money we worked hard for. Once again, the government shows that honesty does not pay off. I mean, just look at who was rewarded with the highest office in the land!
But I digress a little.
We currently are in what the locals refer to as May Gray, which is followed next month by June Gloom. At this time of year, mornings are overcast with a thick, white blanket of sky. If and when the sun does shine through, though, it reveals what I consider to be the most glorious weather. Some parts of town along the coast never see the sun at this time of year. We live far enough east to have (a) lower property values and (b) more sun when it’s key to brightening bad days.
With the coronavirus pandemic still hanging around, there is a lot of cloud cover above us all right now. We don’t know when those clouds will melt away, but we do know they eventually will. Yes, there will be an end to this madness. It’s just not very clear at the moment when the sun will shine again.
It’s been two weeks since the governor issued stay-at-home orders. I have to admit, it’s a lifestyle I can get into. I’ve worked from home for thirty years, and although I work twenty-five hours outside the house now, I still work from home when there are publishing projects. In fact, being at my desk at home is still my happy (work)place.
But we need to exercise, to get out and get some fresh air and sunshine. So we walk. And we walk. And we walk some more. We can’t walk in parks. We can’t walk on the beaches. We can’t hike in the mountains or even on hills, for that matter. But still, those of us who are mobile will strap on our sneakers and get outside, even for a ten-minute trek. I have always wished to own acres of land, a private place where I could walk all the time. Wouldn’t that be nice right about now?
I’m just thankful to have a small backyard and an even smaller front yard. There’s a swimming pool in the back, which I will be ever so grateful for this summer, and I do believe this thing is going to drag into the summer months. I feel sorry for people who are crammed into tiny apartments, trailers, or living outdoors. I am fortunate to have a roof over my head where I can wait out this virus.
Yesterday, I had to pick up my dog’s insulin at a Walmart pharmacy inside a Walmart Neighborhood Market. I hadn’t been out to any store in two weeks. My last grocery run was actually run to to me. I had placed an order from Target and it was delivered to my door.
But Walmart pharmacy doesn’t have a delivery service, so I braved the store. There were fewer people than the last time I ventured in three weeks ago. Some items were still totally removed from shelves, namely toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and hand wipes. But paper towels, a few packs anyway, were in the store. I grabbed one, which is the limit.
I am anxious now when shopping for groceries, so I tend to rush through. I got about 90 percent of what I had come in for and grabbed a few items I didn’t. I’ve been making dinner every night lately, and it’s actually something I look forward to–the cooking routine as well as the eating. And I want to make food we all really like. Fresh meat and chicken are still in stores, thankfully, and so are fresh vegetables. I can make plenty of good meals out of what I brought home yesterday.
It’s very likely Governor Newsom may ask us all to not leave the house without a face covering. He is doing everything in his power to tamp down the spread of this disease. He was fast to act initially, and we are benefiting from it. I will probably have to wear a mask to get my groceries next time. I will put on gloves as well. Heck, I will wear a hazmat suit if that’s what it takes to keep myself and my family healthy. Even if I have to wear it on a walk.
I started writing a post about the new stimulus package and how it’s not fair that dependent adult students are not getting anything from the package, while parents will be given $500 for each dependent child. My son lives with us, he has a part-time job, goes to school full-time, does everything right, but he can’t get a penny from this program? Well, that’s all I’ll say about it.
What changed my mind was sitting outside. After a thunderstorm last night and what seems like rain every day or two throughout the month of March, the sun is shining brightly today. It feels good to know that no matter what craziness is going on on this planet, the earth will still revolve around the sun, rain will fill our reservoirs, and life will go on.
I began thinking about what I’m thankful for right now: that rain has brought green grass and blooming flowers, that my golden retriever was sitting by my side, that my four adult kids are all safe and healthy, that I have a roof over my head and a home my two sons can live in without worrying about being evicted (barring any stupid stunts, of course), that I have meaningful work that I can do from home and get paid for, that my husband remains employed through these nutty times, that I have running vehicles, friends I can count on (and a couple I can’t–but that’s for another day), and the simple fact that I can breathe in and out.
I think of the kids who are home with nothing constructive to do, the young adults who can no longer afford rent and are not wanted back at home, the people without Internet or a way to stay in touch with others. Kids will get behind in school. Adults will lose their jobs and not be able to find replacements. Mortgages will not be paid, rents either, and people will lose their homes.
But those are negatives, and I will not go there today. I will be thankful for electricity, cable TV, Internet, computers, phones, toilets, sinks, showers, entertainment at our fingertips. Never before have I worshiped the technology that allows movies and books to miraculously appear in our hands after a few clicks. I have a safe neighborhood to walk in and a backyard to sit out in when the sun shines as it is today.
There’s plenty to be thankful for. The griping will have to wait.
Our mayor announced yesterday that all city parks and beaches would close. The day before, just the lots were barricaded to discourage people from parking in them and to reduce the number of visitors. But now, no one can hike, hang out at the beach, swim in the ocean, or take a boat out on the lake.
Confinement is being taken seriously, and soon it will drive some up the wall. More and more businesses are closing. People who can work from home are advised to do just that. Those who cannot are going without work and, many, without pay. My younger son works at a coffee shop with a drive-thru window. Frankly, I wish it would close, because the longer it’s open, the greater the chance is that he brings home the virus. But the Starbucks next door shut down and my son’s employer is capitalizing on Starbucks’ lost business. I hope it’s worth it to the owners. I hope my son, who just started this job in January and would probably be the first let go if there’s a reduction in customers, doesn’t come down with any symptoms.
My other son, an employee of the YMCA, is home with pay until the end of the week. The Y is still charging its patrons membership fees while it’s closed. A friend of my husband’s just canceled his membership because of this, and I’m guessing he’s not the only one. No money coming in means no money going out to workers.
I am fortunate that the city I work for is still paying its hourly workers like me, but how long will this last, with talks of budget cuts having started pre-pandemic? So far, we’ve been paid for one week without physically working. Our next pay period ends on April 3. The city was hoping to reopen the libraries by April 6, but that looks pie in the sky.
At my other library, we are still working from home, which is going fine so far. We can do research online for our patrons if they need help. We can also work on other tasks.
I am able to take my dog to the vet today. He’s diabetic and needs his insulin checked every other week. I may ask the vet to send me home with a test kit that I can use without coming in. Maybe I can report to her the result I get and she can monitor and adjust his insulin from that reading. Or I may just ask to come in less frequently. Since we’re almost all home, we can spot if the ol’ boy is doing well or poorly. So far, he’s responding very well to the insulin.
Will weddings go on? We have one to plan for. Our second eldest is getting married in October, but, of course, wedding plans are on hold. The venue, a community center run by one of the local cities, has closed its doors. Brides and grooms who had booked in March and April will have to postpone their weddings for sure and most likely find a new place for the reception. This venue is very popular and is booked at least a year out. We put a deposit down months ago, fortunately. Now we’ll see if the wedding will still go on even seven months out. Everything is so uncertain. I’m glad we haven’t booked a caterer yet.
Typically in March I’m fully in the process of planning our summer vacation. My husband was having a hard time even picking a free week this year at the very start of coronavirus. We finally decided on a week in September. Now that too will have to wait. Who knows what is in store. One thing is for sure, though, even a trip to a local beach will feel like a vacation.
Freelancing can turn you into a liar. Case in point: This week I had to omit the truth from a client who was checking on my status on a project not due for a month and wanting what I’ve worked on so far.
I told him I’d do my best to get him what I have so far but that I have another editing project with a very short deadline that I’m focused on currently, which is true. Typically I wouldn’t have mentioned the other editing job for fear of looking like I’m too busy to work on his assignment, but I did so to let him know that I have another short-term responsibility I’m working his project around and will definitely be able to meet his January deadline.
What I omitted, however–and would never have been able to say–are that I also hold down two part-time jobs; it’s the holidays and my birthday week; and I have four kids, a soon-to-be-son-in-law, a husband, four siblings, and friends to shop for; there are two work Christmas gatherings approaching, Christmas Day dinner to host, and many other obligations to attend to. Had I mentioned any of those things, even one, I would look unprofessional and would probably never hear from him again, because in the fickle freelancing world, I am expendable and the next independent contractor is just around the corner.
The fact that the editor even asked for part of the project isn’t fair at all. The project isn’t due until January–nearly four weeks away–and I was never told I’d have to turn in partial sections of the book along the way when I took the assignment. Of course, the editor asked kindly about the progress and if it was possible to send back sections already worked on, but what was implied was that he really wants something. Now.
I am, if nothing else, excellent with time management. No matter how busy I am (see the above list), I never go over deadline or fail to get everything done. I never turned in late assignments in school and I haven’t in my career either.
But the editor’s asking for what I’ve finished thus far threw me for a loop. I have a system of how I approach a project, especially one this ginormous (over eight hundred pages). I tend to do a once-over and then go back and double-check my work. Now, since I plan to turn in something to him tomorrow, I had to stop my forward progress and do a reverse take, double-checking what I’ve already worked on.
I had every right to tell him on Friday that I will turn in the entire book on January 4, as agreed upon, but instead I e-mailed him back saying that I’d be happy (another lie) to give him what I’ve done thus far. I didn’t mention that I’d be working both days on the weekend, eight hours each day, to get him what he wants, not needs, so he isn’t stuck with this massive project landing back on his desk in the new year.
It’s unfortunate, but when you freelance, you can never avoid working when other obligations are pulling you away from your desk. You can’t shut down the desktop, close the blinds, turn off the light, and lock the door behind you, saying goodnight to the janitor and tipping your hat to the lobby security worker at the end of the day. If you have work, you must work, no matter the circumstances, whether it means working until 11 p.m. after getting off from your day job or both days on the weekend. The show must go on and the work must get done.
It’s the holidays and my birthday week, to boot, but I am rushing to get out my project due on Thursday for another editor and now this one by tomorrow while trying to do a bang-up job along the way so I will be called upon again to handle similar projects. And I’m doing all this while working five days a week at two part-time jobs. Oh, and did I mention the holiday obligations that I have?
As I said, I’m nothing if not a good time manager, but in the freelancing world, time is always never enough.