31 May 2011

Malled. Really?

In the late summer of 2008, I returned to the United States from Spain (at least we Americans don't have a 25 percent unemployment rate, eh?) and found the job market a vast wasteland. Like so many of my journalism brethren before me, I turned to retail. I worked at an independent pharmacy and gift shop until October 2009, when I was laid off.

So I have little sympathy for Caitlin Kelly, author of Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail. She takes a stab at exposing the plight of the proletariat, but Upton Sinclair she is not. For starters, her "career" in retail was two, then reduced to one day a week stints at The North Face in a New York suburb. When I read career, I think 40 hours a week. She complains about climbing like a monkey in the dark, dirty stock room, I raise her a stock room that occasionally flooded with raw sewage. It brought another perspective to the phrase "crappy job."
I can, however, commiserate with her chapter on customers from hell, her apt depiction of tyrannical managers, thinly-veiled nepotism and short-sighted company rules. Her stories about slaving for little more than minimum wage strike a chord.

But Kelly spends too much time name-dropping publications she's written for, and alternately fondly reminisces about and looks down upon her less-than-middle-class former co-workers. If the book is about your unintentional career in retail, give me more of the hilarious and tragic stories. My retail brothers-in-arms and I love swapping tales of woe -- once, an old lady threw a temper tantrum in my store when I told her that she couldn't purchase an individual rubber glove and instead must buy the sealed box. After days of tantrums, she vandalized a rubber glove box, then gleefully trekked in each week thereafter for a single rubber glove from it after our manager gave up. Or there was the woman who used a live, molting parrot as her shopping consultant. The stories are endless.
So in conclusion, the book was a quick read and a good introduction for those unfamiliar with the retail machine. But for who have worked in the ranks, it wasn't a complete picture.

24 May 2011

Putting on the Guerrilla Suit

I attended my first career fair today. I'm not normally claustrophobic, but the sheer amount of people, schmooze and desperation in the air was enough for me to make the event a search-and-employ mission. I scouted out a few companies, pitched myself, handed them my resume and walked out. I needed a latte.
Next time I'm developing an all-out battle strategy, which brings me to my next funemployment item.

GUERRILLA MARKETING FOR JOB HUNTERS 3.0 IS OUT! It's like finally getting an iPhone 3 when the 4 came out. But lest you be dismayed, here's the highlight reel for the rest of 2.0. It's still chock-full of fantastic tactics. Parts two through four of Guerrilla Marketing detail what you should overhaul in your job-hunting arsenal. If you have a non-specific resume that doesn't state keywords from the job you're applying for, you'll be eliminated from the resume stack. Your resume and cover letter are your sales pitch. Write them as such, (but truthfully!) and you'll have a better chance. Use testimonials, an attention-grabbing intro. This is your personal public relations campaign, and the biggest one you'll ever produce.
But your resume isn't your only weapon, according to Perry and Levinson. Use LinkedIn and ZoomInfo to your advantage. Keep a blog and develop an online portfolio. Use social networking for good (quit playing Farmville! -- okay, I added that). Reading about all this made me reassess my current strategy. I'm doing some, but not all of what Levinson and Perry suggest. I hadn't considered "warm calling" potential employers, or working with recruiters (I thought they were supposed to find me, right?). It can't hurt, I figure.

Conclusion: I want to read 3.0, since my quibble about passe information in 2.0 will be resolved, I think. I think Perry and Levinson give great advice and trigger ideas in 2.0, even if at times it's overwhelming. If you've been following my blog for a while, you've seen how long it took me to review it. This book won't become a doorstop, that's for sure.

08 May 2011

Purple Squirrel

"You're in a market that is searching for the purple squirrel candidate, which is hard, but I believe you're someone's purple squirrel." A wonderful friend said this in the midst of a frenzied Google Chat discussion (she has three kids -- that's more than a full-time job). 
I love it. Mostly because most days, I feel like a purple squirrel. I have enough work experience to make me dangerous, but not enough in any one place to look proficient in my field. A little funky, but mostly just weird. But I've learned so much.

Speaking of learning, I'm in the last week of my internship. I'm finishing up news releases, trying to  get last-minute coverage for my client and preparing to pass the baton to the next intern. I've gotten a great taste of working in public relations and observing all the kinds of people involved. If I'm a purple squirrel, the internship's given me a bit of a Mohawk to make this rodent a little funkier. 
The chairman of my university's journalism department said that getting an internship was nearly a guarantee of landing a job. I'm about to put his claim to the test.