BA Quest

Where College Students Meet Their Fate

Posts Tagged ‘Job

This Big Year

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This last year was life changing for me; I got my bachelor’s degree in English, met my first great love, decided that living well would be too easy, and became a minority again. Not all of this was exciting, but it will all be important going forward.

This whole blog’s purpose has been to talk about my post-degree survival. I have struggled to find work in a crap economy, buckled under the pressure of said economy, given up on ever finding economic happiness, recanted that statement, then recanted my recantment.

It is hard to remember back when I first graduated and dug around in the mud of the internet, hoping to dredge up a job. Now I have a job and a half. I have my desk job, my credentials to assure everyone that I am just as disappointed with my earnings as they are. My other work is in content writing, creating the bland paragraphs you read across any C-list website across the web. It is boring work, and somehow less boring than my desk job.

As I’ve done more content writing I’ve made small adjustments in my view of a writing career. It is, however, my desk job that has changed my viewpoints the most. You see, right now I am a simple file clerk. I get paid better than I used to when I had a job at my school, but probably not as well as I deserve. My tasks include copying papers in files, mailing papers in files, putting files in drawers, and taking files out of drawers. I repeat this for 8 hours, with a 1.5 hour commute each way. Don’t get me wrong, my coworkers are enjoyable, kind, helpful. Also, I understand that you have to start on the low rung, even if you have a degree. That just gets you in the door, and then you claw your way up, hoping to survive life in the meantime. There is one problem though, and it is a rather huge problem, I don’t want to move up here. I know and have heard of plenty of writers who have jobs on the side, I know that you don’t become a famous writer and live your life in paradise. All I’m saying is that if I had to continue doing my current job to make my living wage, I would go insane. This is no small thing, I value my sanity. I give my sanity due for getting me this far in life (though not without its hiccups, like that time my sanity told me to walk home from school at 10 at night), and I won’t sacrifice it over a paycheck.

Creative writers get filthy rich all the time right? RIGHT?!

So what can I do? I guess the only answer I’ve come up with is to have patience. Which is exactly why I intend to be jobless in about 10 days. All right, maybe patience isn’t the best word for it. See here is the situation, my filing job is a temporary job, and they keep extending my time there. That is awesome, it gives me money, all the while edging me closer to a face-to-face with Mr. Madness. This time my job is supposed to end at the start of February, and I intend to stick to that. If I cut this job off, without getting ‘fired’ for some bad reason, I should receive a new job from my temp agency at some point in the future. In the meantime, I hope to steep myself in the process of building my writer’s ‘platform’ and finishing a manuscript or two. Will this work? Not likely, I am dreadfully lucky when I actually get a job. I will probably get offered a full position within the week, I’ll let you guys know.

If I do get February off, I plan to spend it with my first great love. As I like to call her, my FGL, or my Fugul, all of which I have trademarked. We’ve been together for more than this last year, but this year has been quite an adventure in romance. Just three years ago you could have heard me spread my creed of ‘ignoring the ladies to achieve capital gains’. I still believe in that really. My romance is, nearly, exactly how I would have dreamed. No pointless flirting and engagements, we didn’t meet at a club, and I haven’t had to lay claim to a baby created over our 2 years together. I give us an A+.

She is more talented than me, which stings in a petty way. There are benefits to relating to another artist though, in particular I can talk to her. While I was sure that I would be stuck with a life of only showing my work to my mate for the purposes of getting empty pats on the back, instead I have someone who can critique like a pro. We discover more that we have in common every day, and we are different in all the right ways (there are anatomical differences that are of note, IE da boobies). One thing in particular is relatively new for me, but it has been a long way coming.

Again, rewind two years. If you asked me what my beliefs were as I headed off to school, I would have told you that I was a spiritualist. My family is technically Baptist, with a few Jehovah’s witnesses sprinkled in there. My belief in the structure of the church was already shot. I don’t care about what a pastor or priest has to say, and I knew that there was no house that you could shove god in. For me, there was likely some power out there though, and I was willing to believe in a spirit inside me. Maybe I read too much manga.

Now I can firmly call myself an atheist. An interesting turn for such a short period. It dawned on me one day that I shed everything else related to religion. I had no god, I had no church, I had no faith community, I had spirit within. I believed in this one life, and on treating everyone around me as a human being, not a representative of a future life. As my self-identification changed, so did I. This election cycle has definitely helped. I have come to the conclusion that I cannot connect myself, even passively, to a group that would impede the progress of the society around me and purposely harm innocents in the name of their collective beliefs. This is not a knock against the teachings of my previous faith, or any other. Christianity is all right in small doses, and I won’t hate on anyone who wants to go along with the mutated creature that is usually brought up when we speak of Christianity. That is, all the talk of ‘love and charity’ that gets left behind.

Good old Jezus!

The public application of Christianity is something different though, and exactly what I had to escape. I joined my fellow students to stand up to the Westboro Baptist Church, I have listened to people speak of their god defining marriage while ignoring the wishes of their fellow man, I have seen the leaders of faith blame the poor and sick for their trouble while hoarding power for themselves. As a person, Christianity is a failed experiment. As a writer, Christianity is a well crafted tragedy, the smiling cult welcoming the world’s ruin. It turns out that only 15% or so of my country is atheist, so I guess I’m a minority here.

This is only January though, so who knows what may come in the months ahead. Maybe I’ll get famous and meet you readers in the funny papers. Alternatively, I could find a constructive way to use my degree in the workplace, while continuing to learn. Most likely I’ll be complaining about my job for a long time now. Only one way to find out.

Written by MD Kid

01/11/2012 at 3:49 PM

The Mentor Approaches

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Networking is one of those skills that means everything, and is rarely taught. When I received training to work at my community college, networking was always on the topic of the day. My boss, an amazing lady by the name of Dr. Mari Kruger, made sure we knew that communication and connections were just as important to to success as any skill. There are thousands if not millions of people out there that have skills like mine or better. That means the only way to get anywhere is to know someone who is willing to give me a shot.

That said, I suck at networking. It is probably because I’m lazy. I’m also shy. I’m not very hip. I don’t always have the best haircut. I also have a pretty goofy laugh. The lazy part is big though. There have been many bridges extended to me, and I usually leave them hanging in the air. Anyone who knows bridges, or has played one of the estimated billion bridge building games on the app store, should know that a bridge extending to nothing but air is going to crash and burn. Now that I’ve entered my 4th or so month of unemployment, I think my feelings about bridges should make a change.

When I went to the Penny Arcade Expo, I had the chance to hear from a lot of people who do exactly what I want to do. They write, and they enjoy writing. They are freelance writers who work on game magazines and websites. They are indie role-playing game developers who create stunning worlds for others to play in. These people are living the dream, and they were there for me to talk to and ask questions. They gave me a lot of good advice about stick-to-it-tiveness (a real word, look it up), and how to survive in a world where writing isn’t exactly the quickest way to the white picket-fence. I don’t remember any of their names, so obviously my bridge-related skills are taking baby steps. I remember some of the projects they worked on, and I have absorbed a lot of their advice.

The panel on freelance writing was full of people, more than even the panel organizers expected to have there. It was interesting to see a room full of nerds who wanted nothing more than a chance to formulate essays and articles about their hobby. Actually, it wasn’t very surprising at all. It was more disheartening to realize exactly how many people were trying to get their foot in the door of the freelance market. I don’t like having my feet stepped on, so shoving my tender foot into a mountain of sweaty shoes is a turn off at best. Still, I listened to what they had to say. The main advice was to be persistent, and to start out where you can. Make a blog (I don’t know where I’ll get one of those), write your own articles, don’t try to start at the top. A good piece of advice came when a man asked how he could get in the door to interview game developers so he could sell the article to magazines, he was pretty much told he couldn’t. It was hard enough for magazines to talk to some developers, a freelance without any ‘cred’ wasn’t going to get very far. The main thing I learned was to get myself out there, which I’ve been trying. It is good to know that I wasn’t on the wrong track.

Another panel was the indie developers panel. This wasn’t for digital games, with bleeps and bloops on one of those LED screens. No, this was about pen and paper, dungeons and the dragons that populate them, nerds imagining their way to entertainment. The creator of some indie projects were there, like the creators of Panty Explosion and Apocalypse World. The greatest advice here was that an indie developer does not need to sacrifice their own money to publish. The best idea is to start small, work with playtesters online, and then self-publish through services like Lulu.com. That way when a copy of your game sells, you make money. You never have to print a large mountain of copies and hope to sell them all, you can work on 100% profit.

So what does all this mean for our dashing hero? I’ve decided not to quit yet, that is one thing. The experience of PAX was already amazing, yet hearing from people who have been published only reignited my quickly fading flame. I know that I need to get all the experience I can get, and to keep writing here and other places. If I can get one break, any break, things may turn out fine.

In the meantime, I need to start writing down people’s names. At least add them on twitter or something.

 

Written by MD Kid

09/18/2011 at 9:32 AM

Nothing is Worth Nothing

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The first thing you learn from selling yourself, is if you are worthless. Not that I have any self-esteem issues, not yet anyway. I’ve been trying to find work related to my degree, work that I’m interested in, work that I can be proud of. Instead I’ve sold myself to any gig that I’m viable for, and haven’t even earned a rejection.

I think when I got this degree I expected a fairy-tale situation. Sure it would be difficult for a month, everything would look real grim, and then a big fluffy cloud of sunshine would come just in time to save the day. I would get a just-good-enough job to take on, and then I could move on to the next chapter of my life. Now I’m at the end of my rope, and my checkbook.

First I tried to use the well named ‘freelance writing gigs’ website for help. That didn’t get me anywhere. Since then I’ve kept an eye on craigslist anyway, since most of the jobs on the freelance site link back there anyway. Sure it isn’t the best resource, but I think I can definitely count myself as a beggar by now.

My second attempt was Elance.com. An interesting site in concept, the execution is a lot more depressing. Elance.com works on a bid system, where freelancers can say how much they are willing to work for and why they are good for the job, then hold their breath until they get hired or end up in the obituaries. The first gig I applied for, a small ghostwriting project, I said I could work for 10 dollars an hour.

That’s an okay rate, I’m not exactly an expert. The rate looked like $11 to the employer, because Elance has their own overhead. When I did the math, this was just enough money for me to survive for the duration of the project. I wasn’t trying to put money toward a small island, I just wanted to eat next month.

I received a message from the employer that my rate was the highest one. I was shocked, this couldn’t possibly be the case. When I looked at the other proposals, every writer was either from India, or part of a group. There is no way I can compete with the cost of living in India. They can work for $5, and they have experience on top of that. The only chance I have, is to earn less money than what I need.

So that was it, I made two attempts. It was time to throw in the towel.

Alternatively, I could embrace what the job market, if not society, was trying to tell me. My writing isn’t worth anything. Correction, my writing isn’t worth anything right now. Two years of writing in an academic environment means nothing in the big world of paychecks and meeting loan payments. I need to build up a resume in the boring business world. I could have writing samples with TPS reports, or maybe really good contracts I typed up.

The new plan is to try working for nothing. The positive, I won’t be making any less money. If I work for friends and family, writing up the things they need done for their websites or businesses, I might actually get a resume worth looking at.

I’m still waiting on a miracle though. At this point, I can use it.

     

Written by MD Kid

08/23/2011 at 6:12 AM

Our Hero Denies His Destiny

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I didn’t think it would be that easy. So I feel vindicated, it isn’t easy at all.

In the two weeks since I last wrote about looking for a job, I have taken a lot of steps to find work. Not the usual steps. I didn’t go looking in the classifieds. I haven’t started filling out resumes at Taco Bells and KFCs. My pride wouldn’t allow it. I stuck to the plan, and I’ve tried hard to find a job appropriate to my education. So I went to Craigslist.

In my defense, I didn’t go directly to Craigslist. First, I tried to find websites that would carry jobs I was qualified for. This lead me to look for freelance writing work. That word, freelance, has never applied to me before. In my head I was always an author, a writer, an English dude. No one told me to consider myself a freelance writer. Maybe that is because I’m not qualified to be one.

I found freelancewritinggigs.com. The name is right on the nose. Everyone should know that freelancewritinggigs.com list freelance writing gigs each weekday. These jobs are everything from copywriters, to ghostwriters, to resume editors. Most of the links on their website, lead directly to Craigslist. Undeterred, I prepared to sell myself. I made a text document to list every job I applied for, when I applied for it, and details of what the job entailed. This way I would know every detail of the position I was going for.

Two weeks later, I probably have two dozen entries on my application list. Craigslist, for the uninitiated, usually keeps contact limited to e-mail. This is a real downer when looking for work, since you can’t call to check up on how your application is doing. Instead you send your resume and samples into the ether, and hope for the best.

My only hope these two weeks has been from one of the few jobs I didn’t find on Craigslist. In an effort to maintain the purpose of my mission, I applied for a job at Valve. Valve, the mythical creators of the Steam gaming platform, always keep a few positions hiring. One of them was a customer service representative. It was the sort of job that I said I didn’t need, one completely unrelated to my four year degree. I applied, and they e-mailed me back for more information. This ruined at least two pairs of underpants, and then I e-mailed them back. Finally, Valve sent me a test of my etiquette when dealing with customers. The prompt dealt with the mother of a 12 year old who was non-plussed over her son seeing a rated R movie. I thought my response was even and fair, without being overly apologetic. Valve didn’t seem to care for it.

Now I feel like I’m starting over again. No one has contacted me for work, and time is grinding forward. Another two months, and I will be required to start paying on my student loans. I have to double my efforts, but I may also have to prepare for inevitable failure.

My newest efforts to stay alive with a BA in English, is to join a site called Elance. Elance is quite different from craigslist, yet similar at the same time. This site requires that you verify your number, take test to verify your skills, and still put up a resume and work samples. Employers have to verify that they have the funds to pay you, and then the freelancers bid for a chance to work on projects. It sounds horrifying, I’m in.

Written by MD Kid

07/30/2011 at 6:45 PM

Posted in Job Hunt

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An English Major Seeks a Job

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(Originally created on 7/16/2011)

You ever heard the one about the English major? He spent four years getting his degree in Unemployment. People also think English majors all become teachers, so does that mean, “Those that can’t do, teach,” is a joke on English majors as well?

I can understand the animosity. As degrees go, English is ambiguous and archaic. Are English majors humanitarians, all hoping to be the glistening angel in some young person’s life? A goal like that is soft. Teaching young children is seen as feminine in the states, a pampering job, a maternal job. Do English majors comb old tomes, digesting tidbits from the long dead? Then they’re seen as useless to our fast moving present. What still remains to be read? Maybe English majors are artist yearning to be superstars? If so, they sure chose the wrong profession. Writers are just above fashion designers and right below wrestlers in the grand fame hierarchy.

Unfortunately, I’m an English major. Even worse, I’m one by choice. I have no intention of teaching. I don’t read classics all day. My writing won’t be on a best-seller list anytime soon. I have no intention of being a superstar, but I will be a writer. Nothing will change that part of me, barring some incident that puts me in a coma. So what is a poor English major to do?

When I was preparing to graduate, my first goal was to get the most boring job I could manage. This is still an option. Nothing makes you want to go home and write like a mind numbing desk job. That’s something that doesn’t occur to people, a writer can write no matter what their job is. I have answered phones before. Seven hours of answering phones, repeating the same message, and entering data. I have a notepad full of doodles from that job. Nothing motivates you to draw a spaceman like hearing a woman complain about her 13 year old.

Now I have a new plan, forged in the embers of summer weather. It is the sort of plan to be proud of. A plan full of conviction, passion. A plan that shapes the future, based on what matters most. A plan that can be easily canceled the second things don’t go my way. Which is something I’m prepared for, I finished an English degree after all.

You see, I love games. Not just video games, but board games, tabletop games, card games, pen and paper games. Since I was young, I’ve wanted to use my stories for games. In elementary school, I planned my own games out on paper. My friend and I mailed off a game idea to Nintendo, in the 4th grade. They sent a polite rejection. Maybe I would be better off now, if they told me to get lost. Instead I tried to write super hero stories in Jr. High school. In High school, I wrote game reviews for my friend’s website.

Everything changed in college. University gave me a chance to take classes that actually related to my craft. With a full schedule of classes about classics and basics, I had no time to dream. School washed me clean of my aspirations. My mind was refocused on literature. I’m thankful, I never want to lose that knowledge. As I took my last classes, I realized that I didn’t need to sacrifice what I was about. Literature is about people, and writing becomes what you care about.

So I need a job. Not any job, a job that lets me be myself. My game loving, nerd-centric, dry humored self. Which means some very odd job hunting. Trust me, careerbuilder.com isn’t good for writing work. I guess this is the best place to track my progress. I need to change my resume, get myself out there, and go on plenty of interviews. Hopefully everything works out, because I’m ready to give up at the first sign of difficulty.

Written by MD Kid

07/30/2011 at 11:06 AM

Posted in Job Hunt

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