Friday, November 5, 2010

Marathon Friday

So this morning I was up a little after 7:00, as per the usual, and had this whole list of things that were going to happen today. As it turns out, I have enjoyed two movies and it is just noon. Hurray for days off!

I'm shaping up the apartment, doing laundry, getting my nails done, and generally treating it like a Sunday since this Sunday is not going to be a normal Sunday.

Sunday is Marathon Sunday. Over 40,000 people are running 26.2 miles through all 5 boroughs of the City of New York. I ran last year and had an amazing experience (see photo) but it is not something I needed to repeat.

Although I've been a runner for decades, I  do not enjoy what other runners call "long distance." I enjoy distances under 10 kilometers / 6.2 miles but many people run half marathons (13.1 miles) or marathons or even further-- distances that boggle the mild. Running a mile is an accomplishment. I find that my body talks back when I train more than 20 miles a week which just doesn't cut it when going face to face with 26.2 miles all at once.

Much like losing weight, there are a few basic principles to meeting your goals.  When it comes to training for the marathon, you run several times a week without ever missing your long run (over 10 miles) each weekend and a distance run (6-10 miles) in the middle of the week. Yes, we know what to do but actually doing it can be much more complicated. Well, not necessarily complicated but simply may not happen. Or when it does happen, people can get injured from pushing too hard too soon.

Marathon Sunday is an emotional day. Seeing how many people have done the work to lace up sneakers Sunday morning is impressive. Those of us who are not running are also involved. The whole route is lined with spectators, parties, and volunteers.  It is a great day to celebrate our friends and neighbors who support the runners and who are the runners.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

An Ideal Work Day

When I was in high school, I remember talking with my uncle about how he really works for two hours on a good day.  His definition of working was rather lawyer-ly: "work" is the time where you are completely focus and doing something that only you can do. The rest of the time you are going through the motions.

At the time, he was the director of a bank. His hobbies include golfing, tennis, and cooking. Doing all these activities with his wife-- along with writing and managing his portfolio-- keeps him wildly happy now that he is in his 70s. It seems, in some ways, that he also has applied this theory to his life in retirement.

At the time of this conversation, I didn't had a job other than being in school. What my uncle has to say was intriguing and abstract, staying with me. Each time I've been at a job, I think about this idea. Those two hours a day are what make you happy to be there. If you don't have them, you can easily feel bored at work.

Yesterday, I volunteered for 4 hours working on a mailing to raise money for a non-profit organization that supports people who are brave enough to leave harmful domestic situations. They are so well organized and make it so comfortable to pitch in and help out that I love showing up.

There is another kind of satisfaction-- one that is different from the two challenging hours-- that comes from a repetitive task. You start with a pile of undone and it becomes a pile of done.

The best work days are a combination of the satisfaction from completing the straightforward tasks that build confidence in competence and the satisfaction from challenges that you are uniquely prepared to resolve.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

An Ode to the iPad

 Since I used to work at an internet company, some people think I am a technology wizard. The reality is that am more of a reader and less of a computer person. Although I've always loved aspects of technology, nothing kills your love of being wired faster than over 200 emails a day. The peace and quiet that comes from having under 25 emails daily, needing to respond to under 10 is something I will miss about my not-working life. It just feels so civilized to talk on the phone and meet for coffee.

One of the big pluses to going back to work is that my better half promised to give me an iPad when I got a new job. We got it together on Saturday and I've been spending hours every day enjoying it. Even the bugs that were common when computers were less sophisticated are bringing me pleasue. Although the iPad is amazing, the flaws of newness triggers nostalgia.

Yes, we've been able to get samples of books off Amazon for years, the process of downloading the first 30 pages of a new novel and reading it on a subway ride just thrills me. I have a few dozen classics that I downloaded for free as well as a few books I purchased.

Reading the paper, responding to emails on a full keyboard, looking a photos, and generally having a full sized laptop screen with many laptop functions feels like a big quality of life improvement in New York while it is probably less exciting elsewhere.

Last month, one of my friends visited New York after having moved to Portland a year or so ago. She talked about how she doesn't have a lot of waiting time in Portland because she walks, takes her bike, and sees people she knows so often. In New York, waiting is an everyday part of life. We wait for public transportation and sit while we are taken to our destinations. We wait in lines for coffee, groceries, movie tickets, free events, and for other people to show up. We get places early because you never know what can happen on the way. As a result, having lots of good reading on you at all times makes me giddy with joy.

If you know of any apps that are particularly fun, please let me know.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

New Job!

The premise of this blog is that I don't have a job. Since Monday is my first day at my new job, I need to figure out what to do with this site.  I certainly cannot be writing about work. I can write about the funny people in my neighborhood. I can write about experiences in the city in general.

The new job is an excellent fit. The people are lovely. The company has a fantastic reputation. The work itself sounds fun challenging, encompassing a lot of different skill sets in an environment I see myself thriving in. As with any job, it won't be without it's challenges but these topics will not be part of this blog anymore.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Open Spaces, Open Water

Although being in the middle of Times Square is just what happens sometimes when you live here, I don't particularly enjoy these urban hubs. My day-to-day existence in New York involves as much time in the open grandeur of this little island off the New Jersey coast as possible.

I like to spend time in parks, museums, and libraries. These spaces that I enjoy the most are also spaces that I've help maintain over the years.

When I lived in Chelsea, a few blocks east of the Hudson River, I would go running in the morning on a broken path. In the decade since I lived there, it has greatly improved. I would see very few other people while the white noise of the cars along the West Side Highway mixed with the water rocking softly against the piers under my feet.

The part I loved the most about these mornings was seeing the ships traveling along the Hudson.  In a time of computers and intellectual property, here was a reminder of the deep waters surrounding this island. All the waterways converging around it, made this island the ideal port. New York being a port led to it being a city, to the center of industry, and now a center of thought. Those lone majestic ships once traveled in the same river as part of a crowd.

The world changes the world. We adjust. We adept.

Photos: Isla and Isla (detail), Yoan Capote

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Well Written Blog Post from Someone Else

This is a link about prep and expectations from a hiring manager. My favorite part is when she reminds people to check attachments since once someone attached an essay about her cat. The essay is at the bottom of the post. Love it!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What My Wednesday Looks Like

After 5 months of being unemployed, I am used to the way days blend into each other and how relative productivity can be. I've been up since 5:40am.

At 6am, I walked dogs with my every-Wednesday-morning-we-run friend. We did not run for a great reason: she is recovering from a recent marathon which she ran fast enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon. This is sort of the running equivalent of being ranked in tennis.

It was light out when I got back to the apartment at 7am as my partner-in-crime was just waking up. We had coffee together, figured out dinner plans, and said goodbye.

8am I returned the latest Netflix, picked up the paper, and spent the next hour reading-- bringing me to 9am. At which time I wrote emails, read favorite blogs, and check out links posted by friends on Facebook.

10am brought a phone call from a friend about hanging out on Friday afternoon. We caught up for about 15 minutes. The call reminded me of a filmmaker I meant to look up. Read interviews, watched YouTube clips, and generally was satisfied by my new knowledge by 11am.

Made a snack and coffee number two before writing this post while ignoring the 8 other tabs I currently have open in the browser.

What else is going on today? I want to finish reading "The Good Earth" by Pearl S Buck (Pulitzer Prize, 1939), will lift weights at the gym, will get a manicure in preparation for an interview tomorrow, practice French with a downloaded podcast, meditate for half an hour, and have dinner with friends.

I wasn't expecting to be unemployed at all but when the reality hit me in mid-April I planned to enjoy it as much as possible while putting one foot in front of the other towards finding the next right job. It still feels like I'm in a holding pattern, but I've embraced it for what it is.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Scheduling is the First Part of the Interview

On September 2nd, I applied for a job that I could do perfectly while asleep. It is working for a great company with more earning potential than my last job. At the time, I was thinking about moving to California and this seemed like a reasonable alternative.

They reached out to me by email on Monday to schedule an interview for this week. I gave several large blocks of time that would work for me. They set something up for a time next Monday when I was not free.  I rescheduled so I could be available for them.

This afternoon, they asked me to come in tomorrow during a time that I am also busy. I replied with a request to discuss rescheduling by phone and have not heard back. Why, 6 weeks after ignoring my application, is this urgent? I have already rearranged my schedule to accommodate them once.  If HR called me on Monday instead of emailing to ask about tomorrow afternoon, I could have rescheduled but I will not reschedule at this point. I have written about this sort of this before but I'm surprised so many potential employers start off on the wrong foot.

On the other hand, the place that I interviewed with a few times in the past few weeks (and have another interview with later this week) has felt more respectful of my time. When I made it through the first round, the second round person was not expecting me but agreed to see me anyway. The most important interview so far was with someone who was expecting me on a Thursday, not a Tuesday but we met for over an hour anyway. My next interview is with an executive so I need to take a train for this meeting. Since it was scheduled far in advance, it was easy to say yes.

Is it possible that my decision to not let this other HR person's disorganization spill over into my life before I've even gotten the job will prevent me from being considered? Yes. Yes it is. But if it was you, would you rethink your application if the process looked like the list below before you even got in the door?

Sept 2: apply online, tell friend at company who emails relevant parties
Sept 8: friend emails relevant parties again to confirm receipt of my application
Sept 21: I email relevant parties restating my interest
Sept 28: friend emails me to see if I heard back after Sept 21 (no)
Oct 4: friend emails relevant parties asking if position is still open
Oct 11: HR asks when I am free this week, I respond with 3 large blocks of time this week
Oct 12: HR picked a time on Monday when I am not free, I reschedule my plans, and respond yes
Oct 13: HR asks me to come in tomorrow afternoon (I am not free)
Oct 13: I ask them to call me to see if we can work something out

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Calling Out Sick

One of the best parts of not working is having a cold. I know that sounds counter intuitive but it feels great to be home sick taking care of myself without worrying about all the things I'm not doing at work.

At my last job, there was a day when I went home early. There was a walk through of a storage space that, as most spaces of that nature, becomes a dumping ground for items that might be useful some day. Actually, in my apartment my spouse refers to this spot as "the compromise corner." I think of it as the "Goodwill staging area" but it somehow can take weeks to exit the premises.

Everyone knows that apartment rents are high in Manhattan but commercial square foot rentals can be 10 times the rate of residential rentals. In such a world, such spaces should not exist at all. Whatever the item, buying a new one is cheaper than squirreling it away in a place that should be an office.

Trying to emphasize both the luxury of a storage space in the first place and the need to keep it organized in order to hold on to it did not go over well with my team. On this particular day, there was going to be a walk through and a small party to reward the newly organized space.

I woke up while it was still dark out to throw up. I was able to get back to sleep for awhile but the scene repeated itself just before taking a shower. I made it through the shower. I did not quite make it through the door before round 3 hit. But I was going to get to work and I was going to be at that walk through.

The walk though was scheduled for 4pm-- the end of the day-- so the party would not interfere too much with the regular work day. Before lunch, I tried laying down on the floor of an unused conference room. That was after throwing up a fourth time. This rest was interrupted by my needing to dash into the ladies room, throwing up for a fifth time. After being so adamant about the work needing to be complete in time for the walk through, I went home early. By leaving, I felt I was letting my team down.

At my previous job, I once called in sick with the flu. I rented and watched "The Pianist". Let me tell you, nothing makes you feel like a bigger loser. Watching a movie about Holocaust survivors when home with a stuffy head and a fever does not make you feel better.

I have had two nasty colds over the past two weeks and it is the nicest feeling to have no obligation beyond getting over it.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Plus Column

I've started so many posts but not finished them this week. You see, I'm excited that I may have found the next right thing. It isn't want I would have imagined a year ago but it has a lot of items in the plus (vs minus) column. Part of my excitement about this position is that I know a number of other facilities managers nearby.

The interesting thing about this unexpected good fit is that I have this amazing network of people to reach out to about it. Three friends gave me information about what it is like working for the company, what the most important part of the job is, and even details about the people I interviewed with. People think of New York as such a big city but it can also be small in some ways.

One of my friends, a facilities manager I know from a professional organization, was laid off last week. This friend was already looking for work and we would often talk about how few opportunities we have seen. It is anecdotal, but my original theory that since construction has slowed that facilities becomes that much more important to companies is not holding true. Perhaps the people making decisions see it as an area that does not generate revenue so it is an area where reducing costs will have a positive impact on the bottom line.

Whatever the thinking, I'm glad to be part of this community and am looking forward to helping people be happy at work in the near future.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Private is Public

When I get an email about a job, I do a few searches about the sender and the company, spending no more than 10 minutes just to get a bit of a context. This week I have seen a baby home movie and read a dad's obituary from two days earlier.  There is a lot of personal information on the internet! I'm sure this is the first you are hearing about this.

When most people talk about online privacy, it ranges from concern about strangers being able to watch your virtual movements to the more specific. A few examples? Wanting searches about health conditions and... um... personal interests to remain private. But what I upload about myself to the public domain-- this blog, for example-- is a personal decision with personal consequences. Just for the record, that is not my family to the left.

When I search my own name, my LinkedIn profile comes up close to the top. You can learn where I went to college and the names of some family members. You can see a few pieces of art I've made. My Facebook profile is restricted to friends. If you dig a bit deeper, there are some slightly more personal items but thankfully that picture of me hiking through Utah as a high school sophomore is no longer up.  I don't think anyone accessing my online persona would feel like they walked in on me in the locker room.

What do I do with the information that someone emailed me two days after his father passed away? When I read that article, I had two thoughts simultaneously: I have invaded this man's privacy and why is he working. Watching a 2 minute home movie of another stranger's children was a much more positive experience (so cute) but it felt uncomfortable because I certainly was not the intended audience.

At the same time, these 10 minute searches can reveal extremely useful information so I am glad that I take the time to do them. Being more savvy about what is up in the cloud for all to see is up to the individual. Some might say that I shouldn't be doing these searches if I know the outcome could potentially put me in an awkward position.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Group Meditation

I went to a group meditation in Chelsea tonight with two friends and didn’t know what to expect. 

The oldest Zendo in the United States is a few blocks from my apartment. I’ve practiced there during open practice before but they are super formal. Like, change into a robe and chant formal. I find it intimidating.

This place was nothing like that. The center is in a creaky loft with a clean floor and muslin curtains. The leader told a story about a muscular thin young yoga instructor who was offered a seat on the subway by an older woman, was sure it was because she looked pregnant, and this sent her into a 3 day depression. 

People were invited to share, focusing on how we look for confirmation of stories we tell ourselves. After that, we meditated together for 20 minutes. Most of us chatted informally for a few minutes after the class.

At some point during the meditation, the teacher suggested we count our breath to ten to maintain focus so I started counting in English and got the idea it would be fun to count to ten in as many languages as I could. When I was struggling through the German, I thought that probably wasn’t what he meant so I went back to English.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

An Act of Congress

Over the weekend, I had an odd realization. I considered moving to California before thinking about working off the island of Manhattan. "Why would I ever need to leave?" is the mantra of many a New Yorker.

Why do I live in Manhattan? I lived in Brooklyn for a number of years but Manhattan feels like home now. Is it for the convenience? Stepping outside has the pulse of adventure mixed with the comfort of the familiar. I'm near my friends. My favorite spaces are within walking distance. I don't need a car.  It seems irresponsible to throw away all that is a right in my life for a job. Isn't that the premise of countless gaffs about not one in the hospital wishing to spend more time in the office?

But there is still the question of money. Unemployment is not a fortune but it is essentially enough to live on. Yesterday, I confirmed that my benefits have been extended by an act of congress, giving me the luxury of time to keep looking for the right job in the New York area.

Within hours of realizing that I have have seven months to find the right job, a recruiter reached out to me about an excellent position in New York. I have enough experience with this to know that I may never hear about the job again but it is a sign that my strategy will work if I continue to be a balance of persistent and patient.

This morning was the first time that I applied for a position within the realm of public transportation but off the island of Manhattan.  It is easy to go through the motions-- to continue doing what you are already doing. Taking the time to weigh all the options to make a decision-- even if that decision is to keep on the same track-- is empowering. I am on this path because I have chosen this path.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Zen Cooking

Enjoying this time between jobs has taken a more concerted effort. More moments of anxiety and frustration catch me by surprise as time ticks on.  As a result, I am rediscovering old hobbies like cooking and watching lots of tv. The two converged yesterday when I saw a documentary about a zen chef, best known for writing a bread baking best seller in the 1960s.

The idea of saving every grain of rice and treating food as you would your eyesight is so removed from how I relate to food but I appreciate that it doesn't need to be.

Before working at an office with 3 free hot gourmet meals a day, I was a New York anomaly. During my first decade here, I cooked so often that I could count the number of times I had ordered food to be delivered to my apartment on one hand.  Google changed that. How could my humble dinner ever top the miso cod with heirloom tomatoes and raw mint ice cream at lunch?

The internet makes finding recipes so much easier than pouring over cookbooks. For example,  I had a lot of mushrooms in the fridge and friends coming over for dinner last night. A search for mushroom chili resulted in a dish that fit easily into my cooking-for-an-hour-is-long-enough guideline. 

The end result? I received the best compliment a cook can get: "I thought I wasn't going to like this at all but I'm going back for seconds and want the recipe."

The process of making a dessert-- angel food strawberry shortcake (see above)-- was much more exciting then I had anticipated. I had never made an angel food cake before and it is fascinating to watch it come to life. The recipe calls for 12 egg whites whipped into a frenzy. Uncooked, it is it's own unique substance with a texture between foam and batter.

One of my friends brought over heavy cream, which she whipped up after we finished the chili. Building a fresh strawberry shortcake cake with my friends after sharing a good meal is one of the wonderful experiences that was so much easier to make happen because I'm unemployed.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Dear Martha, Thank you for the free spoon

Captains log: week day number 6 of jack hammers in the street outside my apartment. I have just consumed a balanced breakfast of coffee and fresh baked chocolate chip cookies after a brief run in Central Park.

As I have officially passed the "4 months unemployed" mark, this whole not working thing has developed into a strange mix of annoyance at how these unstructured days blend together and trying to savor the experience since I can't go on like this much longer.

Over the weekend, I was in the elevator at the gym (don't judge me) with two people in their 70s chatting. I couldn't help but listen in. "I was talking with Mayor Mike's girlfriend the other day. He is so involved with Washington. I bet they ask his advice on everything. 'What is going on with the economy?' I asked her. She said 'Mike says the economic situation is unfixable.' Can you imagine? What a mess we're in."

It was disheartening since it was confirmation of my impression that finding a good job in New York will take me awhile and it is heartening since we're all in this boat together. This is still New York so the city is filled with a full spectrum of opportunity.

My running team was asked to help promote Martha Stewart's new cooking show yesterday by dressing in matching running shirts, aprons, and holding wooden spoons while getting our picture taken. I'm not sure about the process that led to this publicity photo shoot, but I'm thankful for my new running shirt, apron, and wooden spoon.

It was an odd event. We were supposed to meet at a running store that had a group run scheduled around the same time. People not in our club got confused and put on shirts and were surprised we didn't go outside to run in the rain like everyone else. We were also confused about the people who were not runners and suspected had responded to a Craigslist posting to make a few dollars.

Throughout this whole experience I was thinking "Hey! Lucky me! I get free stuff to go running with my friends just like I would be doing anyway."

The strangest part was not the confused runners or the young women looking to make a few dollars but a conversation with a new woman in her 40s in the club.
She said the most curious thing. She said the wooden spoon was made out of balsa wood and wouldn't last a week "if you really cook with it."

"How do you know what kind of wood it is?"a teammate asked her.

"I cook a lot. And I know a lot about wood." Her tone was firm and challenging.

I knew she was wrong but didn't say anything. The kind of person who is going to make up something negative to say about a free spoon is not my kind of person. I walked away to talk to other people.

How did I know? I looked at the spoon using my experience with high end millwork. It wasn't balsa.  From the grain pattern, it looked like white oak. It wasn't tight enough to be teak and teak is darker. Other hard woods like maple, walnut, cedar or ipe tend to be more expensive and darker.  I did a fingernail test to confirm it wasn't older growth pine. The handle and the paddle are two separate pieces, glued together which makes it lower quality then to other wooden spoons in my kitchen but this one is free.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Confidence of Community

On Thursday night, I met with one of my friends who is moving to London in October to start a new job. She has also lived in New York City for more than ten years. Unlike me, she currently has a job that she is unhappy with. Just like me, she has seen the experience looking for a new job in New York in this economy has been unlike any other time she has looked for a new position.

Getting so much support from the people closest to me gives me confidence that-- not only is this temporary-- but the important pieces of my life are together. On top of having a great network of friends, people who I don't really know have made time to advise and support me as well.

I keep thinking how lucky I am that to be surrounded by great people. Becoming part of a community takes time. I have a beautiful life in New York that has taken years to get to. I'm surrounded by wonderful people who I've chosen and who have chosen me. Friendship isn't just about physical location.

Yet, without a job I don't have the ability to sustain this life in New York in the long term. I am also missing that key component to my happiness-- the sense that I am a contributing member of society.  By volunteering this summer, I've given something back to the city that has taken such good care of me but the is a temporary solution and long term solution.

The reality that there are few jobs that would make me happy and look respectable on my resume in New York given the state of the economy. Just as I have an amazing group of people behind me in New York, I'm lucky to have a group of friends in Northern California who are making it easy for me to move there. Fingers crossed that everything falls into place.

Friday, September 3, 2010

My Unfolding Future

After four months of searching, there is no reason to compromise on my most basic job requirement: looking forward to going to work in the morning.  I know what the right job looks like but it might not be in New York.  That realization opens up a much bigger can of possibility. I've gone from a job search based on an one-foot-in-front-of-the-other approach to being bewildered at the depth of how much is unknown right now.

Historically, I've been a master of the healthy kind of self-deception that it takes to make great leaps of faith. Moving to New York City after college felt like the right thing to do. I don't know the exact dollar figure I had when I moved to a 2 month sublet in 1997. The number was in the three figures and I spent a few hundred of it on an interview-appropriate outfit I pieced together by combing high-end thrift stores when I got cabin fever. I was offered four jobs within a few weeks and whined about not getting offered the fifth one I had interviewed for. My naivety knew no bounds and my good fortune kept me blissfully unaware of the risk I had just taken.

After college, there wasn't anything to stick around for. Moving back in with my dad to figure my next step felt like moving in the wrong direction. With the years in between, I have built a fulfilling life that I love. How much of that is about location?

There is no decision to be made at this point. Thinking about moving at 35 feels different from moving at 22. I find myself watching life more closely... thinking that I need to store these moments up... just in case this New York chapter has only a few pages left.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Backpacks, France, Tipper Gore, and Architecture

Yesterday was great. In the afternoon, I volunteered for the second time to fill 600 backpacks with school supplies for children in need.  One of the other volunteers had this tattoo on his neck and let me take a picture.

All the work me and a few other volunteers did ahead of time served us well. It went super smoothly. Well, there was a slow working odd lady in her 50s with frizzy 1970s hair and glitter patches all over face (I found the lip liner particularly disturbing) but watching us working carefully around her was entertaining enough to make up for any delays.

Last Monday was the first time I helped out. It was me alone in a room with boxes of backpacks that needed to be unpacked and labeled. The repetition of the work involved many wandering thoughts. Making a game of such tasks always serves me well. Trying to unpack each box faster than the last, finding new little tricks to make that happen, are desperately needed to make six hours of organizing alone an entertaining way to pass the day.

Something about thinking about late summer and going back to school triggered a reflection on the summer between my freshman and sophomore year of college. I certainly had my fair share of problems growing up but if I could justify the expenditure, the money was always there.

The summer of 1994, I continued a French class in France for a few months. The best part of that trip was meeting an Australian, whom I also shared an amazing summer in New York two years later while working as an intern at a museum. She invited me to stay in Europe a bit longer to see more of France, followed by Italy and Switzerland.

I called my father, who was happy to pay for it-- if that was really what I wanted to do. It was so much more expensive then living with a host family during my language classes that I decided to go home to DC instead. I missed my high school friends.

Once home, I combed the Help Wanted section of the paper and quickly found some odd jobs, many of which were as much fun as unwrapping backpacks. I had a few shifts each week as a cashier at a nice deli. The slow hours seemed to drag on forever but the thick activity of breakfast and lunch was intoxicating. I would calculate change in my head, impressing most customers but annoying a few who didn't know for sure how much I owed them.

Late one afternoon, after the lunch rush, Tipper Gore came in with secret service and a friend. She ordered a fancy coffee drink from me. While giving her change, I complemented her speech from the day before-- which I had seen on CSPAN the previous night.
"You watch CSPAN?"
"I don't work here all the time."

On another day, a friend's mom stopped in asked if I had found a major. When I told her I was planning to become an architect, she arranged for me to meet her friend-- a successful woman architect-- for lunch. When I was looking for a winter internship, literally sending a letter of interest to dozens of firms, she recommended me at a firm recently started by a former employee. It was the first job I had in my field.

A year later, when I was interviewed to be an intern at a museum, I was told that 6 week internship was the reason I was being considered. It set me apart since no other applicant had experience with architecture. If I hadn't been working in that deli, I wouldn't have gotten that first job in New York.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Kentucky KVI

The past week has been another Summer vacation. This time was in Kentucky. It was a great week. Key Vacation Indicators (KVI) listed below:

Miles Driven: 2,015

Hours floating: 9

Dairy Queen Blizzards: 4

Friday, August 6, 2010

Friday Summary

Looking back each week, I feel like I've done a lot but since I don't have a job there is a different sort of rhythm and satisfaction. Tons has happened in the world this week--  Kagan, 9.5%, A-Rod, BP, 49th birthday, Russian fire, Prop 8-- but dialing it back, here is how just me spent 168 hours.

Movies: 5
Whip It 
The Incredibles
Shanghai Surprise
Sliding Doors
Home for the Holidays

Books: 2
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Museum: Behind the Scenes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Museum: 3
Always talk to the security guards. They live with the work. It's just like asking about roommates.

Exercise: 4
You know you're a Central Park regular when you chat with friends you bump into while running. This happened twice this week.

Volunteer: 1
Fancy fundraiser.

Scheduled meet ups not included above: 13
Sunday trip to Mitsuwa, a Japanese mall in New Jersey, resulted in many ginger flavored treats.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Candidate or A Courtesy

The best part of not working is being a better friend. Moving? I can help pack. Having a rough day? Give me a call. Preparing for a marathon? I'll run with you at 6:00 am. Surgery? I'll look after you.

I've volunteered to be on post-op smile duty for two short days in the middle of August. It's the least I can do considering how much my friends are there for me and how much free time I have on my hands.

Let's back up a minute. Six weeks ago, I applied for a job that is a good fit. This "good fit" came from a friend who works in another department. It sounded like they would be excited to meet with me, once they had a look at my credentials.  Three weeks ago, I had an extremely positive informational interview. Within a week, I heard that lead to being recommended me to the head of the department.

I was asked to schedule an interview and replied to with a phone call immediately. Just to recap, here is the time line so far:

June 25: Background meeting about job
July 1: Applied for job
July 20: First interview
July 27: Call in response to email about scheduling second interview
July 28: Email about second interview

Aug 2: Reminder call about second interview
Aug 3: Reminder email about second interview
Aug 5: Follow up with first interview about second interview

That step lead to a flurry of behind-the-scenes emails, resulting in a proposed interview during the two days I have committed to candy striping.  It was easy to explain to my friend that I appreciate the opportunity but another day would be better. Now the interview is scheduled before the surgery. Did I mention the interview is supposed to last 15 minutes?

One of my friends told me about how, when she applied to law school, she had a letter of recommendation written by a trustee. Like, a building named after him trustee. Instead of getting updates on the application process sent to her, they were sent to the trustee. Scheduling this second interview reminds me all too much of her story.

Clearly, the person who is interviewing me is interested in keeping my reference happy. It is unclear if he is considering hiring me. Does it matter if I am a candidate or if I'm meeting him as a courtesy? I'll find out in a few weeks.

Second interview is scheduled for Aug 16. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Why I Love to Volunteer

Yesterday,  I helped assemble gift bags for an event for about 250 people. In my mind, that is a very small event. The volunteer coordinator apologized to us for not having music to help keep us happy while we helped out.

The people working on the event had the room well laid out for an assembly line, starting with an open bag, passing the bag down the line to another volunteer to add a trinket from the station and pass it down.

Since I've worked for many non-profits and my old job involved supervising the events team, I enjoy helping out with a large scale events. It's always fun to be at a party and  I like seeing the variety of ways in which people solve event day problems. 

The people you work with also make these events fun. Yesterday's star was at the station after mine. Let's call her Xio. One of the gifts was a branded basil plant. Seeing the plants Xio says "Can you smoke that when it grows? They should have a plant you can smoke as a gift. That would be great!"

She was laughing at her joke and I was like a moth to a flame. I decided to stand next to her. Nothing is better than working with someone without a mind-mouth filter to pass the time.

Wait. I take that back. If Xio was an everyday coworker, I would daydream of her as the bunny in The Book of Bunny Suicides.

Xio was really entertained with her joke about smoking. "I wish I could have something to smoke right now. Roll it up and smoke it. Basil."

Everyone politely ignored her.  She chatted with the person on her other side. He was in real estate. Her spouse owns a real estate company. She went on and on about it and didn't let the other guy say another word.

I loved the look on his face. He was tall, dignified, and black. Being in sales, he knows how to make himself more interesting by pretending to listen.

We got a nice little rhythm going with the bags and the trinkets. There was the hum of bags shuffling between stations.

"I'd love a drink right about now. Beer. Maybe vodka mixed with something. I wonder how long before we can take a break for a drink."

Oh, Xio. You don't need to say everything you're thinking. But it certainly was entertaining. I didn't laugh but I just had this image of her as a total train wreck of a woman smoking and drinking and stuffing bags all the time.

No one responded. The hum resumed its proper place as the dominant sound in the room. A few minutes later Xio engaged me for the first time. "What do you do?"

"I'm between jobs right now." I was so excited to see what she would do with this piece of information without any of the qualifiers I might have attached to it under other circumstances.

She just let it all out. "You'll find something. I wish I had more time off in the summer. You could go to the beach for a few months. That would be fun. I bet you're having a better summer than anyone with a job. That sounds great."

Xio put this whole scenario in my head. While sipping mia-thais at my ocean side bungalow, a job would knock on the door. I'd throw on a slik wrap over my bikini and put on a pair of high healed slippers with pom-poms on top before answering.

"What do you do?"

Xio was eager to tell me. "I'm in marketing and PR for a law firm."

Job applications: 0
Networking events: 2
New contacts: 2

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Awkward Interview Moments


Last week, I had a terrible interview. It was so bad that I’ve been debating for a week if I should write about it at all.

It was not an in person interview but a phone screen for a position that would have significantly less responsibility, better hours, and more money than my last job.  It would also be much less interesting. A recruiter friend suggested I apply although it may not be the right fit.

My first job out of college was as an office manager and administrative assistant of a small architectural firm. The job I was applying for was essentially the same role with some light project management on top of that. The carrot of a normal workday and a good salary had me thinking I should apply and if I was offered the job I could ask myself if it was really the right job for me at that time.

Over a decade after leaving that first post-college job to help with the installation of a multi-million dollar public art project, I find myself answering my cell phone on a blanket in Central Park, agreeing to an unscheduled phone screen.

The man on the other end of the line doesn’t have questions for me. He has concerns. The first concern was innocuous enough. He was concerned that the office environment would be different from my last job. I had no trouble making him feel better.

That’s when he said with all seriousness, "We're concerned you've never directly managed a contractor. Since that would be a large part of this job, it’s a serious concern.”

It took a lot of strength for me not to say "Would you mind taking 10 seconds to glance at a resume before calling someone you are looking to work with five days a week?"

Instead, I swallowed my pride and told him about the jobs where I've directly supervised contractors, starting with an office move as an intern at a museum in 1996.  He could probably detect that I was offended by the question so I wasn’t surprised when I didn’t get a call to schedule an in-person interview.

That question echoed in my head for days. How could anyone who has taken a passing glance at my resume ask me something like that? This is the part of the job search process that I was unprepared.  In the past, by the time someone is talking to me about a job, they are excited to meet me or at least optimistic that I have something to offer.

This reminded me of the end of an interview I had in May. The person who would be my boss told me he was concerned about that my computer skills were not advanced enough to handle the position.

I said “I’m confused. Are you asking about my computer experience?”

“What do you mean?”

“The computer based aspects of the work sound straightforward.  Since we haven’t discussed my computer skill, maybe we should.”

“Well, this program we use is pretty complicated.”

“I learned a dozen programs created by the internet company I worked at for the past few years and helped them redesign a program similar to the one you use here. Before that, I taught myself Photoshop, HTML, and basic AutoCAD. I got my first computer in 1984.”

Clearly, these are not the right jobs for me. I’ve had several incredibly positive meetings this week so my mood has improved.

On Tuesday, a recruiter I didn’t know called about the exact same job where the man in the phone screen told me they were concerned that I had never supervised a contractor.

“That’s crazy. It’s all over your resume! You’re a perfect candidate. I was so excited when I saw your qualifications. Sometimes people don’t know what they’re looking at and they miss out. I’m sorry that happened to you this time but I’ll keep you in mind for other positions. With a resume like this, you’ll find something great soon.“

Spending two minutes of the phone with her, having a stranger give me a pep talk saying all the right things, made me feel so much better. I know I’ll end up in the right place but getting there certainly has it’s awkward moments.

Job applications: 1

Networking events: 2

New contacts: 1

Monday, July 19, 2010


In the spring of 2000, I moved to an area now called Prospect Heights. At the time, it was called Crown Heights. There was no laundry in the building. The apartment was huge, inexpensive, and recently renovated. It had a back yard that I spent hundreds of hours turning into a garden.

The back yard was so derelict when I moved in, that any urbanite could help by digging out anything solid: be it a rock, old pipes, a car battery, or tricycle. That first spring, I made paths, beds, planted a few shrubs, and wildflowers. I came home one day to find that my landlord mowed over everything. He expressed concern about rodents with all that stuff growing back there. He talked about making a large concrete patio with an awning.

I should have suspected as much when, at the end of that first long move-in day, the woman who lived there before me stopped by to pick her things up.

"Sorry to bother you but I forgot something."

"Really? I didn't see anything unusual when I moved in."

"I forgot my toilet seat."

"Your what?"

"The toilet seat."

"What did you do with the old one?"

"Oh-- the apartment didn't come with one. I needed to go out and buy it. None of [our landlord]'s apartments have them so I'm taking it to my new place."

Ring. Ring. Phoning the real estate broker who-- a few days earlier-- accepted a check for her fee: a month and half rent. I really wish I remembered the details of her half of the conversation because she actually defended the guy for several minutes. How do you justify not including a toilet seat with an apartment?

Using a between-you-and-me tone, I said "You can't be serious. I've just signed a 2 year lease, paid you four figures, and the apartment doesn't come with a $15 toilet seat?"

Someone paid and it wasn't me.

Another situation that I had not anticipated was driving miles away to do laundry over the next two years. You see, it wasn't safe for me to go to the laundromat closest to the apartment. I couldn't help myself from interfering with certain aspects of the local after-school-special child-raising customs. So in order to keep myself from doing something stupid, I needed to do my laundry in the gentrified part of Brooklyn.

When I moved to my current apartment in The Odd Couple part of Manhattan 2 years later, I didn't have laundry in the building. There were a few options: drop things off around the corner (30 seconds), a place 4 blocks away that was open 24 hours without a place to sit (6 minutes plus wait time) or a place 2 blocks away with wash-and-fold (people who do the laundry for you) and self service (3 minutes plus wait time).

The place 4 blocks away appealed to me because there isn't room to hang out. To better understand why this appealed to me, see above. About two years ago, the place 4 blocks away closed.

I tried the place 2 blocks away but since the last wash needed to be in before 6pm on weeknights, it didn't work out because I never got home on time. I don't like doing laundry on the weekend so I started to drop my clothing off around the corner.

At first, I would just drop off anything that could withstand high heat like my sheets and towels. I could spare a half hour doing one load myself during the weekend and drying these dedicates at home. It quickly degenerated into dropping off everything, at the peril of a few nice items (may they rest in peace).

Although I did my own laundry in New York for over a decade, the past few years I've fallen into the habit of paying $30 each week for someone else to do it for us.

In June, I decided to start doing laundry again. It's an easy way to save a few dollars. The day before I went to Montana, I did all the laundry. Then I changed the sheets.

So you can imagine my surprise when I got home, checked the household account, and saw a $52 charge to the laundry guys. In order to have the house sparkle for my homecoming, all sorts of things were washed while I was away: the bedspread, shower curtain, bathrobes, towels-- pretty much anything heavy.

Next time I have a money saving plan, I'll be sure to mention it to the rest of my household.

Job applications: 1
Networking events: 2
New contacts: 2

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Buh Bye

Flying to and from Montana involved 4 flights, 3 of which were blissfully uneventful. The flight from St Paul MN to Newark yesterday took 7 hours instead of 2.5 hours. The part that was most interesting, was how the people on the flight were treated during our 4.5 hour delay.

Doing a search for "airlines" "3 hours" (referring the new law that you cannot leave a plane on the tarmac for over 3 hours without a huge fine) results in 4.5M hits on Google. Looks to me like this might be a big issue. In this article, however, it seems only 5 planes were officially delayed on the tarmac for over 3 hours in May. This is what happened to my flight yesterday. I'm sure they followed the letter of the new rules but the spirt was certainly not about the customers.

Part of my sensitivity to any delay might be tied in part to my role of sherpa on this trip. You see, my sister's husband did not come but my 2 year old niece did. As a result, my job was to pack light and carry everything so my sister could focus on her daughter.

It s only in retrospect that I know the plane was delayed for the duration of "Gone with the Wind." The plane boarded a few minutes late. The head flight attendant reminded me of mall security: little power, lots of anger at the world.

This was our 4th flight together so this was my 4th time putting my sister's luggage, engineered by the Swiss with watch-like precision to maximize overhead bin capacity, into a bin. There was another suitcase and a backpack I assume was waiting to be filled with I <3 NY t-shirts for the return trip.

"That bag isn't going to fit in there. We need room for the back pack."

"May I try?"

She glared at me and said "I'll protect it. You'll see."

My sister's bag slipped into the bin. A hand into a kid glove. She shoved the backpack in and there was space on either side. Another glare.

We sat. We pushed off. We waited. There was an announcement about weather and traffic in Newark. It was confusing was Newark and there is always traffic. So we waited.

My niece enjoys anything that involves opening and closing. Buttons, zippers, bags, and levers like the one on the tray table. She would take it down, put a few toys on it, put the toys in the barf bag, put the tray up, put the tray down, toys out of the bag. She was enjoying herself a lot more than the rest of us.

The fun police stopped by and said "Trays need to be up for take off."

"Oh? Did you find out when we're taking off?"

"It is dangerous to need to push the tray table up if we need to leave the plane quickly."

"Ok." We put the tray table up for the flight attendant's benefit. After she left, my precocious niece understood she could put it down again. No one told her. She just did it.

The flight attendants ran out of water. They turned a few people away. When a father came for water for his toddler, they found an 8 ounce bottle in first class for him.

An hour later, it was announced that Corporate was trying to figure out what to do with our plane. What exactly were the options? Cancel the flight? Reroute us? Put us on another flight? Let us out in the airport and let us know when they had a new take off time? Hold us hostage with peanut packets, water with a napkin, blue water toilets, and air you could see?

A few minutes after that, they let us out to the terminal. My niece was being quite the trooper and the break made her so happy. We found a sandwich shop and bought some lunch. It took a few minutes for my sister's tuna sandwich to be ready and we couldn't hear any flight status information over the smooth jazz.

I walked into the main hallway and heard a last call to get back on our flight. It couldn't have been 10 minutes that we were off the plane. We all ran back on board and proceeded to wait for another half hour before additional information was shared.

During that time, mechanics in reflective vest with walkie-talkies boarded the plane. Apparently something was wrong with the air conditioning.

We would be taking off in 30 minutes, the voice said, after the yellow vests deplaned. I don't remember if they were right about this estimate since the entire time I would half hear what was said and wonder to myself if expectations could get any lower. As long as I didn't spend money for a hotel room in St Paul for the privilege of getting on the next available flight Thursday morning, it was going to work out just fine.

Instead of making it home around 6:00pm, I arrived at 10:30pm. Thankfully, I didn't need to be anywhere this morning.

Job applications: 0
Networking events: 0
New contacts:0

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Montana Travel Tales: Day 1

I am in Montana on vacation with my family this week. Yes, this has little to do with finding a job or life in New York City but since I'm here, the blog is here too. To set the tone, here are a few photos from  Missoula Farmers' Market.

One is of a paper mache river insect. I learned that it lives in its nymph state for about 2 years but the fun really starts when it busts out of its exoskeleton. For 24 hours, it lives with wings, mates, lays eggs, and kicks the bucket. Since it only has 24 hours to party like a rock star, nature doesn't give it a mouth so no time is wasted eating. Since I am a huge fan of snacks, my face was horror stricken upon hearing this fun fact.

These candy sweet heirloom tomatoes cost $3. Let me be clear: instead of costing $3 each they were $3 all together.  I am not in New York City.

When I checked into our hotel yesterday, the front desk did not have a reservation for our 3 rooms. We came to town this weekend so I could participate in the half marathon tomorrow. Since there are a lot of other people in town for the run, hotels are booked up.

This was a problem but I could make it less of a problem by remaining calm.

"Well, for now, it sounds like this will all work out since you have a room and I'm the only one here so far. When the rest of my family arrives, they will be expecting to check in since we made the reservation several months ago. You have awhile since their flight is arriving late tonight. Can you figure something out?"

He promised to try. I promptly feel asleep for 14 hours.

A different problem that was helpful for the hotel room problem is that my family (rooms #2 and #3) missed their connection and spent the night in Denver. This meant the hotel had more time to find 3 rooms for Saturday.

When I was done imitating Rip Van Winkle, a new person at the front desk informed that my dad called the hotel and two rooms were found. As it turned out, the hotel made a mistake in the dates to be in June and not July. It sounded like them finding another room was highly unlikely. 

Before managing facilities for a company that places customer service above preventative maintenance,  I probably would have gotten no-wire-hangers upset.

Months ago! You messed up! Fix it! (old brain)

Now that I've been on the other side of such an outburst, I didn't even go there.

Everyone make mistakes. I'm sure it will work out. Let me know if I can help. (new brain)

I noticed that the woman at the front desk is from the same three-digit population town as my sister-in-law. We played the name game for a few minutes and thanked her for trying to get us a third room.

When everyone returned from the airport, my front desk friend told me that I could keep my room, my dad and step-mom had an upgrade for their troubles, and my brothers had a room on the other side of the hotel. 

Job applications: 0
Networking events: 0
New contacts: 0

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Chatting at the Customer Service Counter

Yesterday, I exchanged something at a store. The woman helping me knew someone with my unusual last name, by marriage. Although the person she was talking about isn't my relative,  we worked together through a vendor during my last job. I got to know five people from that office and she worked with four of them.

I'm always impressed when connecting with strangers.  She asked where I used to work and she even knew some of the people from my team. She decided to work at this store in addition to her full time job when her daughter  went to college. She said she felt unproductive with all the extra time on her hands, it was her favorite store, and it seemed like the perfect fit.

This chat reminded me of how expansive my network is, how many great people I've been lucky enough to work with, and how New York doesn't feel big anymore. Although I rarely feel bored during my time off when I'm working a full time job, there is a piece of my brain that is not getting regular exercise. It must get rusty, right?

A few days ago, I designed my own volunteer program at a non profit. I offered to work one day a week to help quantify the impact of a new technology on whatever it is they care about. Word is still out if they can accept my help and what it would look like if they can. A friend asked me how this could line me up for a job. It may sound funny but my motivation is to do something I enjoy and feel useful in the process.  I have been giving the same amount of time to other places but working on a specific project is what I'm good at.

I'm finding more jobs that fit my criteria. In most cases, it is because someone else is telling me about an opening and not because good positions are listed on job sites. I just talked to a friend who suggested following up by mailing my resume and cover letter to the recruiter. It is such a simple way of getting someone to look at my resume but if she hadn't suggested it,  I wouldn't do it. 

I keep hearing that hiring is picking up. I also hear nothing gets done this time of year. When it comes to potential employment I thought it would just be a matter of having my experience resonate with a recruiter and the details would work themselves out. I'm not sure what the reasons are but I'm not hearing back about jobs that make me think "I can do that in my sleep and my resume proves it." When did hiring managers become even more picky then I am?  

Job applications: 1
Networking events: 0
New contacts:0

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Craig's List Lifestyle

These days, I spend about 4 hours each weekday on work, 8 sleeping, and the other 12 on my version of fun. Making high impact / low cost improvements to my apartment is getting fun time every day.

Design Within Reach had a big red SALE sign out front and lots of air conditioning so obviously I needed to go inside and look at the beds. We've been talking about getting a new bed frame for a few months, ideally one with storage underneath. So when I saw the $4,500 bed frame pictured above, I started having a rather impassioned argument with my responsible self and my impulsive self. This primary emotion was despair. Here is the perfect bed frame but spending that kind of money on anything except taxes is just not me. I have spent much more on a piece of furniture for a client but when it comes to my personal money, I'm all about Yankee ingenuity.

Enter Craig's List. Does it save money? Yes! Is it worth it? Always, if you have the time and enjoy adventure.

Several hours were spent casually looking through bed frame listings. Looking at a photos of a disassembled bed with 4 large drawers but no price, I could see that it would look similar to my dream bed frame when put together. A few emails later, the owner offered it to me for free if I would pick it up but I offered him some money anyway.

The long weekend seemed the perfect time to get it from Brooklyn but I couldn't book a pick-up since Zip car was out of trucks. I reserved a truck for Tuesday after work and a friend offered to help me out. Everything was perfect. I was going to accomplish something awesome before the middle of the week!

About half an hour before meeting up, it turned out that my Zipcard wasn't where I remembered or in any of the other likely places.  Being extremely organized, the idea of loosing the card took a few minutes to finally accept. Next was a call to the garage to see if I could get into the truck. They gave me the number for Zipcar. The person at the other end said if he heard from me an hour earlier that I could have picked up a new card from the main office but since it was after 5pm nothing could be worked out until morning. Oh-- except that he could cancel my reservation and "as a courtesy" wave charges related to canceling within an hour of my reservation.

After more thwarted efforts to find a pick-up truck, my friend made a great suggestion: CC Rentals.  They are open 24/7 and rent cargo vans for under $100/day.  Hurray for smart friends! About 45 minutes later than expected, we pulled up onto too-hip-to-shower Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  Most of the places I lived and worked from 1997 - 2000 were within a 10 block radius of this apartment.  Actually, my friend Marni used to live on the 2nd floor of the building. Although the neighborhood is more chic and presumably safer, the building was just as frightening as it was a decade ago.

This photo gives you a general sense of the style of the apartment.  I felt a bit better knowing that the bed frame had been in the building for a short period of time since it was a gift from a loft-living friend of the guy in a Grateful Dead tie dye who opened the door.  This was my guy.

He opened the door after we pressed the one good buzzer next to several wires sticking out of holes where, presumably, other buzzers once lived in peace and harmony. After a rather startled hello he looked beyond us to a woman on the stoop. I imagined her to be a Dutch Cyndi Lauper impersonator (in her She's So Unusual period).

"Are you staying tonight?" He asked her.
"We need to talk about that"
He turned his attentions back to us and then to the floor of the hallway. "There was a paint bucket here." 
The door has no closer so it needs to be propped open from the base. In spite of all the garbage in the hallway, there is no wooden shim. This isn't the kind of place where people would spend money on a plastic door opener. I reach for a folding table.
"That won't hold it." Our host seems extremely put out.

Once inside the apartment, there is a guy on a computer and another guy on a couch texting. I say hi and no one says hi back. It felt like greeting people when entering a public bus.

"Are you ready? My friend rearranged my living room while I was out of town this weekend so the bed is under here" He took off a heavy grandma curtain from a pile of items against a back wall. We needed to move a chair that looked like an orange Muppet in bad need of a shampoo. I could see a few of the drawers. The big pieces were behind a folded Stairmaster and under the game Mousetrap. 

"Do you like the living room better now?"
"I hate it. I don't know what possessed him to do it. Why would that be a good idea?"

"I need to give you a lot of money right now." A short woman of Indian decent told our host. I didn't even see her come in the room.

Our host explained "She's going to the airport so I need to take care of this." It didn't really explain anything.

A man with zero body fat wearing only a towel exited what must have been the bathroom and disappeared through another door. The passionate texter made a sandwich of cheese and wonderbread. He watched us move the pieces of the bed frame out of the apartment. 

Once money changed hands and the short woman was on her way to the airport, it was Cyndi's turn.

"Were you on top or bottom?"
"That's $35 a night."

We think he was operating an underground youth hostel. $35 for a bunk bed? Is it more for the top bunk? This was something I'd heard about but never seen before.

Getting the bed frame into the apartment was blissfully uneventful. Including a the van rental, thank you pizza, and hardware for one of the drawers the bed frame cost less than 5% of the one I saw a few weeks ago. Thank you, Craig's List!

Job applications: 2
Networking events: 0
New contacts: 0

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Pianos in the Parks

People don't move to New York for the scenery. People move to New York for the other people. Anywhere else in the country, my household income of upper middle class would afford me more than a one bedroom 4th floor walk-up. In Manhattan, I aspire to a place where I can blow-dry my hair without turning off the air conditioner and a dishwasher that doesn't need to be asked nicely.  I can't even dream of a laundry that doesn't require quarters. No, you move to New York City to be around the most interesting people per square foot.

This town is set up to encourage a devotion to your creative side by taunting us with neighbors who have given up the day job, the artist brass ring. This passion is being seen outdoors all summer with 60 pianos around the city.  One evening, I was walking through Central Park after dark and heard a swelling concerto. The experience of stumbling upon music in the city is common place but in the right moment it feels like unwrapping a present. 

Thursday, one of my friends invited me to an evening of show tunes in Lincoln Center. I don't think or myself as a huge fan of show tunes but it sounded like an unexpected way to spend an evening that my new found free time allows. This summer is full of yes.

My not being a fan of show tunes? Apparently that is a lie I told myself.  I not only knew most of the songs but also the lyrics. When I got home, I put on a cassette of Chess-- second only to Annie as musical soundtrack of my troubled youth--- that drove my dishwasher into the bedroom with mumbles about bleeding ears.

There were challenges with playing outside that I hadn't thought of before hand. The wind would pick up, making my role of page turning into page holding down.  We had a great time and drew a crowd ranging from preschool through retirement.

Someone asked play a short piece on the piano we were show tuning on so of course we turned it over. It turned out to be Eric Clark, an accomplished young pianist. Eric is trying out many of the pianos when he comes to the city from New Jersey a few times a week. He told us a bit about his findings, from pianos missing peddles to tilting heavily. The public has drastically different responses to his music. Some people, impatient for their toddlers to climb up to the bench and feel the keys, have nearly started fist fights while others have taken him out for dinner. This city expands  to fit all of us.

Job applications: 0
Networking events: 1
New contacts: 0

Friday, July 2, 2010

Venn Diagram

Everyone has some overlap-- venn diagram style-- inside with one circle being how a person sees himself and the other being the work that they do. If you take away the work, you also take away the overlap. New York City is full of people with a lot of overlap. As a result, answering the question "What do you do?" when you are looking for a new job can be extremely tricky. If you say the wrong thing, your new friend may be watching a film in her head of what it would look like if her worst work-related fears came to pass.

But having people know makes everything easier. I keep telling myself this piece because it is surprisingly difficult.  There are so many advantages to having friends "on the inside." Having more information means you worry less. Already, I've learned that two jobs (referenced here and here) have internal candidates, making it unlikely that I will be seriously considered. Not positive news but news that I got quickly.

There is this exciting that I mentioned Wednesday. I started writing a cover letter on Tuesday, looked at it again on Wednesday, but did not touch on Thursday or today. My focus should be on applying for jobs that look interesting and worry about the rest of it afterward, right?

I'm sure this procrastination is common but logically just shouldn't be the case. Yes, putting my best foot forward with a well written introduction for that exact job is part of the process but I also need to ask for help getting my application in front of the right person. People ask me for little favors all the time and I don't think twice about following up. Knowing all of this, hard asking for help should be easy but it isn't at all.

Job applications: 0
Networking events: 1
New contacts: 3

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Scalable Relevant Data

Last night, I went to a fascinating event to help nonprofits think about potential uses for Foursquare. This link to a post by Farra Trompeter, one of the organizers, does an excellent idea of summarizing the content of the talk. I enjoy how dynamic the FourSquare experience is.

When I went to San Francisco, there were tips and check-ins from my friends. This made it easier to go to places that I would not have found otherwise. The Met Museum is tapping into this feature with tips about pieces of art. My favorite example is a footprint on one of Pollack's paintings in the permanent collection. Since the Brooklyn Museum is both a meeting place for Brooklyn residents and  a stay-cation destination for residents of other boroughs, more of the staff tips relate to the neighborhood around the museum.

What is great about FourSquare is that people already are using it. The trick is finding ways to make the data useful-- be it for you as an individual or as an institution people are checking in to. From the talk last night, it sounds like only select data is available. The information that would be most powerful (Are repeat visitors also museum members? Who is here because of something they read on the site?) is not being tracked. If you could find reliable ways of gathering that data, you can use it to improve the user experience.

This all taps into my last job, managing support services for a data driven internet company. It has me thinking differently about what my next job could look like. My success at finding easy ways to collect the relevant data points in facilities, space planning, events, mail, and reception is a cross-disciplinary skill. There are places like museums that still don't have the useful data that they easily could. in part because of clunky interdepartmental communication. Is there a job where you talk with lot of people in a company to figure out what data they need?  The larger a place gets, the more necessary an internal interpreter can be.

Job applications: 1
Networking events: 1
New contacts: 3

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Who I am Not What I Do

Through this process I have been impressed by both friends and strangers. Everyone is happy to help me. For example, I ran into a friend (and blog reader) yesterday who suggested a few places to check out.

As a manager, having the people around you be responsive and cooperative are job requirements. As a manager, it is hard to know when people are sucking up or would have done it anyway. Now, everything is about who am and not what I do. I have a new found appreciation for my community. It feels good to have so many people looking out for me.

The highlight of Tuesday was hearing back from someone I met on Friday. Funding on the renovation project is several months from being official but my resume is with the right people for when the time comes. Yes, there is a large chance that this job will not pan out. That doesn't stop me from feeling good that I am officially a strong candidate for a job I want.

About two weeks ago, I found a position that looked like a good fit at a friend's company. I reached out to her at the time but didn't hear back so I followed up with her yesterday. She got back to me right away. Although not clear from the posting, the job involves traveling 75% of the time so I will not apply. Thank goodness my friend filled in the gaps so I didn't waste my time on that position.

I followed up with the referral from my new friend from the nail salon but did not hear back. It was so great of her to follow up and put me in touch with her contact on Friday. Unfortunately, he hasn't gotten back to me so that is probably a dead end.

For the most part, instead of combing sites like Monster and Career Builder I go to the web sites of places I would like to work and see if anything is a good fit. I found a events manager position for a non-profit. I'm glad to have found another opening that looks interesting. The next step is to figure out if there is someone who can encourage the recruiter to look at my resume.

Job applications: 1
Networking events: 0
New contacts: 1