Sunday, February 13, 2011

Time flies, job search's urgency grows

It's hard to believe that it's been 2½ months since I was laid off. I was too busy with the blizzard during the first week of February to really notice Feb. 2, and by the 7th, my middle son's 19th birthday, my mind was again on other things. But starting about Tuesday, the 8th, I noticed the passage of time as I filled out my certification online for unemployment benefits.

It's been more than two months, and the realization dawned on me that that time has flown by so swiftly -- too swiftly. Roughly, I have about four months of unemployment left. And then what?


For the past week, I've been busy trying to get stories in and such for my part-time job as an online reporter for BocaJump, a hyperlocal news website in Elgin. I love the work -- I love reporting and writing again. But at the same time, I need to find something more substantial, something that will more than fill the gap as I go through this period of unemployment.

So I've been making my way through an application for the Workforce Initiative Act, which allows some funding for retraining for folks like me, who are unemployed.

My hope is to gain certification for Microsoft Office Suite, which includes Word, Powerpoint and Excel. To this point in my career, I've lacked training in this. I've always worked on editing systems specifically designed for newspapers and outside the Microsoft line of products. I'd never anticipated the need to master Microsoft products other than to look over press releases and similar information, or, alternatively, to put together my resume, write cover letters and such.

I also hope to use WIA to get certification in a number of Adobe products, such as Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Illustrator, Acrobat Pro and Flash Pro.

It's an ambitious agenda and I still am uncertain how much time it will take. But of all the jobs I've applied for in recent months, these two product lines -- or many of the specific elements within them -- are common threads. And even though I have used some of these applications -- Photoshop and Dreamweaver, for example -- I am not proficient enough in them to claim any kind of expertise.

Obtaining these kinds of certification, I've been assured, will help me become more marketable.

And yet there are skills I do have that remain marketable -- my training and experience as a reporter and editor, for example, and to a lesser extent, my training in design. Also, I transitioned three years ago to Web content editor, anticipating the industry's shifting direction, and I picked up some valuable skills there in respect to content management and the use of html.

My blog, which officially is 2 months old on Monday, and my growing passion over the past three years for social media are other points in my favor: I believe they point to my flexibility and ability to adapt to change and acceptance of new ways of doing things.

That's important, even more so in the midst of the sea change the industry finds itself riding. And so for much of the past year I've been following the writings of Steve Buttry, the director of community engagement at TBD.com, a multiplatform digital news operation in the Washington, D.C., area. I came across his blog a little less than a year ago after a friend and colleague posted on Twitter a link to a blog by Steve's wife, Mimi Johnson. The blog entry about her husband's departure from the newspaper business struck a chord with me then, and I'd suggest it is a must-read for anyone in the industry or considering getting into it -- it will touch deeply the hearts of news veterans, those considering entering the field will be forewarned.

And of course, since I was laid off in December, I've taken to heart some of Steve's own postings in his news industry blog, The Buttry Diary. On Sunday afternoon I was reviewing two posts in particular (he directed me to them via a comment he added to my first blog post on Dec. 14), in which he discusses finding a job in digital journalism.

For your benefit, the posts are "Thoughts on redirecting and rejuvenating a career," of March 8, 2010, and "Some tips on landing your next job in digital journalism," of May 21, 2010.

Innovation was one point he made during his discussion in the latter post, in particular. And since necessity -- sometimes with a pinch of desperation -- is the mother of invention, I read on Sunday with interest.

So I tweeted and posted to Facebook: "I'm an experienced digital journalist with a background in editing and who has edited and managed content for four daily news websites."

And:

"I'm also active in social media. I could be a boon to your company ..."

In the back of my mind, I also was remembering that Monday is, of course Valentine's Day.

So after going through the blog posts one more time, I turned my attention to updating my LinkedIn and Monster.com profiles to reflect the revisions I had made to my resume earlier this month at the advice of a local counselor. I had planned to update the profiles immediately after I revised my resume, but of course the blizzard intervened, interrupting both that and the WIA application.

And as I revised my online resumes, I noticed that I had not yet linked my Twitter account with LinkedIn. As I clicked the button to enable that link, inspiration struck. Or perhaps it was simply my quirky sense of humor.

In any event, I immediately posted the following to Twitter, which automatically "shared" my tweet with me LinkedIn and Facebook pages:

Ted Schnell  Valentine's Day special: Love to hire a talented journalist? Check out my LinkedIn profile: http://www.linkedintedschnell #in

I have no way of knowing whether the effort will be successful. As I pointed out in a subsequent tweet (Twitter and Facebook only), "Yes, it may be sappy, but if it works, I can say it was worth it. If it sends potential employers running, they can say it was worth it ..."

And if it draws potential suitors (I love you Lisa) I'll be running as fast as my legs can carry me.

Seriously, though, I hope it sends no one running away.