Saturday, November 19, 2011

Torn between strategies

(stock,xchng vi)
It seems like just yesterday the week began. Yet here it is, after 10 on a Saturday night, the week’s end. In another couple of hours, Sunday will arrive, a new week will dawn.

The week’s fun made it fly by all the more swiftly. In terms of my part-time work as a freelance reporter, I have been covering what arguably is one of the most important times of the year, when municipal leaders make decisions on how to spend the public funds with which they are entrusted. It also is the time of year when the community, short of an election, generally has its best opportunity to make its voice heard on how local government will be run in the coming budget cycle.

For those who do their homework and actually try to understand how municipal government finances work, it is an eye-opener. For those who make sweeping assumptions walking into the process with an eye toward effecting changes that have little or no basis in reality, it will be an exercise in futility and frustration.

For those who do not know me well, this may clue you in to how much of a nerd I am: As a reporter, budget deliberations are one of my favorite times of year, although I need to bridle my enthusiasm. Most readers have no desire to be wonks, and the analytics of websites such as BocaJump, among many others, reflect that. Getting a reader actually to look at a story is an effort, whether online or in print. Getting them to read it becomes problematic without some degree of brevity.

That is the practical reality — reining in my passion to serve my readers best.

So this has been a hectic week, even somewhat encouraging on the job search front, although I hesitate to get my hopes up too high; after 11 months, this struggle has taught me to refrain from putting too much stock in optimism. The repeated letdowns hurt too much, and the pain has a cumulative effect. So instead I bide my time, doing what I can to find more work related to my skills but ultimately trusting that God will present what is right at just the right time.

But this week I saw a bumper crop of job postings for which I felt comfortable applying, So amid the budget stories I crafted and the press releases I put together for another freelance job, instead of writing new blog posts, I wrote cover letters — about two dozen. If the pattern holds true, the rejection email I received this evening for one of those positions will be accompanied by no more than one more. Perhaps (I hope) I will receive a phone call of inquiry, as well.

Yet I am finding that I am growing increasingly impatient the longer this drags on, and there is an edge to those around me, as well, which is vexing.

Prudence appears to pose a dichotomy at this point: I have chosen one path of conventional wisdom that says follow your skills to the next job, even if it means working part-time job(s) now so that it keeps your skills sharp and places you in a better situation to return to your field of work.

I tried that awhile. But in the news industry, neither part- nor full-time work is abundant these days, and where it does exist, it seems the employers are looking for younger, cheaper talent more versed in the technology than in a journalist’s basic skills — news gathering and objective and accurate storytelling. Also because of the state of the industry, it seems the job I once held is worth about 30 percent less today than it was in 2007, before I transitioned to Web content editor.

Funny, in the past three or four years, the value of the home we own has dropped quite a bit, too, although the mortgage payment hasn’t changed all that much.

Regardless, I’m at one of those junctures where I ask God, “How long will this last? Am I doing the right things here, because it’s pretty obvious at least some of those around me think I am not?”

Do I hold to the course and hope I am not steering the Titanic into the path of an iceberg? Or do I change course and grab the first job, any job to come along and so, by the conventional job search wisdom I’ve been following all these months, say screw the profession that chose me and start over in a new career in which I have no interest, let alone enthusiasm?

It’s a helluva a choice, and I am not the only one facing it. I’ve been grappling with it for months, but the wrestling is becoming more intense.

This is more than a dilemma brought on simply by my own impatience, or by the lack of confidence I feel in my own choices at this stage in life, or in a circumstance that has left my family at risk, my career in a shambles. As I pointed out earlier, there is an edge to some of those around me.

“Find a job.”

This week I received another batch of the periodic inquiries from insurance companies. I’d rather die slowly, painfully first — I do not aspire to direct sales, I have no desire to sell, whether it’s insurance or anything else. As I posted on Facebook recently, I’d rather wear a sandpaper suit inside out, wear steel wool underwear and brush my teeth with aluminum foil than go into sales.

Rant aside, sales ain’t going to happen, no matter how sharp that edge I mentioned gets.

But perhaps I have missed my calling as a janitor.