Bourbon Cowboy

The adventures of an urbane bar-hopping transplant to New York.

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Location: New York, New York, United States

I'm a storyteller in the New York area who is a regular on NPR's "This American Life" and at shows around the city. Moved to New York in 2006 and am working on selling a memoir of my years as a greeting card writer, and (as a personal, noncommercial obsession) a nonfiction book called "How to Love God Without Being a Jerk." My agent is Adam Chromy at Artists and Artisans. If you came here after hearing about my book on "This American Life" and Googling my name, the "How to Love God" book itself isn't in print yet, and may not even see print in its current form (I'm focusing on humorous memoir), but here's a sample I've posted in case you're curious anyway: Sample How To Love God Introduction, Pt. 1 of 3. Or just look through the archives for September 18, 2007.) The book you should be expecting is the greeting card book, about which more information is pending. Keep checking back!

Saturday, March 08, 2008

The Job Hunt, Such As It Is

Good news! Just as my money was dwindling dangerously, the unemployment gods finally started paying my insurance (my old employer was fighting against my benefits; evidently they were ruled down), so I now have an extra $1000 to keep me afloat--which gives me, I suspect, at least another month of life before I get truly desperate. This is good, because I spent the past week "job hunting" in a state of terrible frustration: looking at ads on MediaBistro, sending out desultory c.v.'s I have scant hope of hearing back on, etc. It's been about as fun, and as useful, as doing nothing at all.

Today, in frustration, I picked up the latest edition of that old standby, Richard Nelson Bolles's What Color Is Your Parachute?--and it's a good thing, too. It actually told me exactly what I already knew but needed forceful reminding of: online searches don't work, sending out resumes doesn't work, and this throw-things-until-they-stick mode of job searching is exactly what makes the conventional job search process so frustrating.

So the good news is that Bolles has provided me with a little bit of focus: You need to search from a position of strength and skill, which means you need to focus on what you actually want, not necessarily what'll pay the rent in the meantime. (That's the fallback I've been dreading.) I'm pretty clear now that I'm a good writer with a low boredom threshold, and I'd be happiest writing comedy (or, failing that, advertising or p.r). He also asks people to focus on how employers actually find people in the first place: by looking around their company already, then asking close associates, and basically doing everything they can to avoid a general advertisement for employees and the subsequent slog through piles of resumes.

What this means, among other things, is that statistics (apparently) tend to favor the guy who can politely gain a brief audience or introduction, and who then makes a brief pitch about how his skills can help the employer--ideally, of course, with an example of successful work in hand.

In other words, it looks like it's finally time to write my Office spec script--and probably a piece or two for The Daily Show. I've long known that a spec script is key to getting a job in the industry; I just forgot, until reading Bolles, that I could actually apply; that the job was an actual possibility and not an eternally-deferred dream. So that's what I'll be focusing on for the next week or so. (How long does a 22-minute script take?) Wish me luck!


Anonymous Beth Bates said...

WAY TO GO! Good luck! My writing workshop professor (Dan Barden, check him out) reminded me that the way to find success is to write "A GOOD FUCKING (BOOK)!" So get to it, Bourbon. Write a GOOD FUCKING SCRIPT!

3/08/2008 9:22 PM  
Anonymous Eric Berlin said...

I beg to differ about online job searches, as well as sending out unsolicited resumes. I've had success with both.

Searching for a job online is definitely, and unfortunately, needle-in-a-haystack territory. But you don't actually find the needle unless you search for it, diligently and often. When I was out of work, I had a list of sites I checked every day or every other day. And my wife, unbeknownst to me, had several other sites she would look at -- sites I would have dismissed out of hand if I'd even known about them. They didn't have enough jobs there, and they didn't have the kind of jobs I was looking for. Those sites look like they'll never lead to anything.

Needless to say, my wife found the ad that eventually led to the job I currently have. I never would have seen it. It chills me to think how close I came to not seeing this opportunity because I didn't want to spend five seconds a day searching a couple of extra Web sites.

As for sending out unsolicited resumes, I don't recommend sending them out to every company in the universe, and I'm not sure if it's productive to send them to large companies, with large HR departments. But I got six months of work from an unsolicited resume -- one I sent to a small, local company I knew would be a PERFECT match for my skills. It took months and months to hear back from them, and I'd long since given up when the phone, to my surprise, rang. And if the planets were in some other alignment, there's a good chance I never would have heard back at all. But I *definitely* wouldn't have heard back if I hadn't sent the resume in the first place.

By all means, write a spec script if you want. But don't give up on all the other avenues at your disposal. You do not know which road will lead to an unlocked door.

3/09/2008 9:29 AM  
Blogger Cowboy Dave Dickerson said...

Thanks for the advice, Eric! It's not that online searches and resume-sendings don't work; it's that they have a 4-10% success rate, compared to the 85% chance you have if you know someone. (Going by Bolles's own statistics, for what they're worth.) So I'll be doing both, but I'm going to be a lot happier now that I've been reminded that a.) I have other options (I've always felt stronger in person than on paper), and that I don't have to settle for a job I'll possibly fit poorly. Thanks for the comments. At this point, I'll take hope from any quarter.

3/09/2008 11:38 AM  

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