Category Archives: Job hunting

Practicing Handshakefulness: What I Learned at a Geeky Networking Event

Don’t watch!

The other day I went to an event where most people had friends and I knew no one. I cleverly disguised this, however, because it’s hard to meet people when you start out by saying, “I came alone.” I immediately got in line for something, because lines are by far the best places to mingle. The guests are trapped, subject to any conversation topic you might bring up, just waiting to be entertained. It’s perfect.

After hanging around in lines, I ended up leaving the party and getting a drink with a group of new friends, failing to get all of their numbers with one exception, and resigning myself to the fact I’ll never see any of them again. It was a valuable experience, and I learned two things. One is that wearing a piece of crazy clothing makes it easier for people to remember you, especially if it’s a cape that allows you to blend in with walls and then scare them. And the other, more important thing I learned is that you shouldn’t look while you shake hands with someone, no matter how weird or uncomfortable it is.

Here’s what happened. As I and my group of new never-to-be-heard-from-again-techie friends were leaving, I went to give handshakes all around. I “put ‘er there” to a young man who is beginning his job at a well known Bay Area start-up that has revolutionized how we interact (hint), and as I gripped firmly I noticed that something had gone horribly wrong with the handshake. I felt pressure, but only on the outer rim of my palm. It was like his hand was hollow or weak muscled on the interior. Puzzled, I took a peek to find out what was happening.

This was weird. I had no idea that staring at handshakes is unusual until I was doing it, and it was weird. Immediately, the soft techie geek took notice and asked me what I was doing, to which I quickly replied, “Nothing.” And he said, “You were looking at the handshake,” an accusation I dodged by saying, “No I didn’t.” Seconds later, I walked away with two strange nerds and never saw any of them again, yet.

A fedora-wearing-boy who was possibly still in high school accompanied me back to the train station with a man who builds inflatable robots at work. I told the fedora I would text him about contra dancing and he seemed rightly skeptical.

As I got on the train heading home, I thought that maybe not getting any of their real information except for fedora’s was for the best. And after all, it is San Francisco, and I’ll probably find people just like them at the next nerdy event I attend. This is my ocean and I’m on the lookout for bigger fish to cling to and shake hands with properly.

*The term handshakefulness is not my own. It was created by the 30 Rock writing staff.

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“Spit in My Mouth and I’ll Tell You”

Try me. Just try me.

So I’m at a party, in line for the bathroom or staring out the window wondering what it would be like to be free and somehow I get talking to a stranger. We exchange pleasantries, place our palms together and grip firmly, and then as the banter inevitably dies down and we’re breathing out the tail end of our last haha, one of us reaches for the easiest conversation topic possible:

So…what do you do?

The “do” question is innocent, merely an attempt to understand the other person better, or maybe even form a connection, “Oh you do that? I do that too! Do you know her? I know her too! Wasn’t that one thing crazy!?” And so on and so forth.

But the question can be problematic. What if, for example, I currently spend most of my time making money doing something I hate? Should I put this forward as the best summary of my person, that I’m someone willing to subject themselves to mental torture day in and day out for a couple of bucks?

What if I’m unemployed, but doing everything from hiking the Sierra Nevada to creating a large-scale bronze sculpture Gumby, to compulsively poking people on facebook?

Or what if the things I do to make money are unrelated to how I define myself? What if they’re only a way to make money? What if, in theory, I make money by babysitting and working at a restaurant, but what I really want to do is write and be an incredibly successful author read and loved by the masses? What should my response be to the “what do you do?” question? I can’t tell the truth because the other person will have no idea what to do with me and try to leave and I’ll be forced to follow them. But if I say I’m a writer, I open up a whole other can of worms.

The first thing they ask is: what do you write?

I’ve been asked this God knows how many times and I still don’t have a good answer. My shortest response time is slightly over a minute. Somewhere, an Olympian just ran a quarter of a mile and I’m still fumbling around trying to explain what I write. I end up blabbing about the blog and humor writing and exploring different writing styles and it’s very boring for the other person and just plain stressful for me because then I’m like, “Oh my God. Am I even a writer? What are all those words I typed out yesterday? Why didn’t they fit into something I could describe to this guy without sounding like someone who might steal his wallet when he leans over to look at the event brochure on the coffee table?

So the next time someone asks me what I do, I’m going to assume they mean, “What would you do if you could do anything?” and I’m going to tell them I’m a writer, and then when they ask me what kind of writer I am, I’m going to ask them to spit in my mouth.

What, they’ll say.

Yeah, just go ahead and spit in my mouth and I’ll tell you what I write.

They won’t do it, I won’t have to figure out and then tell them what I write, and we’ll both leave the party with interesting stories. Win win.

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Ye Olde Craig’s List Scam

Everything’s normal…..

You might know the feeling. You’ve been crashing at your friend’s apartment for a couple of weeks and you’re desperate for work. Your top five visited pages are all Craig’s List, the world is measured out in dollar signs, and you’d rather someone spit in your mouth than overpay for a cup of coffee.

Your mind becomes numb as you troll Craig’s List, and even the dubious sounding Candy Puff girl “marketing” position begins to have some appeal, and this is a position that involves selling single cigarettes and gummy worms to an inebriated and gropey post-techno crowd.

The end result of your enthusiasm/desperation is that you apply to dozens, possibly hundreds of jobs in a couple of days. You wait for anyone to call or email you, just to know that you exist. Anxiety, feelings of worthlessness, and rampant peanut butter eating fill your day.

This was me just one week ago. I had shut myself into my friend’s room and become a Craig’s list zombie. When places called or emailed me back, I invariably had no idea who or what they were because I had applied to so many different positions. Nevertheless, I always pretended I was happy to hear from them specifically and yes I was very interested in learning more about the position.

One day, a place named “PMC” called.  Actually, two different people called within minutes of one another in a very obvious and potentially embarrassing (for them) recruitment error. Despite this initial warning sign, and the fact I had no idea what position I had applied for or what company this was, I went right ahead and responded to their call. They were interested in me.

According to Melissa, her managers had received my resume and wanted to speak with me in person. Great! I said, still clueless about their company and the position. She went on to say that this was an entry level position, and they were looking for people they could train into becoming managers. Perfect! said I. So we set up an interview time and she told me a few things to remember, one of which was to wear business professional attire. See you then! I said.

And then the doubts started. What was this place? What did they do? Why did they have to remind me to wear professional attire to an interview? Why did they want people with no experience? It all seemed a bit….odd. Later that day, I looked up the address they gave me and one of the first items that popped up revealed that this was very likely a scam.


It was my very first Craig’s List scam. I was fascinated and thought it could be a great blog fodder opportunity. Maybe I would show up at the interview in my prairie dress with a resume that said I went to clown school and subbed as a P.E. teacher in my home town of Alsida, Louisiana. Would they still “hire” me or send me away after seeing the crazy in my eye?

Alas, we will never know. I cancelled the interview because of laziness and fear of being clubbed with a baseball bat. But the housing search yet lies ahead, and hundreds of emails sent to Craig’s list addresses. Should danger come calling again, I will greet it in modest clothing and with a pen ready.

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The Career Search, Living in the Moment, and Ramen Noodles

This picture was taken in January, when it was the same temperature but sunny here. WTF.

Right after I pressed publish last Friday on the blog post about my Reba t-shirt, I realized that I was the worst person in the world. I had complained about getting up at 6:30 am and having one appointment. Poor me.

Most people get up at the booty-crack of dawn and have to work the whole day long, with no time for ditzels, knick knacks, or futzing. For brief moment the length of the time it takes to write a blog post, I forgot that I was incredibly lucky to have the luxury of following my dreams, which I’m still defining at this point. I think it’s kind of a long-term smelting thing in order to figure out what I really want and if it’s good and what I should want and all of that.

I’ve spent so much time trying to figure what I want to do that I haven’t been focusing on what I’m doing in the time I currently have. I’ve been scrutinizing the future so hard, trying to make sure I’m heading in the right direction and towards gainful employ/activities that I both enjoy and find meaningful, that I fell into the trap of believing that the only time that’s valuable is the time you’re paid for.

Once I realized this, I paused for a second and thought “Well, do I enjoy what I’m currently doing?” which is making phone calls, setting up connections, exploring the city, interviewing, hanging out with friends, trying to get my feet on the ground, making networks that will take me into the future, etc. and I thought, yeah, I do. I have what feels like freedom and infinite possibilities. San Francisco is my shiny, expensive oyster that I plan on cracking in order to find the best dive bars and cheap eats.

I am not my to-do list. The things I’m doing right now are also important, and these steps will lead me to a future, but in reality it’s all part of the same thing. So I should savor the whole enchilada because the minutes don’t come back to you in the end, or so I hear.

And today I put a squirt of ketchup in my ramen noodles, which tasted just as good as I thought it would and I felt secure about my future as I slurped the broth down—it was thicker than usual. Ramen noodle innovation is just one of the many signs of nascent success.

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What I Learned from My Painfully Bad Interview

Should you hire this woman?

One fake motto, several awkward silences, and numerous failed attempts at jokes later, I have finished my first phone interview of this job-hunting season. Note: the professional shirt I was wearing did not prevent me from sounding like an ass.

The greeting was great. We both introduced ourselves and had friendly words. I was flying high when he asked me, “So what do you know about our company?” I was prepared for this question. I had spent the last twenty four hours digging into the recesses of their website and stalking individual members of their team. Unfortunately, the company is one of those weird hi-tech startups that uses phrases like “infrastructure API” and “Cloud IVR.”

In short, I struggled to explain to the man what his own company did. Instead, I said I liked it because I felt like “their company searches for a tree even though it doesn’t know what a tree looks like, but it finds something to fill the tree-shaped hole, if that makes any sense?” It didn’t. I was trying to say that their company was innovative but ended up swallowing most of the toes on my left foot. The awkward silence after this mangled corpse of a metaphor said it all.

Things looked up when he asked me about myself. This is one of my favorite subjects. I talked about International Relations, Egypt, blogging and meeting people and talking to them, and it all sounded really good until he asked if I read any blogs daily.

I threw out a few and joked that I read my own blog. No laughs. Note: do not mention that you daily read your own blog. You will sound like an ass. I also said that I read Mashable occasionally to catch up on “the stuff.” It was supposed to be a joke, but I’m sure I came off like “an idiot.” It’s also not true, unless you count looking at tweets as reading Mashable’s articles.

He inquired if I was familiar with the start up industry in San Francisco or using technological terms. The short answer is no but the long answer is “my motto is that if I don’t know it today, I can learn it by tomorrow,” a motto I made up on the spot and also one that sucks.

When he asked if I was involved in any weekly meet ups, I said that I spend a lot of time with my family right now because I don’t have a big community in Oklahoma. What he heard: I live under a rock and my best friends are my own leg hairs.

Finally it was time for me to ask questions, and I gave him all I had. I wanted to know everything and prolong the conversation as long as possible, which is why I asked if his company was “more of a get in and get out kind of operation or if people are in for the long haul.” Note: asking this question will make you look like an ass. People are always in for the long haul. I should have asked what the turnover rate was, or better yet, just let the conversation end.

It was a start to a wonderful interviewing career and in the end, a great piece of blog fodder.

Here are my takeaway points:

1. Don’t use complicated metaphors that involve trees and make zero sense.

2. No fake mottos.

3. Have a 2 minute or shorter summary of the company and why you like them.

4. Save jokes for the break room.

Now get out there and good luck!

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