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Bunch of Yahoos!

30 Jan

New Job at Yahoo

The site in Hillsboro for the new job!

Whew! It was a pretty wild week. A couple of unexpected phone interviews, a couple of big in-person interviews and some tense waiting later, I received a big job offer from Yahoo in their Hillsboro office! The job involves supporting some of their online ad campaigns and is a nice combination of my technical web background and the people skills I displayed at United Way. And the timing couldn’t be better- especially after a shaky start to the new year.

My first day back in Portland was certainly a rough one. PDX welcomed me back with chilly, rainy, grey weather (while Kansas City is unusually warm). I had an uninspiring chat with a temp agency in Beaverton. Two of my better friends in the area (fellow Kansans!)  informed me that they had to make a sudden move to Texas. My apartment was a cold, neglected mess (granted I usually don’t mind about the neglected mess part). And a once-promising romantic prospect didn’t seem to be going anywhere fast. Thanks, Portland- I missed you too. :P

Snow in Portland

We even had some snow in Portland!

Basically… I started 2012 with no job, no girlfriend and a month-to-month lease in one of the country’s most infamous job markets. I don’t really thrive on that kind of uncertainty. For a couple days, I felt bummed out about being dropped back into reality after spending a fun Christmas break surrounded by supportive friends and family in KC. Now: finances were tricky, my social life was scattered and the job hunt hadn’t exactly become a freight train yet.

In general, I find job searching to be mostly stressful with occasional bursts of excitement. This isn’t my first rodeo with the great recession, but the perpetually crummy job market still adds an under-layer of anxiety. As I talked about in my last big job search, turning down any job prospect- no matter how un-ideal- feels like high-stakes gambling in the 99% era. Getting a full-time gig like Yahoo! was my best-case scenario, but I was more than prepared to take part-time or temporary work. A temp office assistant job came up a couple of weeks ago, and I was a nervous wreck trying to decide where I stood on just a tiny month-long gig. It didn’t seem like a good fit, but with the job market the way it is and the fact I just can’t stand being unemployed, part of me just wanted to take whatever I could I get whenever I could get it.

It’s a good thing I passed on it, though, because just a couple days later I got some big responses on resumes! After an uninspiring first half of my job search, I changed the way I was submitting applications. Instead of just tweaking my resume for each position, I completely tailored them to the job description including borrowing many specific phrases. My assumption was that the resume would be read by a machine before it was read by a person, and so if I could do a little bit of modest keyword stuffing, I could pass through the gate and stand a better chance. And it looks like my strategy has been validated. I got three responses from three large companies. Now it was time… for interview mode.

Dressed up on New Years

Domo and I at New Years. Interview attire was a little less silly.

I usually interview pretty well, but I bombed a phone interview for a contract position with Nike in December, shaking my confidence a little. To be fair, the job description and the actual job seemed to be in different universes for that one, so I never quite got my footing. What bothered me more, though, was I was really stiff- so obsessed with appearing professional that I stomped out my personality. Heading into this interview season, I wanted to allow a little room to be me and show I could be a fun yet professional person to work with. With two interviews coming up, I had a very long weekend to prepare and for anticipation to build.

The first interview was with a healthcare company downtown being the web content writer and general website guy for their marketing team. As I waited outside for the interview to start, my nerves were in knots, but I knew how to handle it. After doing public speaking and meeting one-on-one with coordinators all the time with United Way, I was familiar with my nerves getting worked up and how I usually did well anyway. Once I started talking about my background, the narrative was easy to connect. The great success of the Kansas City Beehive as a VISTA, the technical bona-fides of my time with One Economy and the people skills I brought to the United Way job became a 1-2-3 punch that could handle just about anything they could throw at me. It was a fun interview; sometimes you just know when you’ve given someone the answer they were looking for.

The next day was the big Yahoo! interview, but by now I was warmed up and ready to go. This one was a 2+ hour marathon interview with 6 different people. A little ways in, I felt relaxed and like myself. I was professional, but could still tell some jokes and be friendly. I left that day feeling good. I really liked what I’d heard about the job, enjoyed who I interviewed with and could see myself fitting in with the culture there (the meeting rooms are named after old cartoon shows. One is the My Little Pony Room). If I didn’t get one of these jobs, you couldn’t say it was because of the interviews. And just like that, the big job offer landed on Friday.

Bouldering with Domo

Domo attends a Bouldering Meetup!

I start mid-February, so I’ve got a little time to focus on other things. Socially, I’ve tried to get out to Meetups as much as I could so I wasn’t too cooped up in the apartment. A few of these were pretty memorable like a trip to the Oregon Historical Society, a tour through the Bonneville Dam in the Gorge and my first experience bouldering. I went out and did some volunteering during MLK weekend, and I’m doing Thursday night dodgeball. Also, I’m three weeks into a class on learning SQL and Database Administration. Overall, I’ve done an OK job of keeping myself busy.

One of my other resolutions this year was to do more dating. Job interviews: no problem. Asking for a girl’s phone number: OH GOD! Over the last few months, it’s fallen behind job searching in my priorities, but it’s about time I put myself out there a little more. When your birthday is Valentine’s Day, it can feel like you’re working on a deadline. Meanwhile, I’ve got some apartment hunting to do to find a place closer to Hillsboro.

So wow, this is 2012! Now that I’ve got a job, I hope the world doesn’t end.

2011: The Very Portland Year

29 Dec

Domo and rhododendrons

Domo gets caught up in beautiful Portland Rhododendrons!

As I spend a few quiet weeks in Kansas City for the holidays, I’ve had some time to reflect over the past year. Of almost everything that’s happened, there’s been one common thread: it’s almost all been VERY Portland. Giant waterfalls, biking around, food carts, brunches, adult kickball leagues, Occupy protests, naked bike rides, chocolate tours, trips to the coast… it feels like I’ve been wandering from one Portland spectacle to another. 2011 was the year I felt like a true Portlandian.

Beard and Mustache Competition 2011

Domo visits the Beard and Mustache Competition in January. Very Portland.

Arriving back in August of 2010, I felt pretty anonymous for those first few months. I finished the year with a loose network of acquaintances around town, but I really struggled to meet anyone I’d call friends. I came back home for the holidays that year decidedly ambivalent: my career was sorted out for once, but the loneliness was getting to me. I saw all my old KC friends, though, and it really inspired me. I wanted to have that kind of friendship in my new city! At least I was resolved to do whatever I could.

Granted, 2011 started with mixed results. Efforts to reach out to some acquaintances fizzled, but around the same time I attended some promising Meetups, including some really friendly brunches with the Portland New In Town group. I signed up for a dodgeball league, got some people interested in the Badass Gourmet Society of Portland- things were looking up.

But then in early February… my whole world came to a halt with the sudden loss of Micia. It completely tore me apart. She was my first love, and the person who showed me levels of emotional openness and acceptance I never thought I was a capable of with another person. Even a year after our relationship, we remained good friends. Trying to center myself through the pain and confusion of loss, I had to make the decision of a last minute plane flight back to Kansas City to attend the celebration of her life. Speaking at the celebration and seeing all my supportive friends gave me the sense of closure and peace that I needed. Coming back to Portland, it still took me some time to ease back into the old routine.

Micia and I. I'll never forget

Micia and I. I'll never forget

Heading into March and April, Portland stayed chilly and rainy. Still, I managed to meet quite a few people through Meetups, dodgeball, work, and the shaky start to the Badass Gourmet Society of Portland. I finally felt like my social life in Portland was taking off. As the weather warmed up, I even enjoyed a visit from one of my best friends, Julia! Now I was a Portland tour guide of all things. We managed a squeeze in so much Portland in so few days we were both exhausted- local beer, local brunch, a road trip to the coast, waterfalls in the Gorge, food carts, Powell’s, rhododendrons. It was one of my favorite times of the past year!

Adding to my Portland cred, I finally bought a bike. And further adding to my Portland cred, I got my first bike injury about a week later. Aw yes, my tire got caught in the Max tracks and I was derailed with a sprained ankle for almost a month. It seems like everyone in Portland has a sprained ankle story. By June I was back on my feet, getting ready for a visit from the family and even doing a little dating. Things were going pretty smoothly. Had I finally really settled into a job and a routine? Not quite…

Domo at Crater Lake

Domo at Crater Lake

June was the big lay-off. It’s one thing to be laid-off without expecting it, but it’s quite another for it to happen in this economy with copious news reports of people struggling. Thankfully, my family was in town that week and took me on a refreshing vacation to the coast, Eugene and Crater Lake. Coming back, I went through phases of panic and relief before settling into the job search. It actually was pretty nice to have the time off during the amazing weather. Portland is PERFECT over the summer, and the freedom to bike around town trying different food carts helped counteract the job anxiety. As for the job market, there’s no denying it was rough. In general, it felt like applying for full-time positions was like lobbing resumes into trash compacters, but I actually had some good response on part-time and temporary positions. I can deal with that. I also took some time over the summer to get out of the apartment and do a couple of kickball leagues. I spent some great afternoons practicing with my first team and mastering some double-dutch jump rope.

And yes, this year we lost Domo the First. He was captured by the Canadiens during my visit up to Vancouver, BC. It was a tough loss, but the first Domo’s journeys will never be forgotten. Meanwhile, Domo the Second has stepped up to the role admirably. He may not  have been to many states yet, but he was a huge hit at United Way and a small celebrity at Occupy Portland. A new era has truly begun.

Domo at Occupy Portland

Occupy Portland! It was an interesting fall.

Around August, I landed the United Way job, and I had a ton of fun driving around the city this fall raising money for charity. It taught me a little bit more about the type of job I want to have and what it means to work for a cause I really care about. The lay-off sucked big time, but in the end, I feel like I’m in a stronger position now than even if I’d stayed with One Economy until the end of my contract. I’ve now stared into the job abyss once before and I have an idea of what’s difficult, what’s over-hyped and some strategy for dealing with it. I doubt I’ll be the type who sends out thousands of resumes for a couple of years and can’t find work. However, landing something temporary or part-time seems fairly likely.

So it’s been a fun year with plenty of ups and downs. For now, I’m back in Kansas City for the holidays seeing some friends, sleeping in and sending out a few job applications. I’m at another of those exciting and intimidating crossroads. Will I be job-searching for months? Will I continue bouncing between temporary jobs and end up back at United Way next fall? Might I even defy the odds and land a good full-time gig? All I can do is get back in town and attack it the best I can! If now is an uncertain time for me, that mirrors where our country stands these days. With Tea Parties and Occupy protests buzzing about, it feels like our society is tearing apart at the seams sometimes. I follow it all pretty closely. The uncertainty and political paralysis is unnerving, but the push for political reform can sometimes be genuinely inspriring. Like with the job search, it’s hard not to lower your expectations, but at the end of the day, you’ve just got to keep pushing.

I love Portland, and I plan to stay there in 2012 unless the jobs picture is completely hopeless. I want so much to spend another summer in the beautiful weather, biking around town trying food carts, to try out hiking, finding someone to explore with. I found some friends this year, but I’m still struggling to form the kind of deep friendships I want in my life. Yes, I occasionally suffer from “hipster fatigue”, but it’s a great culture to be young in. So 2012? Well, I hope it’s another good ride!

Occupy The Road Ahead

30 Oct

Domo occupies Portland!

Domo occupies Portland!

Today was perhaps one of the last beautiful days of weather we’ll see in Portland before the perpetual rains begin. With November coming, I once again feel like I’m at a crossroads. Really, I’ve been at a crossroads ever since the big lay-off in June, but for the last couple of months, I’ve been enjoying a sweet respite and focusing on my work at United Way. Good news: I really enjoy the job! I’ll be sad to leave come December. When I applied and accepted the position, I thought I was taking a huge gamble and that the extroverted nature of it would be too much. Quite the opposite, my friends! Like the more hectic times during my AmeriCorps year, I find this job challenging without being too overwhelming. That mix is hard to find.

Back at the office

Back at the office

It’s an exciting but unnerving time to be young, as I think you can see from the Occupy protests sweeping the country. I don’t engage people in political debate too much. I’m a cautious liberal like Obama, casting a skeptical eye and attentive ear to both sides of the political spectrum. Some days I’ll read ‘social justice’ leftist blogs and and not long afterwards listen to right wing talk radio with a morbid sense of curiosity. It’s amazing how people live in different worlds, how easily they build straw men to tear down, how quick they are to hate “society” (whatever that really means). There’s plenty of criticism to go around about government bureaucracy and big corporations; but I worry that neither the Occupy movement or the Tea Party fully understand their targets.

You’ll have to forgive the political statement. I’m actually very sympathetic to the Occupy movement, and I’ve been following it closely. I think that cynicism is easy; it’s pragmatism that’s difficult. So camping out and blaming the system doesn’t do much for me, especially when stereotypical hippies (Fox News bait) come out in force. That’s why I dismissed them at first, but I warmed up to the movement after reading the 99% Tumblr. It’s hard not to get swept up in the class anger. For the past months, I’ve been making frequent visits over to Occupy Portland, observing its evolution from a quirky protest to a (mostly) self-sufficient village right outside my old One Economy office.

Chicken suit man at Occupy Portland!

Chicken suit man at Occupy Portland!

You really see this evolution in the Domo photos I took of the event. On the first day I found all sorts of wacky costumed characters to pose Domo with, from a grown man dancing around in a chicken costume to a pig donning a gas mask and a sign. I came back during the weekend hoping to find a similarly ripe stockpile of Domo photos to take. What I found instead was a battalion of tents set up across two parks. Larger tents provided different social services like a library, healthcare, info, food and sanitation. More themed tents popped up as I kept visiting. These included media/communications, art, labor, war veterans, and even an engineering tent. The denizens of the camps evolved too, from mostly young and colorfully dressed hipsters to a growing homeless and street kid population. As someone who studied group dynamics in college, I’ve been positively enthralled watching these groups interact.

Domo visits Zombie Walk and makes friends

Domo visits Zombie Walk

Occasionally the more organized campers come off as sanctimonious revolutionaries, but I actually admire them quite a bit. I don’t think the encampments themselves will necessarily lead to substantive policy changes, but whether they get broken up tomorrow or not, they’ll be seen or remembered as a powerful symbol. It may be the people outside the camp, sympathizing with the cause, seeing the great inequality; that this larger group of observers will be the ones to really push politics in a more reasonable direction. But…who knows? I’m cleaning up my resume, and getting ready to head back out into the cold job market. I’m hoping that in a couple of years, I’ll be able to tell people, “Hey, I survived the great recession!”, opposed to still being in it. I’m one of the lucky ones, I guess. If I wasn’t… you may have found me setting up a tent in front of city hall.

In other news, like my career, life is in a little bit of a flux right now. My plan for my mid-twenties isn’t terribly ambitious. I want to find work where I can, meet new friends, stay in touch with old friends, and look for love and new experiences. Portland is wonderful for all these except maybe the work part. Whether I like it or not, 2012 will be a new chapter, and I’m going to kick it off with a spirited job search and a hunt for roommates. For now, I continue to do the occasional Meetup, seek out the latest Portland quirks (zombie walk!), and I even go on a date here and there. As I said, it’s not an ambitious plan, but I feel pretty good about things.

The New Times

5 Sep

Domo the First Visits Vancouver, B.C - His Final Voyage

Domo the First Visits Vancouver, B.C - His Final Voyage

The tectonic plates of my life have been shifting for the last few months, and I finally have a calm moment to comment on the landscape.

First, yes, the original Domo plush…has been lost. His final picture was atop an anchor by the Vancouver, B.C Maritime Museum. A combination of wind and loading up a heavy backpack with my camera provided the absent mindedness to realize that Domo wasn’t with me. I returned to the spot 30 minutes later in a rush to find him gone. I searched frantically, but eventually even I had to concede the loss. It’s been difficult to move on since the original Domo meant a lot to me, and I’ve been plenty hard with myself already. Some moments you’d rather not relive. Domo the First will not be forgotten. He was with me through a lot of major life transitions- from graduating college, to my VISTA year, to the big move to Portland. I feel like I may be approaching another one of those big transitions soon.

Domo the First - Final Picture

Domo the First's last picture

However! Domo the Second has arrived and reminds me very much of Domo the First in his early days. And lets not forget Professor Domo, the Domo Twins, Lady Domo, or Big Domo! What started with Domo the First continues on ceaselessly towards greatness!

The rest of trip to Vancouver, B.C was an interesting experience. Canada felt a bit like America with different money. Hostels were uncomfortable but cheap. The scenery was beautiful. Amtrak was a nice way to travel. To be honest, I don’t see myself traveling alone much in the future because, even before losing Domo, it was a lonely experience. This trip was my excuse to finally see Canada. Glad I did it (minus the Domo loss), since it certainly was memorable, but for me, I need travel to involve people in future.

I returned home to the start of the seasonal United Way job, which as I anticipated, is an invigorating challenge. As a natural introvert, a sales-type job pushes me beyond my comfort zones in ways I appreciate- and for an organization I’m motivated to go there for. My nerves still jump around sometimes, but each time I overcome them is a fantastic feeling. I really like it, though. Once again, my work and my principles match up. I also enjoy taking a short breather from the job hunt. Don’t worry, though, I’m not relaxing too much.

Domo the Second

Domo the Second is born! What adventures await?

The future feels exciting but more uncertain than ever. Come 2012, will I stay in Portland? Would I move to another part of the country? Kansas City and Lawrence still have the majority of my close friends, but at least three of them are gearing up for grad school within the next year.  For the short term, the plan is to stay here in Portland… and we’ll see. I like it here, but I don’t feel rooted quite yet. Maybe it’s best I shouldn’t.

Socially, things continue to move up and down in waves. Every couple of months I try to rustle together the Badass Gourmet Society of Portland, which is the most trouble you’ll ever see someone go through to get a few people together to hang out. Still, usually it makes for fun times and conversation. I’ve made some friends off OkCupid here and there, though my dating life has still been pretty quiet. Meetups continue, and I’d like to do a few light hikes. Kickball was really fun while it lasted. I’m considering another kickball league come fall. Overall, I’ve got friends spread out all across Portland, but it’s been tough for me to really develop those close, meaningful friendships. Those take time for anyone, I guess.

So here’s to Domo the Second! A new era begins with new challenges and new reasons for joy.

On to the Next Chapter

6 Aug

Domo Kickball

Domo and I took some time off the job search to play some kickball!

So it’s official: I’ll be gainfully employed for the rest of the year. I accepted a temporary position with United Way this week.

A month and a half into unemployment, this week was shaping up to be a benchmark for a couple of reasons. For one, August means that severance from my last job is no longer in effect and my sole revenue becomes unemployment. Unemployment provides just enough to pay rent and cover utilities, but I’d be bleeding money slowly for food and other expenses. True, I was prepared for this with plenty of rainy day savings, but unlike our government, I feel very uncomfortable running a budget deficit (oh snap?). Secondly, I awaited responses on a few jobs this week that I’d started the interview process for- representing the first big push of the job hunt season. One was temporary, one was temp-to-hire, and the other was part-time.

I interviewed for the temp-to-hire position with a marketing group down in the suburbs earlier in the week. I was a bit worried going in that I may like their job too much. You see, last week I interviewed for the United Way position- an organization who tops my list of places I’d love to work. The United Way position itself, though, involves fund-raising and fits a little awkwardly in my career narrative of web development and marketing/communications. Also, the job deals with public speaking and a lot of personal interaction with clients. I find that kind of work to be very challenging but possibly rewarding for an introvert like myself. It’s tempting to find a job like my last one where I could hide behind a desk all day. It was easy, sure, but occasionally I felt nostalgic for my days back at LINC where (ironic since I was an un-firable AmeriCorps VISTA), occasionally a project came along that pushed what I was capable of. Still, most jobs I apply for recently are of the desk-job variety.

Domo with marketing company

One of the companies I interviewed with down in Tualatin

So what if I liked the marketing job too much? What if I got both offers at once!? I’d be put in a difficult situation. Working for an organization that matches my principles vs. working at a job that matches my skills/career path? Hmmm…it’s probably wishful thinking that I’d get more than one offer, of course. It reminds of me of when I was once messaging 3 girls at once on OkCupid, and I started running scenarios where they all wanted to be my girlfriend. How could I handle turning one of them down!? As it turned out, two of them I never ended up meeting, and I became friends with the other girl after a mediocre date (we became dodgeball teammates!). But I digress…

As it turned out, the temp-to-hire marketing interview was disappointing, so crisis averted. Is it a bad sign when the job you’re interviewing for is across from a cemetery? I thought they were looking for a technical writer with HTML experience, but as it turned out they just needed someone to fill out order forms. The interviewer worried that I was overqualified and would get bored. That took me aback; I’d come in armed to fight in the other direction, and worse, I secretly agreed. It’s like going on a date and the other person saying “Aren’t you too attractive to go out with someone like me?” It’s both very disappointing softened by being somewhat flattering.

Domo hold Meetup sign

Domo attends a Meetup to get out of the apartment some

Anyhow, now that I’ve dived into it, how is the job market? Conventional wisdom says it’s murder. The thing is: I’ve never known anything else really. I graduated right into the beginning of the great recession, and before that most of my job searching revolved around  retail. With more depressing news arriving from Washington from crisis to shining crisis, I’m preparing myself for the reality that finding work may always be this difficult. Still, at least when it comes to temporary jobs, I’ve gotten good responses on applications, even if full-time employment remains elusive. I’m grateful, for sure. The horror stories loom over us unemployed. I heard of some friends of friends who spent the whole year looking for simple minimum wage-ish retail work and couldn’t find it, or another guy with high level graphic design experience who took two years to find a contract job. Stories like that make turning down any offer of employment, no matter how un-ideal, into high stakes gambling.

Anyhow, I’ve enjoyed my little summer break. It’s ending just as I was starting to adapt to it better. Living alone requires me to be more assertive in making social plans, but it adds another level when there isn’t an office to walk into Monday-Friday. I’ve met a cool group of people through an adult kickball league, and also I’ve been out and about on the Meetup circuit. I’m considering Toast Masters, especially since my new temporary job involves public speaking. With my last week of unemployment, perhaps a little road trip up to Canada is in order. Lately, I’ve been stuck on traveling. I don’t want to travel alone but I’m a little hesitant to dive into the world of couch-surfing. A friend suggested staying in a hostel, which may be the right compromise. I want to take a little more proactive approach to life lately. I get a little tired of the “Seize the Day” cliches we all pay lip service too (a rant for another time); but sometimes I really do want to take some initiative to go out and do something memorable.