January 11, 2012

Talented writer/designer seeks exciting new job

As published in The Erin Advocate

When you sit down for a meeting with your boss, and she starts off with, "This is one of the hardest things I've ever had to do," you know it is going to be a bumpy roller coaster ride kind of a day.

I was expecting a reduction of hours, but instead am laid off from my job as a graphic designer. Sympathy is absolutely unnecessary – people endure far greater hardships every day. I was under no illusion that 20 years of dedicated service would count for much if my employer needed to drastically reduce costs.

Opportunities are looming. Expectations are being adjusted. Full-time chicken catchers are urgently needed in Woodstock. I could make $11.30 an hour in a "fast-paced environment". No education or experience is required, just hand-eye co-ordination, physical stamina and a willingness to travel for extended periods.

I was dreading my visit to the unemployment office, but the staff there were very friendly and efficient. I found it strange, though, when one advisor told me I would be allowed to earn extra money, up to 25 per cent of my weekly benefit, without any penalty. I told her their website said the level had been changed to 40 per cent back in 2008. She said, "I don't go to the website very often."

My first UI premium was paid in 1973. I have now contributed $24,000 to the system, with employers kicking in an additional $33,000 on my behalf. It has been my good fortune to have little need of the benefits, but I feel no guilt now about taking a bounce in the social safety net. Of course, there is that annoying two-week waiting period. They have to make sure it hurts before they help you out.

The great thing about not going to work is that I get a chance to do other work for the newspaper. It is interesting, but not exactly a get-rich-quick scenario. I will be a little richer if my temporary layoff runs to 13 weeks and becomes permanent. Only then would I qualify for severance and termination pay. I wonder if the bank would consider that possibility as collateral?

Maybe I could become a nationally syndicated columnist. I will keep a close eye on the help wanted classified ads in the Erin Advocate. My grammar is not bad, and I am willing to engage in shameless self-promotion when necessary. As for content, I am sure that people across Canada (and beyond) would be fascinated by my stimulating accounts of life in Erin, ON. Local property values and tourism revenue could well be enhanced.

Prospective employers, however, should be aware that I have certain reasonable requirements. First of all, the coffee machine has to be top notch. I will no longer tolerate bland beverages, even when they are free.

The workplace must have no harassment. That means no loud, incompetent salespeople, bitchy drama queens, robotic administrative assistants, gossipy know-it-alls or power hungry middle managers. I could put up with some ego-maniacal techno-nerds, if it meant that my computer would work fast and flawlessly, every day.

A nice desk, an expense account, a pension and a full benefit plan would all be appreciated, but I have been doing without these for so long, I'm not sure I could make the adjustment.
I also will insist on convivial colleagues, and a variety of interesting tasks that do not force me to pull out my hair or utter profanities.

It is not a lot to ask, since I can offer the employer such a wide array of talents. For example, I am highly organized. A co-worker once suggested that as a child, I probably kept my toy cars filed under transportation. I am not sure how she knew. Anyhow, I now keep my important junk in special piles on my desk, so it is always available.

I can sense the needs of the most cantankerous clients, decipher the most hastily scribbled instructions, repair the most preposterous of PDFs and work minor miracles in Photoshop. As for writing, I avoid clich├ęs like the plague.

I also show up on time, only check my email once an hour, and generally work so hard that smoke is often seen arising from my keyboard.

It sounds old fashioned, I know, but there must still be good jobs out there for modest, middle-aged guys who know what they're doing. Maybe I should shave off the grey beard, though. There is really no advantage to looking my own age.