how to tell when you're
completely unemployable.


one of the first few moments i realized i was utterly unprepared, unmarketable, if you will, for the "real world," the business world, is when i interviewed for my first real internship. it was for a marketing & communications position at the richard hugo house, and i only found out about it through toby, who was quitting it because she found something better, something that would make her more marketable.

anyway, the volunteer coordinator was this nice young woman named tina hetzel, very hip, very "down" with the game, a woman who would leave a few weeks after i was hired to move to michigan, where she would earn her mfa in creative writing. so tina sits me down in some large room and asks me very casually (this is seattle, after all) about my work experience, my resume, and any writing samples i might have.

me (the 3 c's: calm, cool, and collected): oh yes, i have those (and then i dive into my stolen suede messenger bag to pull out said items).
tina (looking at papers, begins to read): this is good, i'm really glad that you brought this (and then she looks at me).

at this point she is showing me my very own short story entitled, "the plug at the bottom of the lake." behind that story is a ten page research paper entitled, "revision: an alternate cookbook."

tina (smiling, possibly suppressing laughter): but, when i talk about writing samples, i was thinking more along the lines of...you know, articles, or blurbs, or press releases.

i must look really hurt or offended or something, because even though i don't say anything, she leans forward and her eyes get really big, like she's going to say something like i've got cancer, but she's trying to comfort me. like she's trying to say, it's okay, we'll get through this. we'll get through this, she's saying. together, we'll get through this.

tina (again, playing the role of supportive physician): i'm really glad you brought this in. i can tell just from reading the first paragraph that you're a really strong writer, but just so you know, this isn't really what the job's going to be about. there is a creative element to what we do, but most of the time we're writing either press releases or articles about authors.

me: oh, okay (yes, readers, i am twenty-two at this point, and i'm bringing in short stories and research papers to interviews). well, i don't really have articles or anything.

tina: well, that's okay. that's okay. is that something you'd like to get experience in?

me: yes, definitely.

tina (scribbling something on her notepad): great!

and so that's how i got my first internship - the first of many random adventures scribbled down on a piece of a paper, which i refer to as my curriculum vitae.

at some point, though, the professors in the english department must've wised up. our english majors are looking a little too cheerful, they must've thought. with graduation just around the corner, they're acting like people are just handing out jobs outside the seattle center. we've gotta put an end to this, they said. and so they did. they held a career night exclusively for english majors. attendance was not mandatory, but strongly recommended. they got a handful of alumni to show up and talk about how successful they are. they got these people dressed up all nice and fancy with their ties and jackets and made-up titles. and these people told us how important it is to network, to be technologically savvy, to make yourself...marketable.

corporate douchebag who sold out his jesuit philosophy #1: on monday morning, sometimes i'll be at the office, and everyone will be talking about brad and angelina. brad and angelina this, brad and angelina that. and you know, even if i don't care about brad and angelina, sometimes it helps just to know a little bit about celebrity gossip, or american idol, or whatever's the big thing in people magazine.

audience groans.

corporate douchebag who sold out his jesuit philosophy #1: i know, i know. it sounds stupid. but trust me, it really helps to know little things like that. sometimes you have to make small-talk. it's all part of networking (he sits down; he looks embarassed; he looks like he's thinking, maybe i should've thought about what i was going to say tonight. and then maybe, just maybe, he smiles. whatever, he thinks. these spoiled pricks will probably be working for me by the time they get out of here).

corporate douchebag who sold out her jesuit philosophy #2: i got my first phd in '92...

all the professors look real happy for this woman. you see, they're saying, this is what it means to be a successful english major. we hold special dinners for winners like the ones speaking tonight. do something that makes you stand out, and maybe we'll invite you back to speak, too.

plain & simple, i'm unmarketable. sure, i could attend that job fair, i could go to that resume workshop, and i could find "buzzwords" to make myself more appealing. but the fact is, i don't know how to sell myself; i don't know how to network. deep down, i don't want to play the game. i know that no one really wants to play the game, but i think there are some people who really, really can't play the game, the kind of people who think an unpublished short story is evidence of "work" & "accomplishment," and use such things to try and get a non-payable job. as far as i'm concerned, they can keep their cubicles, their water coolers, their celebrity gossip, their monday morning groans, their friday afternoon plans for the weekend.

i say all this now, but i'll get sucked in. i know i will. it's inevitable. it's an unprecedented, unholy cavity awaiting its next trip to the dentist.

at least i'll have plenty of material by the time i retire.

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