Saturday, October 24, 2009

Encounters with People I Met at the Illinois (State-wide, not the College) Alumni Job Fair

NOTE: some of these conversations have been had at other career fairs from senior year in college, the recruiting fair at my college, and some are flat-out imagined (those are noted with a *). I will go the way of James Frey and say "I stuck to the spirit of the events."

With the Girl Looking for the "Pavilion,"
Where all my Uni's Grads were told, the Fair Was

Hey, do you know where we're supposed to be? No, I thought somewhere else. Do they know where we're supposed to go? This building on the other side of campus. Oh. Wanna split a cab? I don't have any cash. Me neither. Let's walk in the cold mist. Ok. I'm lost. So, are you working? Yeah, I'm a secretary at a gym. How's that? Awful. It's so boring. I don't even think in my day-to-day. I spend more time on Facebook that directing sweaty people to the right machine. I am familiar with this feeling. Yeah. Being underemployed isn't a lot of fun. I'm really glad someone else feels that way! I feel like we should be like grateful or something for the chances that we have, and that we are like supposed to be this way after college, but dang it! Totally. I went to college, studied hard, and now, I mean, I can't find anything. What field are you in? Journalism. Oh--oh--ummmmm...
Some people are in worse positions than I, but I'm glad to have an encounter with someone who is in the same position, just so I can confirm what everyone is telling me, that this is a totally normal way to feel.

*With the (not unattractive) Representative of the Marines Right at the Entrance of the Fair
Hey, how's it going? Oh, you know. It's freezing outside. Do you have any interest in a job in the legal field? Actually, yeah. I want to go to law school. Oh? What if I told you that we could pay for you to go to law school? Really...I'd think there was a catch. No catch. We sponsor people through law schools all the time, and we are a great resume boost, and it's really just a great opportunity. You do have a degree, right? Yeah. Totally. I graduated with two majors. That's great, we're always looking for smart people. Ok, but--you know--I have a general aversion to...getting shot at. Well, you wouldn't really be doing that! We are more than just war makers! Really? Because I thought that was exactly what you were. All you'd have to do is go through basic training and then your rising through the ranks should be pretty quick, since-- Umm, errrrr, hang on. What? First of all, can you back up a bit. You're kind of in my personal bubble, and that combined with your excessive eye contact is kind of freaking me out. Oh, you'll get over that real quick once you're in basic tr-- Thanks! Bye!
Inevitably, you just try to avoid eye contact with the military booths, which are always set up in just the same way everywhere, the same booth design, same handouts, same two guys. There's one in his uniform (usually the less attractive) and then one in a smart, businessy looking number. Once in conversation, they're much more eager than you'd expect from someone recruiting you to be part of "this man's army." There's never mention of war, of deployments, but the existence of these things, coupled with them being there, amongst throngs of unemployed, is really unnerving. I can't really articulate why except that the realization comes to me that "oh, yeah, people DO join the military more in times of recession, putting their lives on the line because they don't see many other choices." I have nothing against the military, but this tacit understanding that happens, coupled with what we read in the makes things awkward.

With Every Single Consulting Company There
Hi there, Kate _________. Hi. I'm Tom Smith. What interests you about Dynamic Consulting? Well, I did some research on the website, and I want to see if there is a place for someone with my talents, and [insert my normal pitch here]. That's great! This is a great firm. We're leaders in innovation and dynamic solutions. Oh? What exactly do you do? We come up with strategic decisions for fast moving, modern businesses. Right, but--like--what do YOU do specifically? I'm a planner. I work with my team. It's such a great experience! Ok. And what do you think makes your firm different from Consulting Dynamics over there? We're a firm that is dedicated to delivering a dynamic product to our clients. We really value diversity of workload and innovation. Ok. So what then is your understanding of what they do? They deliver less workable products. See, we focus on real world solutions for innovative markets!
I come out of these conversations usually with almost no understanding of what exactly these guys do (aside from specializing in innovation). You're actually better off using wikipedia to get it explained for you, but the face time is more important than information-finding. At this point, I actually do know what they do, and who does what, but that's not really the point of this conversation, since it ends with, "Great! Can I have your resume?"

With a Field I'm Clearly Not Qualified For
So what did you study? German and PoliSci, but-- Oooh. This job is really mostly for med school grads. Oh. [AWKWARD MOMENT] So, I'll just keep an eye on the website. Yeah, completely. Things are always opening up on there, and you can see what would best suit your qualifications. Great. Thanks.
And you walk away a little embarrassed that the name "InnovatiCorp" didn't tip you off that they weren't hiring your type. But you can't just run away, since that would be...I don't know actually why I don't just run away making that "woop woop woop" noise that Curly from 3 Stooges makes.

With a Booth That Looked Half Decent
So, what do you do? Oh, I have a great job with Diverse Solutions LLP! I get to X, Y, Z. Oh, that's really interesting. Wow, that sounds like just what I want to do with my career! Great! So, what positions are open? Well, we're actually not hiring at this time. Oh. But we'd be more than happy to take your resume and keep it on file! Ok, cool. Thanks.
If you don't have anything open, DON'T COME TO THE FREAKIN CAREER FAIR! The point of the whole thing is to GET A JOB, and if you don't have any jobs, then--GAH! I do not feel bad AT ALL taking more of their swag than absolutely polite (I have so many corporate frisbees and pens and stress balls from stands like these).

With the Rep of a Rather Famous Children's Toy Company
Wow, Company X. What are you hiring for? Ummm...we have some positions open. Like what? Tester? Haha. Hehe. No. Oh. Here's our flyer. Great, thanks. Are you interested in any of these? Well, they're all in engineering, so I'm not really--I didn't really study... Ok. You want a candy bar? Sure! Thanks!
Ok, so she didn't really know what she was doing there. I was there only out of curiosity, and it didn't really look like people were waiting in line to talk to her,'s Company X! Makers of such great and well known products as the Rolling Doo-Dad and the Thing-a-ma-Gig! Still, kind of a weird feeling, but their stuff was definitely the best (maybe if the Marines gave out candy and respected personal space...I'm just saying).

With a Kindred Spirit in the Line to Talk to a Booth
(the lines were UNG-DLY long!)
So, this is what an economic recovery looks like? Man, look at all these older people. Yeah, some of them are over 60. I feel like we've failed them somehow. Yeah, they won't end up getting a job here. But at the same time, I don't have any experience, so it's awkward. Haha. Yeah. Describe this fair in one word. Depressing. I know, right! I thought I was the only one! Yeah, I haven't been jobless this long in a while. How long? Since June. Don't you just hate it? I can't stand it when people tell me to "enjoy the free time." No, that New York Times article where you can be FUNemployed! Arg. I'm not funemployed. I'm funderemployed. Awesome. No, it's really not. Well, it's my turn to talk to them. Remember, big smiles, eye contact, and good luck. I hate it when people say that too. Haha!
It sounds like we're having a bitter conversation, but it's really not. It's like Barbara Ehrenreich writes. Everyone is so positive all the time, but it's ok to be negative. Sometimes it can even be a help to air out those negative feelings, especially when it's with someone who knows where you're coming from, and you can laugh about it and realize that it's ok that it's not totally ok. There's no "at leasts" or "keep on truckin" because we do that anyway. We truck! You just sometimes need to acknowledge that it's not all yoga and low budget flowers, so big shout-out to my recession buddy!

With an Older Lady in Line at a Publishing Booth
So, you're looking at Books and Associates? Yeah, since I got laid off. I'm sorry. I was employed with them for 1o years, in the field for 30, and my husband wants to retire, but I told him that he can't. Well, you're established in the field, so that's going to help your chances. And then after this I have to go to a wake. Oh, jeez. I'm sorry. Yeah, it's for my cousin Mayble's friend, nice lady. Her son, he's such a mess. It's those drugs, you know...
This was the single most depressing conversation ever. I almost hopped right out of line, but I didn't want to be rude and run into the nearest Snuggie store for SOMETHING comforting. And then I realized we were in competition in a way for the jobs, and that added another dynamic to the whole thing. Like "I feel bad for you, but I'm goign to get up there and try to explain how I am a better choice than hard feelings." This is why I don't like big job fairs, because you have several moments like these, and they are just as bad as they look.

With the Publishing Booth
So, you were in Germany. Tell me about it. Sure, like my research? Yeah, I was a sociology major. Great! [insert research description here]. [Then this random lady in a suit comes up to us] --Hey! Kate ________? Can I steal you away for a second? Ok. I was actually looking at your resume on line yesterday, and I had been wanting to call you. Really? Yes. And I'll just give you my phone number here [writes phone number]. I'm putting together a team, and I was really impressed with your resume. So, I'll call you tomorrow morning--no--I'll call you in like an hour, just so you have my number on your cell, ok? I can't wait to talk to you! Ok!
So...THAT happened...and very quickly at that. I'm going to go to an interview in person, after acing the phone interview, and maybe I won't get the job. That's a real possibility, but at least something crazy and positive happened, so yay for that!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

No Longer a Prime Number

So some of you might have noticed that I recently had a birthday. You probably didn't, since I barely did. 24 is not exactly a birthday to write home about. True, you're not a prime number anymore, but you're not the square result of anything, and you aren't a multiple of a cool number like 7 or 5.

This was also the first birthday I really didn't feel ready for. For some reason, I didn't quite feel ready finished with 23, and I felt weird to see it go, but--what would every single older person I know say?--that's the way it goes.

It wasn't all mid-twenties apathy though. My good buddy, Andi, came to Chicago! I met her, you might recall, at an Amnesty march in the chilly Berlin fall, and she and I have been friends ever since, even when she took an internship in Madison, Wisconsin for the summer (something akin to the sketch about that state in Love Actually). She had extended her stay to include some traveling time, and just after my birthday she was going back to Germany, but she proved to be an excellent birthday companion!

During the days she was here we'd go out to dinner or drinks or an evening of improv comedy. One night we were bar-hopping in Wriggleyville (oh, the Affliction!) and we ended up having drinks at the Goose Island Brewery. We had been chatting with the bar tender about this and that, and just as we were getting done with our last round, she opened a bottle of some expensive Belgian beer (like Chimay but not) for the wrong table. Since no one had ordered it, and it was already opened, she gave it to us for FREE, saying "You ladies look like you know beer." Happy birthday to ME!

Though hanging with Andi was rad, the real celebration of my birthday was at the pregame for the Northwestern-Miami(Ohio) game, in which I met some friends at the beer tent before the game for FREE BEER (yeah, they do that, with Goose Island beer...I had no idea) and muffins. That perked up my school spirit, and we wandered off to the less-than-packed stadium in a fighting mood.

I gotta say, I do like college football quite a lot. The songs, the shouting, the people painting themselves purple for a school that isn't exactly known for athletic prowess. There are some drawbacks to NU football, and I'd say some of it is related to us being a Big 10 school:

The football is REALLY defensive and low-scoring We can't fill a stadium unless it's with Michigan or OSU fans We know zilch about Miami Ohio, so it's hard to get real animosity going there It can be cold at times, no lie

And at a certain point, we were ahead, but our defense was just barely keeping up with Miami (Ohio), and we hadn't seen any big plays for a while, and we all pretty much ready for the game to be over, when something amazing happened:

Our team spontaneously decided to play rugby.

There was a fumbled snap on a field goal that turned into a fumble-fumble, recovery, and then a BACKWARDS PASS, which was of course intercepted and then a tackle from a player who had been up till then run off the sidelines. So...THAT happened. I swear, the Benny Hill theme (THIS) was running through my head the whole time, and it FIT.

We did snatch victory out of the jaws of Miami, and that was great, and as a nice bonus, my posse and I got to spend a few hours at NU's local beloved coffee spot, chatting. It's moments like these in which I think "so THIS is what my 20s are supposed to be like!" I hope my next year falls nicely in line with what I experienced that day, but if it doesn't, we'll always have our Big 10 football.

PS. Just for the record, I want to get this out there, I am REALLY GLAD no one cares enough about our team to make up a sappy human-interest story like that Colt McCoy one. We're just nerds who play football and sometimes QUIDDICH (yeah, all your stereotypes are true)


My apologies to readers who have been on pins and needles expecting something of late. Again, I have dropped the ball, but I hope to make it up to you.

I'll start with the triumphant story of my 24 hour comic fiasco. I've always admired comic artists, not the people who draw Superman and whatnot, but people like Satape and Clowes, who draw everyday life in all its interest and banality, so when I saw an ad at the local comic store to "write till you hand goes numb!" I thought "Heck, I could do that!"

THE IDEA: most artists can only produce about 3 pages per day in their everyday lives, and the average comic book size is 24 pages. If, however, one were isolated, away from distractions, one could produce much more and more quickly, so people should go to this comic book store and stay there for 24 hours in which the goal was to write 24 pages.

I had up till then written...2 pages of comics at one time and never a real story arc, so I knew I had to do some training, like for a marathon. I started developing characters, getting used to my utensils, mapping out what kind of stories I wanted to tell, so at 10AM on October 3, I was reasonably mentally prepared.

I started off planning the requisite 2 story arcs and then went to work. I was actually going pretty slowly until the comic store filled with the late-arriving participants. In no particular order we had:
some crazies who drew comics in pencil and couldn't be bothered to chat with us
2 art school students
a high school English teacher and one of his students
a genuine super-hero super-fan
and Blue Beard.

Blue Beard was a nickname, but he's now probably the coolest person I know of. He brought his kids and they constructed an epic about a NINJA COBRA fighting a CYBORG NUTCRACKER on the high seas! The event was sponsored by an energy drink, which BB drank out of a stein like one would grogg or something. What a cool guy!

The event had real sponsors too, so we were supplied with pizza and sodas (like a marathon...but unhealthy!), and we had music playing the whole time. The owner had the idea of playing the soundtracks from super hero movies, which was pretty cool for the first--eh--15 minutes or so, but you can only handle shouting choirs and exploding brass for so long before the rest of us were figuring out ways to connect the speaker systems to our ipods, out of which came an odd mix of pirate music, pop, rap, Black Sabbath (I got SO SICK of Sabbath after an hour) and whatever else we could find.

Around 10PM my reinforcements came bearing coffee and sugar, which was insanely sweet. I am proud to say that I was the only participant who had cheerleaders stopping by, so I want to thank you (you know who you are) for the ventis and moral support.

At about 4:00AM something happened to me that I had previously only experienced once, during reading week my sophomore year in college: my brain stopped working. It just wouldn't cooperate anymore. My hands were moving, my body was jittery from caffeine, but my mind just shut off, and all of a sudden "THERE" was a REALLY HARD word to write properly. I was grateful that I had planned out my comic so well, but it was still really difficult as I looked at the objective for each page and tried to envision how I would realize it. We were all dragging though, even the store owner who had volunteered to be there overnight (thanks, Luke!). At this point Blue Beard took his kids and his comic home, since they were showing the exhaustion like mini-zombies, and he didn't need us around to be an amazing illustrator (he was writing his comic in free hand with a sharpie!).

The manager showed up around 8 with donuts, laughing at our bedraggled looks, and by 10 we were all very happy to call it a full day. In the end I was one of the only ones who finished all 24 pages, and I'm not totally proud of them, but I am proud that I could accomplish something. Having been rejected by the State Department and pretty clueless as to what comes next, I knew I would have to look for a sense of accomplishment outside of "job," and I really felt amazing for getting it all out on paper, even if parts of it were a bit toned up or down, and the characters looked rough. Blue Beard had come over to my table during a pizza break to check it out, and he said that "It's a fun style, like an cool internet comic." I've found my niche? Maybe not.

Now, before you all go clicking the link I've provided to check out my work, I have to say that I wrote the comic itself on really large paper (like a real comic artist), and they scanned it into their system, but the scanner wasn't big enough, so it's knitted together, sometimes in rather awkward ways. That having been said, I present to y'all my work:

1. Click HERE
2. Scroll down the page till you see my picture next to a bunch of miniaturized comic panels
3. Click the picture of me for page 1
4. Use the arrows at the top of each page to either navigate to the next or close out completely.

Let me know what you think. I really do hope that this personal challenge can become a sustainable and productive hobby in my life.

Friday, October 2, 2009

24 Kate Blackout

I am endeavoring something (do you endeavor something or to do something...whatever...that) either brave, dangerous or stupid, but I am almost 24 years old, and age has made me Reckless--RECKLESS I TELL YOU!

No, it's not that thrilling. I'm participating in a 24-24 comic challenge. I will go to a comic book store in Chicago that has been shut down, and me and some other folks will have 24 hours to make a 24 page comic book (usually people do about 3 pages per day)...starting from scratch.

Why am I doing this?

1. I like comics. They entertain me, and I have learned a lot of my current French from them.

2. I want to hone my creativity. I've always wanted in some capacity to write, to express the stories I have stored up in my brain, and this is a way to do this in which I'll have other people around to keep me honest

3. I spend a lot of my days looking for stuff to do, and this is certainly "stuff"

4. Being locked in a comic book store with a bunch of folks will either yield new friends or new stories

5. Because 24-24 is not as much of a competition as it is a personal challenge...I WILL TOTALLY WIN!

6. Anything that I come up with in terms of an actual comic will be posted here (though I can't be sure when)

So I will be "OUT" on Sunday afternoon and groggy in the evening, but I hope that this challenge will serve the purpose of any challenge: to push me to lengths that I have yet to push myself.

So wish me luck, and if you're lucky, you, loyal reader, might make it into the pages of HISTORY (but more likely, just into the pages of my comic)

I did NOT do this illustration--Adrian Tomine, one of my heroes, did