Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Three-Year Anniversary

Technically, tomorrow is the blog's third anniversary, not today. (The first anniversary is here; the second is here.) But for what to any American reader would be obvious reasons, we're going to have the anniversary post today instead. This is the time each year when I try to figure out where, exactly, I stand in trying to make a career out of this, the whole reason this blog exists in the first place.

As with the first two years, there's been no luck so far in finding a journalism-related job. There have been applications sent out- not quite as many as I'd like, as so many of the openings have experience and college-degree requirements beyond what I have, and so many others are for beats in which I'm no expert, but when something pops up that I think I can handle, I've put it out- but so far, there has not been so much as a callback. Al Jazeera, the network that took over Current, is currently looking to staff up for the upcoming launch of Al Jazeera America, and I've made a play for a researcher opening. Applications are still open there for a few more days. In the event that they were to pick me (fingers crossed), it's a hell of a news organization to work for. Despite anything you may have heard from the Bush administration about them, if you take the time to watch them, you'll find that they're substantive, they're not afraid to shy away from uncomfortable topics (pretty much everybody in the Middle East gets mad at them sooner or later for not taking their respective side), they're much more interested in the third world than anyone else (the Random News Generator would be right at home), and most importantly, they're level-headed.

Here's a link to Al Jazeera English's livestream. The first thing you'll want to notice: nobody's screaming. It is so refreshing to see that, you don't even know.

Researcher would be a good spot for me. It's off-camera. I've found out during the year that being on-camera is probably one of my weakest traits. I have a webcam, but I'm no good at using it for anything but taking headshots for Facebook. It was originally thought when I bought it that maybe I could use it to make YouTube versions of some of my posts, but then I found out I have the on-camera nerve of a bowl of Jell-O. I simply could never bring myself to hit 'play' and start talking.

Then in the fall, it was announced that Lisa Ling would be hosting a reality competition called 'The Job' (which premieres this coming Friday). A, it's a job-search show and B, she's my friend, so it seemed natural to take a crack at applying. Therein lied the problem, though: she's my friend. She's also a job reference. Which means there's quite a bit of worry on my end about potential conflicts of interest. The last thing I wanted to do was get her in any kind of trouble. So I messaged her on Facebook and laid that situation out to her. Lisa responded that several people she knows had already applied to that point and to go for it.

So I did. Which led to the other big hangup: the application asked for a video, three minutes or less, explaining why they should pick me. Given my previous shyings-away from video creation, this was even scarier than the worry about conflicts of interest. But the hand had been forced. If I wanted on the show, I had to get on the webcam, hit play, and start talking.

It wasn't hard to get the webcam set up. At 9:30 AM on the day of the recording, all was set up and the only thing left to do was hit play.

Then I froze up.

All it is is a simple click of a mouse. And then all it is is talking. About myself. That's all I had to do. I've clicked mouses and buttons countless times; I've spoken countless words in my life. I wasn't even really going to be speaking to anyone I could see. Nobody else but me was even in the house at the time. As far as things appeared, all I had to do was brag about myself for a couple minutes. For many people this is the simplest thing in the world. It's second nature.

It's not second nature to me. Bragging about myself is not something I'm good at doing. I rarely think I have something to even brag about, which can be a problem when you're trying to tell someone that you're great and they need to hire you. So instead, I had to psyche myself up. I had to walk myself through what I was going to try to say, scrape up enough if-not-great-then-at-least-halfway-decent things about myself to fill up a couple minutes, tell myself it's just a button, tell myself nobody's in the room but me, count myself down to a button click, count myself down again, count myself down a third time, pause, bury my face in my hands, walk myself through the speech again, try to remember what I just walked through, forget half the things I was going to say to puff myself up, write them down, pause, find myself short of breath, close my eyes and breathe a couple times, count myself down again, chicken out again, and so on and so forth until finally, at 11 AM, after an hour and a half of trying to get myself to click a simple button, I clicked a simple button and started the video.

I choked on my words immediately. Four seconds into the video, I hit stop.

It took an additional 40 minutes before I completed Take 4. I couldn't bear to do Take 5. It was pretty obviously a disaster of a speech. I barely got out my words, I went way off my own script, I spent way too much time talking about the potential conflict of interest and that I understood if they wanted to disqualify me on that, and I spent virtually the entire video on the defensive.

At least I think I did. I couldn't even bear to watch it all. On top of everything else, I'm not used to the sound of my own voice, and my own voice grates on me quickly. I stopped the playback halfway through. After I went and found a video converter to get the file size down to specified limits (further ruining the video, severely dimming the light and pasting 'TRIAL CONVERTER PLEASE BUY FULL VERSION' right over my face), I sent it off, and messaged Lisa that it was sent and that I was "hoping for the best". I was lying to both of us. I was so relieved at the moment to be done with the application that it temporarily blinded me to how terrible the video was on every conceivable level.

Needless to say, I did not get a callback.

I'm more hopeful concerning the club-soccer book. There have been rejections- book proposals will rack up rejections like Jeanette Lee racks up balls- but the rejections have provided something of a lead. I haven't been told the book is bad. The reasons I'm getting rejected seem to be, basically, that it's not focused enough on England (which is kind of the point), and that it's too far away from the World Cup. Which leads me to believe the odds will go up as the World Cup draws nearer. I've been working alongside Lisa's husband, Paul Song, to try and hunt down a buyer. There's also a side project being pitched alongside the book now, so the problem can be attacked from more than one angle; however, I'll keep that close to the vest.

On the plus side, the wait does provide extra time to scrounge up extra information on the clubs I've included, time to add in clubs that didn't originally make the cut, and time to do other assorted sprucings-up where I notice they're needed. So, Racing Colombes 92 of France, consider yourself lucky.

That said, part of each year's self-assessment is to relink what I consider to be my best ten pieces of the past 12 months. They are as follows, in chronological order:

2/13/12- Jonathan's Card
3/11/12- Bonanza Farms
6/23/12- The Great American Taboo
7/7/12- I Sentence You To 212 Words
7/14/12- The Vulture Variety Hour
7/23/12- Analyzing Aurora
8/10/12- First, Except Actually Third
9/29/12- Why Sports Matter
12/11/12- Six White Flags
1/31/13- Taking A Gerrygander

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