Apr 04

Off the dole

I got calls from four more recruiters today about the IBM job, bringing the total to fifteen. Even if the job itself doesn’t work out, I’ll still have a bunch of new recruiter contacts to add to my networking address book.
In all the excitement, I forgot to report another milestone that occurred yesterday: I got kicked off unemployment. I received a phone call from a gentleman at the North Carolina Employment Security Commission, who explained that now that I’m working full-time, I should stop filing weekly certifications for unemployment insurance. I had wondered exactly when I was supposed to do that, but it wasn’t clear to me whether it was based on hours, earnings, or something else. Anyway, I told him I would comply.
Before landing my temporary job, I had been dreading the expiration of my unemployment benefits for months. Now they are gone, and it doesn’t matter. The paycheck from my temporary job has basically replaced the unemployment checks, so this doesn’t change our financial situation. And if I still haven’t found another job by the time my temporary one ends on May 31, I can reopen my unemployment claim.
But it’s nice to know that, for now at least, I’m officially no longer unemployed. Underemployed, yes. That’s still a step up, isn’t it?

Apr 03


I try to pursue any job opening for a technical writer in the Raleigh/Durham area, but I pay the most attention to openings at IBM. This is partly because my experience qualifies me particularly well to work there, and partly because it happens to be my favorite place to work. (I don’t hold any grudges against the company for laying me off. These things happen.) I have contacts within the company who watch the internal job posting database and inform me of new listings for “information developers” (the IBMese term for tech writers) that are open to candidates from outside the company. (Some listings are internal-only, meaning that only people who are already IBM employees can apply.)
If the position seems appropriate, I make sure the hiring manager has a copy of my resume and touch base with him or her periodically to find out the status of the job. However, in many cases these listings appear before the hiring manager is really ready to begin interviewing applicants, and sometimes before the manager has approval or funding to hire anyone (which is why they’re only posted internally, and not announced to the outside world). These “phantom positions” often disappear.
For example, I actually interviewed with one manager (whom I’ll call Manager A) last November for a contract position that I thought I was particularly well qualified for, and both she and her team seemed to think so too. However, she never got permission to hire contractors, and the last I heard, she was only interviewing internally and still had not filled the position. In February, I learned of another suitable position posted by Manager B, but when I talked to her on the phone, she explained that she created that opening specifically for a person who was already working for her as a co-op. (She had to post it internally, but it was never really open to other applicants. Fair enough.) In early March, I found out about two positions posted by Manager C (whom I actually know from when I was an IBM employee), and one posted by Manager D (whom I don’t know). I tried several times to contact Manager C by e-mail and phone during March, but I didn’t actually talk to her until this week, at which point she admitted that both of her positions had ceased to exist due to a reorganization.
As for Manager D, I didn’t try to contact him at all. This was because Bob had already made sure he had a copy of my resume and was aware of my interest. For several weeks nothing happened, apparently because Manager D was still putting through the necessary paperwork. In response to pestering from me, Bob assured me that not only did D have my resume, it was his impression that my resume was the only one he had. I half expected the position to evaporate like the others, but I followed Bob’s advice and didn’t bug the manager.
This morning my mobile phone rang. When I answered, I found myself talking to a recruiter who was trying to fill a new job opening at IBM, and had found my resume to be a particularly good match for it. I asked him for details, and it quickly became clear that this was Manager D’s position. Apparently he had finally gotten the approvals he needed and had announced the opening to the outside world. Minutes after I finished talking to that recruiter, I got a call from another one about the same job. And then another recruiter. And more, throughout the day. When I got home, there were messages from recruiters on my answering machine and in my e-mail. In all, I was contacted by eleven recruiters today about this job. Some of them work for agencies I haven’t even heard of before.
Nothing like this has ever happened to me before, and I was initially at a loss to explain it. However, one of the recruiters I talked to on the phone offered a plausible theory. Looking at the job description that was announced today, he said that it looked like Manager D created it by copying text from my resume. If that’s the case, I can certainly see why the recruiters’ keyword-matching software would find a remarkably good match between the two documents.
Whatever the reason, this sort of interest is very encouraging. I have an interview with Manager D scheduled for next Wednesday. Assuming, that is, that I don’t wake up before then and discover that I dreamed all this.

Apr 03

Ask a glass of water

And while I’m on the subject, here’s another item that is a lot easier to appreciate after you do without it for a while: the ability to stand up. I don’t mean the ability to walk; I haven’t taken that for granted since 1980. I mean the ability to remain vertical.

Let me explain. Marie was sick with a rather nasty cold over the weekend, and as she began to recover, it became clear that I was coming down with it. I started feeling the first symptom, a dry, scratchy sore throat, on Monday evening. I was able to work Tuesday but felt worse as the day progressed: nasal congestion, general aches, weakness, and so forth. Along with these came a symptom I hadn’t experienced before: the infection messed up my inner ear, interfering with my sense of balance. By the end of the work day I was already feeling dizzy, and by nightfall my internal guidance system was completely offline.

I spent the next twenty-four hours in bed. I would have done this anyway because I felt awful and needed the rest, but in this case I had no choice; I could not stand up without hanging onto some kind of support. Any movement caused the room to spin around me, and I lurched and staggered as if intoxicated. I have never actually been drunk, but this must be what it’s like. Frankly, I don’t see the appeal of it. I found that it was best to simply stay prone and try not to move until my semicircular canals recovered.

I think Ford Prefect summed up the experience best when, in The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, he described the sensation of hyperspace travel to Arthur Dent:

FORD: It’s rather unpleasantly like being drunk.
ARTHUR: What’s so unpleasant about being drunk?
FORD: Ask a glass of water.

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