My apologies for being silent so long. I’ve just finished a month-long temp job, the kind I like least: I was doing work I didn’t like, using none of my most unusual and marketable skills, at a company who had hired more help rather than figuring out why their processes didn’t work in the first place. It was the kind of job that reminds me why I try so hard to avoid getting a job.
Meanwhile, I was extra busy, and extra well paid, in every “free” moment I had after work, because opportunities were suddenly pouring in for all of the strange things I do for a living besides sitting at a desk and working a “regular job.” Here’s what I’ve done for money, though not as a job, in the month of November so far:
• transcribed a nine-hour audio program on holistic health so my friends at my former employer, Sounds True, could write well-informed catalog copy about it
• wrote two theater features for the brand-new Denver Decider web site
• acted in three murder mystery dinner theater performances, all holiday parties for various companies
• took care of cats and a house for one weekend
In these economic times, when everyone is arguing over whether we’re in a recession or a depression, and just how bad things are going to get, I’m being begged from all sides to come to work, but only for the strangest jobs I know of—which, fortunately, are also the most fun jobs I can imagine (so far. I’m working on improving my imagination). My employed friends are watching their companies’ budgets carefully, slyly looking at “help wanted” ads in their off hours, and waiting for the axe to fall. One dear friend, for whom the axe has already fallen, has spent over a month sending out her resume, which is overflowing with experience in telephone customer service—a very practical and useful skill, one would think—with no job offers. She’s just signed up with a temp agency, but she’s counting her pennies just in case the temp jobs have dried up, too.
I’ve tried over the past few months to land a “normal” job. I have to admit that I do miss the illusion of security—the health insurance plan that will try its best to deny coverage if anything serious happens to you, the regular paycheck (unless there are layoffs, pay cuts, or your company invokes its right to fire you for any reason), the regular schedule and regular people to see every day. I miss having a job to tell me where to live, when to get up each morning, how to plan my day … but apparently I don’t miss it enough to make a solid effort at landing one. Besides, such jobs are becoming more rare, and economists expect them to be even harder to come by in the near future. Like my telephone-expert friend, I’ve sent out carefully-written resumes, mostly with no reply.
Instead, I get calls from friends and past clients, I notice Craigslist ads and notes on writers’ and actors’ web forums, and I think of ideas like: If I want fingerless gloves, why not knit some this weekend, write down the pattern I’ll make up for them, and sell it on Etsy? Wouldn’t Decider love a blurb about that funky new gelato shop I just discovered?
Perhaps the world is shifting more towards creative, oddball work. It’s more likely that my oddball brain (and outward personality) are better attuned to such work. In any case, it looks like boom time for me, if only I put my focus in the right direction. Here’s the kind of offers I have coming up:
• It’s the holiday season, and every cat lover needs a cat sitter. I’ll spend this weekend and a bit of next week with the same cats I care for every Thanksgiving, and I expect to be busy with kitties at least through New Year’s Day.
• The Decider needs content, and based on what my friendly local editor tells me, the opportunity is limited only by my ability to come up with fun, funky things to write about. Here’s how it works: The Onion has long had a section in the back of the paper (and buried within its web site) called the A.V. Club, which contained real articles about entertainment—famous bands, new books coming out, the history of The Simpsons, and so on. In the back of The A.V. Club was more real information about local happenings in whatever market the paper was going to. (Denver/Boulder Onions, for example, had different back sections from Seattle Onions.) Sadly, the local versions never appeared online. For the past two years, I’ve been writing the occasional theater interview for the Denver/Boulder A.V. Club, carefully grabbing physical papers and scanning my clips into my computer for my portfolio. But now, at last, they’re putting the local information online, under the new name Decider. Some features and blurbs will still appear in the back of the back of printed Onions, but far more information will be available on the new web site. It still pays well, is still run by the friendly, helpful, very bright editor I’ve been working with these past two years, and now it’s begging for more content. I’ve get to get brainstorming.
• The murder mystery company I’ve been working with, through Denver’s Adams Mystery Playhouse, assures me that, even with the stock market falling, they expect to have plenty more corporate parties coming up in December. The bulk of my income this coming month may actually come from three nights a week of putting on a cocktail dress, feather boa, and fake Southern accent, and murdering a fictitious person with my Tic Tacs.
All of this makes me wonder how many of us are looking to the wrong place for our livelihoods. I’m far more successful when I embrace my weirdness and learn how to market it. What might other “normal” folks be missing by trying to fit in?