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Monthly Archives: August 2012

This is interesting, and speaks to the difficulty that more experienced and older workers are having finding employment. It suggests that even though jobs are being added, the quality of jobs that are available (in terms of wages, benefits, type of work) is lower. Anyway, worth a read!

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Just kidding. Actually, that was the reason that I was, today,  finally rejected from a job for which I interviewed over a month ago. The one during which the woman asked me how old I was, and I was asked to be there for 4 hours, and then the actual manager could only meet with me for 15 minutes? Yep. Not a good fit.

I agree, I am not a good fit for those two personalities, so it is hard to actually be offended. The rest of the note I received from the HR manager was very kind and complimentary. She also apologized for the fact that I felt the interview had been mishandled and she said she would look into it. 

I am so glad that I said something. If I hadn’t I would be really angry at receiving this rejection email, which on the one hand was really late, but on the other hand was very nice. 

Alas! Another one bites the dust! 

PS. Another HR manager (from an interview two weeks ago) just wrote to inform me of a delay in their process, so at least I have heard something back! Usually, it’s just radio silence, so this is really great to know, before the holiday weekend. Now I can relax a little. 

The end of the month (when I have to write an enormous check for my landlord) is the hardest for me. I feel the need to assess what I have accomplished (or not accomplished). This month has been particularly challenging, as I have not found a lot of good jobs to apply for, and it has generally been slow.

On Sunday, it will be 7 months. That’s just a long time. A long time to be bored, frustrated, tired and sad.

I keep making plans that are contingent on getting a job. “As soon as I get a job, I’ll…” comes out of my mouth all the time. All my financial plans are based on getting a job. Travel. I need to go to California to visit my family, but I keep putting it off, because I can’t afford to not temp for a whole week.  Earlier this month, I finally broke down and got my hair cut, and I felt so guilty for spending money on something frivolous. But it was really nice, and now I don’t worry about looking so homeless.

I have to find a way to be comfortable with the fact that this little “project” has gone on for more than half a year. Pretty soon, I am going to need to find another work-at-home job that I can do on nights and weekends. I will have to figure out how I can pay my credit card bill (and not just the minimum). I’ll have to find a way to contribute to my Roth IRA and my savings account.

I want to be optimistic. I have three jobs that I am in the process of interviewing for. But as I learned in March, just because you are up for three jobs doesn’t mean you’ll be offered any of them. I want to be optimistic but I can’t get my hopes up. I guess there is a difference. Optimism is a long-term feeling, whereas hopes are hung on specific outcomes.

Labor Day is a big milestone, I suppose. Summer is over. I really wanted to be working by the end of summer. I think the next big milestone will be my birthday, in early November. If I am not working by then, I might need to develop a Plan C. I just started reading a memoir by a woman who hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in an attempt to find a way to cope with her mom passing away and her marriage dissolving (It’s called Wild, and it was endorsed somehow by Oprah’s book club, which I didn’t think existed any more). But rest assured, I won’t be transforming my life into anything worthy of a memoir of self-actualization just yet.

What if I temp forever? There is this amazing episode of Six Feet Under in which a woman passes away, completely alone. She dies eating a microwaveable dinner, doing a crossword puzzle and nobody finds her for a week, because she worked as a temp and didn’t have a family. At her funeral, she had requested that the organist play “And I Am Telling You, I’m Not Going” from Dreamgirls. She just lived, all alone, and then she died, all alone. She still had things that she liked, but there is this feeling throughout the episode that there is something terribly wrong with the way that she lived this solitary, quiet existence, with no roots, no family and no friends. And then she just disappeared. (I find this episode of the show almost unbearably sad.)

Currently, my biggest fear is that I will live in this liminal space forever, always waiting for something external  to change so that I can move forward. I guess I just need to start saving up for my next haircut, and stop waiting for other people to make up their minds. I need to decide to live my life, as it is, right now: unemployed, kind of broke, a little bit bitter, but optimistic.

Is the only thing I told my temp agency I wouldn’t do. So what do you think I am doing today?

Yep. Cold calls.

I am actually physically repulsed by this task.

But also, why does it ever make sense to give someone who knows nothing about a project or an organization (and who gets paid the least, and has the least amount of investment, and is the most replaceable) the highest level of access to a potential client, patron or donor? This is crazy! This is not how to cultivate business. I have a script (which is terrible) but no answers to more complex questions, because I know literally nothing about the thing that I am selling.

It’s like letting the college intern handle the social media for your organization with no oversight, or hiring aggressive lunatics to be ushers at your theater. It makes you look bad.

Hanna Rosin is pretty awesome.

Here’s an article length treatment of her new book, The End of Men.

We will need to talk about the rise of woman-dominated professions as we continue to transition into a service economy.

The nonprofit sector, which continues to professionalize, is chock full of amazingly talented women, but I have often commented that it is still treated (and paid) like ‘women’s work’  which indicates undervalued and unpaid professions–like nurses, librarians, and teachers– that were “ceded” to women because they were not considered overly physical or mentally challenging (gross), or which were related to the domestic sphere…sigh, the sexism of this history of so upsetting to me. The phenomenon is sometimes called the sexual division of labor. The philanthropic and nonprofit sector grows out of women’s volunteerism and charity work. I get the lineage, I just don’t agree with the way the sector continues to devalue itself. Still, many (most?) executive positions in nonprofits are held by men. The nonprofit where I temp now has only one male employee: the CEO. Just an anecdotal observation.

Anyway, read up! I can’t wait for the book, which will be published in early September.

H/T The Daily Quinn

Happy 101st post, you guys! This is a super disorganized collection of thoughts to celebrate!

Got this article in my inbox yesterday via a friend (and You’ve Cott Mail, an arts-oriented daily mailing list) on Leaders as Artists. Forgive, if you will, the insane image of  a palette of oil paints in the background. Essentially this is an article about bringing creativity, innovation, social consciousness and skill into the workplace. Managing by shaping, not by slashing. Throughout the piece, the author distinguishes between great leadership and simply good leadership, and great leadership and making money. The piece clearly has a very high opinion of art.

I wonder why that is? Clearly, this is an article designed to describe leadership as an art form, and to bring some clarity to the idea of the non-quantifiable traits that differentiate a great leader form simple a good leader. There are 12 criteria by which we can evaluate great leaders, and none of them have to do with profit margins or sales quotas.

The article seems to imply that there is something about great leadership that is inherent in a person, or instinctual. Jazz improvisation is an example that is floated, of course. This is where I can really buy into the connection. Artists often talk about moments of inspiration, when creative projects just seem to flow out of them. It always sounds to me like an artist is talking about seeing the fabric of reality in a new way (like the matrix!) and making it manifest. The marble speaks to the sculptor, the paint finds its way into the canvas, the actress lets a speech flow from her without even thinking about it. These instincts are powerful.

But the list of 12 criteria also involve a lot of planning, and a lot of mission-alignment. For instance:

1. Intent. Do they make an express commitment to achieve certain exceptional ends?

….

4. Form. Do they combine their communications, structures, policies, etc. into a unified, coherent whole?

11. Context. Do they take actions that are commensurate with institutional practices, customs, demands, and norms, and communicate in a style that is understandable and appropriate?

I love mission-alignment. If you develop a new program and you can’t explain persuasively why or how it fits into your overall vision, it is probably not mission aligned. (I had a great professor in grad school who used to say that any arts organization, in his opinion, had the right to open a restaurant, condo complex or parking lot to generate revenue, because making money to make more art is absolutely mission aligned). In the nonprofit world, it is so easy to chase funding, and not to think clearly about what your long-term goals and mission are. I once convinced a colleague not to create an education program for a theater company (we needed money, and there were several education grants available that he wanted to apply for) by gently asking him, “who is going to teach these classes? You?” We laughed, because he would have hated every second of it, and we wouldn’t have been able to spend the money on making plays anyway, which is what we wanted to do. The plan was not mission-aligned.

(insert transition here)

Which brings me to my real point, which is about artists as leaders. Here, I will think out loud a little bit, so bear with me. I come from the theater, where there is a very long tradition of artist-managers, those leaders who actively participate in the creation, production and management of the work. Shakespeare himself was an actor-playwright-manager. Moliere was an actor-playwright-manager. The great actor-managers of England brought theater to the Colonies. There were free African-American actor-managers before the Civil War. Artist-managers exist in every phase of the American theater. Theater is a collaborative form, in which directors are leaders in the rehearsal room, stage managers are leaders during tech, playwrights are leaders during a development workshop and so on, and so on.

But take these artists and plunk them down in the middle of an “institution” and things can get hairy. (Now, don’t get me wrong, arts institutions that operate with no/few artists involved (ahem, museums), make me CRAZY.) Whereas in the corporate world, a manager can get by without any artistry, the same is not true in reverse. Artists must be managers in order to run even the smallest arts organization. (Individual artists can also struggle with self-management, as I learned in my previous work with professional development.) And while the skills of creativity, dexterity and passion are all excellent skills for a manager to possess, the basic skills of running a business are often lacking for artists who become managers. This is because they are simply not taught in BFA and MFA programs (still!), and sometimes because the artist refuses to participate in a Capitalistic structure, doesn’t want to “sell out,” won’t “market” the work, and so on. I find this is particularly true in smaller, younger organizations, which is natural. These attitudes are deeply entrenched, but slowly changing. But I have watched artists found an organization and then spend the rest of their careers struggling against the strictures of running an organization. Artists are so entrepreneurial (a term that people have used to describe me that has a double meaning) and often struggle to find their own place in the market because their work is unique and the number of opportunities for paid work are few. But we can’t start an organization just because nobody else will hire us (different post). Leading an institution, even a nonprofit (which doesn’t mean no money, it just means no profits) institution, requires massive amounts of creativity, vision, planning, strategy and focus. Because you are starting a dynasty. Arts institutions are different from projects. Every day, we have to ask ourselves, “what are we trying to accomplish, and how does X help us to achieve that goal?” An institution can’t be run on impulse.

So maybe the best artist-leaders are able to be visionaries who are also constantly managing towards long-term outcomes. (I have been doing some research into Theory of Change, which is a strategic planing tool, and I constantly wonder if it could be applied in an arts context.) Maybe the truly great arts institutions are run by teams of artists and managers who are constantly pushing and challenging each other towards greater outcomes. My own instincts tell me that this is the real solution. Leadership seems like an individual pursuit, but maybe it’s actually a team sport? In actuality, it’s probably different for every institution, and for every iteration of the executive leadership of that institution. We think of these structures as rigid, but with Board approval, restructuring is both possible and often more efficient.

I have had many different experiences with artists in leadership positions (both in and outside of arts organizations), some positive and some negative. I would love to hear yours. This post will never be finished.

Link: HBR: Every Leader is an Artist 

H/T You’ve Cott Mail and the awesome Colleen!

Over the course of the last –ugh–seven months, I have been rejected for so many jobs. So many. Too many. The end of each month when I have to write my rent check is always the worst part of the month for me.

A couple of weeks ago, when I was rejected for a job I did sort of want, I took myself to a Mets game. So this weekend, I am going to try to go to the US Open. And I am going to make pie for the sweet ladies in my office, who are so nice. We have a “pie poll” on the wall, and everyone gets to vote on the flavor of pie that I will bake. The choices are strawberry-rhubarb, peach, chess, and apple.

Keeping your spirits up is vital! Non-sports and non-butter related suggestions are, of course, welcome!

Larkin Callaghan

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