Archive for December, 2010

Our Year in Review

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

After writing our annual Christmas letter for several years and getting some nice comments on it from family and friends, Steve encouraged me to write more frequently than once a year. So at the end of 2006, I started writing a blog.

So this week, I’m returning to my roots and using our Christmas letter as my blog. (Plus, I ran out of energy to come up with another blog topic this week so I took the easy way out.) For anyone who is on our Christmas card list, they can stop reading here. A hard copy is in the mail. Merry Christmas!

Dear Friends,

We hope this letter finds you enjoying a happy, healthy, and not too crazy holiday season.

The school year got off to a great start for Ethan when he moved into an apartment complex next to San Francisco State with two buddies. He loves life as a film production major but not so much that he isn’t looking forward to graduating in the spring. To fill in the gaps in his student loans, he did a repeat performance as a barista at a Starbucks close to Union Square until making Frappuccinos for German tourists started to get in the way of participating in film production gigs that could build his resume on IMDb (that’s a website that is an encyclopedia of movie facts). His already awesome year got even better when he met a cute (I just can’t bring myself to say “hot”) art major who shares his sense of humor and love of movies.

2010 was an intense year for Valerie between finishing up her senior year at high school, the college selection process, and the transition to living away from home. I am proud to say she was one of the top 10 students in her graduating class. After applying to eight colleges, Chapman University in Orange, CA clearly emerged as the best choice for her because of their strong graphic design department and their “we’re serious about wanting you here” scholarship award. Adjusting to college life proved to be a little more difficult than choosing where to go. Without her usual jam-packed schedule, friends, and cats, the first few weeks of dorm life were pretty gloomy for her. However, as she has started to make friendships and gotten plugged into the design department, life in The O.C. is looking a lot sunnier.

The good news for Jennifer in 2010 was that she got to have the bathroom all to herself now that Ethan and Valerie are out of the house. The bad news was that she also got her old parents all to herself. To minimize the effects of this, she has fully embraced the social opportunities available in high school and seems to always have an outing scheduled with some of her classmates or band buddies. Jennifer continues to be an excellent student and faithful volunteer once a week at church shepherding 4-year-olds through Bible verses and craft projects. She also has an entrepreneurial spirit and has raised money for a band trip to Disneyland with her artistic gifts by painting friends tennis shoes and designing greeting cards; this year’s card is a Jennifer original.

If there is a silver lining to the effect the recession has had on our marketing business, it is that Steve has been able to devote time to improving his drawing, cartooning and storyboarding skills which led to some good illustration projects in 2010 and hopefully more in the coming year. I often remind Steve that lots of people can make a computer program work. But with only a pencil, can most of us draw anything except a stick figure? He has a unique gift.

Fall was very busy for me working for a political consultant. Our office produced a lot of the campaign literature that filled mailboxes in a several Bay Area counties leading up to the November election. After that job wound down, I have been for hovering over Craigslist, ready to pounce on any job that comes close to matching my skill set. News Flash! I just accepted a marketing/PR position in town…details to follow. The New Year is off to a great start.

Reviewing our year in the annual Christmas letter always reminds me how much I have to be thankful for now and in the future. I should write one of these more often than once a year!

Blessings to you and your family in 2011.

The Rustads

Gambling on craigslist

Sunday, December 12th, 2010

I’ve been seriously looking for work for over a month now and of course, that means immersing myself in the unique world of craigslist.

The whole process is so impersonal and anonymous that looking for work on craigslist seems as much like playing a game of chance as it does matching the right person to the job. I believe that if I play the game long enough, eventually the odds will come up in my favor and I’ll hit the jackpot. In the case of craigslist, that would mean an email reply leading to an interview.

Lately, I’ve been starting to feel like one of those gray-haired ladies who sits for hours in front of the slots, plugging quarter-after-quarter into the machine and pulling the arm. Except instead of being in a casino, I’m sitting in front of the computer constantly refreshing the craigslist screen waiting to see what’s going to pop up. Is it going to be cherries ““ meaning something I can apply for ““ or lemons. Darn. Same listings as last time.

This whole exercise can start to get addictive because there is always the hope that this will be the time that the perfect job appears and if I jump on it, my resume will be in the first batch to hit and I will beat the deluge of resumes that is certain to follow. Oh my gosh, I’ve become a craigslist junkie.

To try and improve my odds and because I can do a lot of different things ““ small business owners like myself have a lot of different skills and I’m not above emptying the trash and watering the plants ““ I check four different categories of North Bay job listings: starting with “admin / office” at the top, then working my way down through “marketing / pr / ad,” then “writing / editing” and just for kicks, the “etc” category.

If I’m feeling really desperate, I also check “retail / wholesale.” The nice part about craigslist is that because you apply online, I don’t have to suffer the humiliation of going into a store and asking a 21-year-old assistant manager if I can fill out an application only to be told that they aren’t currently hiring.

I have come across some unusual job postings, “$25,000 for Surrogate Mothers,” and “Floating Dog Handlers.” That last one actually had to do with filling in shifts for regular employees and not bobbing with dogs in the Bay as I had originally thought.

But my favorite posting so far has been for an “Office Manager / Personal Assistant / Childcare” in Marin. When I first saw this posting probably three weeks ago, the description included “after-school care for an 11 year-old girl” followed by the comment, “You will be challenged.” The posting just recently reappeared on craigslist minus the description of the daughter’s attitude. I guess Mary Poppins wasn’t available.

Get a Job

Monday, December 6th, 2010

I had a very personal interest in reading the newspaper story about the November Jobs Report since I have been looking for a job for the past month. The article in the Wall Street Journal said that private sector employers added 50,000 jobs last month. Unfortunately for me, they didn’t add 50,001 jobs.

Although I have worked steadily for the past eight years, it’s been a while since I actually had to go through the job application process. The last time I did it, we saved our documents on floppy disks and booted up our computers in MS-DOS.

So I had to get used to the craigslist method of searching for a job. Steve, who has probably applied to hundreds of postings on craigslist for both freelance work and full-time jobs, warned me about investing too much emotional weight in any one job application.

But that advice was hard to accept because I had worked very hard putting together a really good resume and I was very proud of it. So the first cover letter and resume I sent off, I treated very preciously, like I was setting a little bird free. “Fly away my resume, there is a new home waiting for you. A place for you to grow and get stronger.”

And so I sat back and waited for an email reply. My fantasy was that when my resume popped up, the prospective employer would take one look at my wonderful qualities and want to know where I had been all his life”¦and how soon I could come in for an interview.

However, after replying to more than 20 jobs on craigslist, I now know that the reality is that the vast majority of job applications end up in some kind of email black hole where they are sucked up and never see the light of day. If I do get an automated reply that my application was received, I feel like I’ve got one foot in the door. There is still hope that I actually might be contacted!

Like all experienced craigslist users, I have also learned that it’s all about timing. I replied to one craigslist posting for a blog and newsletter writer/editor that was listed for the entire Bay Area. Replying to a posting like that is more like playing Jeopardy; you have to be quick on the buzzer or you’ll get shut out. Given the huge number of rabid bloggers that exist in nine Bay Area counties, I’m sure they had already received hundreds of responses by the time I got to it, two hours after it had been posted.

One plan of attack would be to sit at my computer all day with craigslist open and hit refresh every fifteen minutes just to make sure that my application is in the first 50 that they receive. But that seems a little compulsive. I keep telling myself there is no need to panic yet; the good news is that there are new jobs posted every day and if I just keep methodically applying, something will come through.

And if all else fails, maybe my son, who is a part-time barista, can put in a good word for me at Starbucks.