Happy anniversary

“Several things I’ve learned: You can’t apply for jobs well under what your previous job was; you won’t be taken seriously and will be considered over-qualifed. You must fall completely to the bottom and get the occasional minimum wage, temporary job. No one will commit to any training for a new position. If you’ve done exactly the job advertised before, you’ll be considered. But you’ll be considered incapable of learning anything new. General experience will not be considered. Stuff learned on your own will be denigrated or discounted. University degree qualification doesn’t matter. Age discrimination is alive and well.”

a commenter on Andrew Sullivan’s blog

Today marks the one-year anniversary of my separation from the Los Angeles Times. I was laid off four months shy of 20 years and joined hundreds of former colleagues at the newspaper in the burgeoning jobless market.

Although my friends who remain there say they miss my news editing contribution, institutional knowledge and technical expertise (not to mention my jovial camaraderie) as they struggle with a new computer system and an oppressive work environment, others in parent company Tribune’s ivory tower appear to be getting along just fine without me.

I can’t say that I have enjoyed being unemployed these past 12 months, but it hasn’t exactly been time wasted. I’ve retooled my website; learned a new computer management system (CMS); wrote an e-book I can’t link to until I’ve copyrighted it; started a couple of blogs, including this one; played around with new software (Dreamweaver, Flash and RubyOnRails); explored new hiking trails and paths through my heart after moving from the westside of L.A. to Pasadena near the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains; rediscovered the joys of participating in home ownership after years of renting; been adopted by five cats; expanded my daily trek through the blogosphere to over 50 sites (admittedly, I have over 1,000 bookmarked); and sharpened my writing skills, churning out 65 cover letters to prospective employers.

By necessity, I apply for a wide range of jobs: university publication writer, museum editorial manager, think tank researcher, editor at a political blog, JPL media relations specialist, film website editorial writer. I’ve even applied for my old job at the L.A. Times, where interns and other former employees now toil in my place for significantly less money and few, if any, benefits.

All the positions interest me and would utilize skills I have developed throughout a varied career as reporter, columnist, editor, staff manager, newsroom tech troubleshooter and designer for web and print.

Nearly each new job application has brought about a flurry of activity to reacquaint myself with the area of expertise in which I profess to be conversant. Years ago, I wrote a newspaper column on the “new” baseball statistics and ran a baseball fantasy league utilizing a computer program I wrote. Now, I am applying for jobs at Fox Sports and though still a fan am scrambling to absorb stats on the 600 or so baseball players who have joined the league since my heyday. And I’m boning up on soccer.

In my youth, a trip to the central library near downtown Detroit, with its early-Renaissance architecture, marble floors and walls, cavernous ceilings and room after room containing row upon row of books, confirmed that this quiet sanctuary of knowledge is where the spirit of man is truly at home.

When I graduated from college, it was my fervent wish that I spend the rest of my life emulating the life of a student. Journalism gave me that gift. We used to have a cartoon on the wall at work showing a reporter preparing to throw a dart at a board divided into spaces with labels such as Economics, Urban Development, Transportation, Crime and Pollution. The chart’s title was Today I Am An Expert In …

Now, I include in many of my cover letters a phrase that gives me a large measure of comfort to write:

It has been my great fortune to be associated throughout my career with an institution vital to the community, dedicated to fostering a greater understanding of issues crucial to a functioning democracy …

Hopefully, Andrew Sullivan’s blogster overstates his case and the fate he foretells isn’t mine. But all things considered, it is hard for me to complain.