Life evaluation

Well, I don't often write about my personal life on this blog anymore. It's got me into way too much trouble in the past. However, for those of you who may be interested in the person who provides you with your geeky pop culture fix every day, the following may be of interest to you.

As many of you may know, I was subjected to voluntary retrenchment at the end of September last year. Since then I've been working on my personal projects, doing freelance copywriting and online content work whenever possible, trying my hand at a few different part-time jobs and sending out my CV for any positions I am suitable for.

In spending so much time on job websites, and just evaluating my life in general, I came to the following conclusions:

1) I want to relocate to Cape Town. As far as "creative" jobs go, options are very limited in Durban, AKA Dirtbin, AKA The Fishing Village. If I stay in South Africa - because Plan B is an easy move to the United Kingdom with my British passport - I will have to head to Johannesburg or Cape Town, which are South Africa's main media industry hubs. Seeing as I lost my main motivating factor for moving to Jozi, coastal Cape Town is now the better option. The city has a lifestyle closer to that of Durban, is waaay prettier, and is the most European of South Africa's cities. Plus I already know a decent number of people there.

Also, I'm really tired of Durban. Not only is it professionally a very stagnant and unprogressive place (I know Durban advertising agencies that actually closed their online divisions) but I want a change. An opportunity to break away. To do and see something different. To have my own space away from the usual family dramas. I waited for 6 years for my partner to say "Let's go live and work in the UK." It never happened. I'm less than 2 years from 30 now and I have a serious case of itchy feet... lest my nightmare becomes reality and I'm 30, unemployed, single and still living at home.

2) I'm not keen for a return to copywriting, proper. I've developed serious disdain for advertising industry job ads that try to be all hip and funky and "creative" in their wording. It reeks of artificiality, and I'm over that.

For the record, I've come to the conclusion that there are 2 types of copywriters: the conceptualisers and the implementers. The conceptualisers come up with amazing ideas on the fly; they're witty and gregarious and masters of the client presentation. The implementers aren't that good at coming up with great ideas while a boardroom of people stare at them. They need to go away and think for a while. Their strength is, like their name suggests, the implementation of ideas - flawless execution. It's a Hare and the Tortoise situation, although in the advertising industry both have their strengths and weaknesses. I know I fall into the implementation camp, which means I have to be very alert to the wording in the job ad. I have to match what a potential employer wants (an implementer as opposed to a conceptualiser) otherwise we'll both be miserable due to disappointed expectations.

Anyway, as I was saying, I don't really want to remain in advertising proper. I'm not interested in awards, I'm not buzzed by ridiculous deadlines to impress clients, and, most importantly, I know I never want to advance through the ranks to become a creative director. That kind of decision making has never interested me as a career goal. I want to get on with my work and do it well.

I have been considering what I really want to do, and the answer is: write online content / be a website content editor. I would love to be able to live off my blog and comic, but since I don't really have that option right now if I want independence and financial security as I near 30, career success will have to be achieved through blogging and social media strategising for other people.

The future of writing long-form articles, press releases and other bits and pieces is online.

Once again, employment opportunities in this area are non-existent in conservative, "safe" Durban, while increasing greatly in Joburg and Cape Town. Which brings me to point #3...

3) Being middleweight in terms of professional experience sucks in this job climate! When I just finished university - when I had no professional experience - I made it to the interview stage of every single job I applied for. Now, out of maybe 30 applications, I have had maybe 4 responses and been interviewed twice.

What I am learning is that companies would much rather employ a noob who they can (in theory) train, as opposed to paying substantially more and hiring someone who knows what they are doing - but isn't quite at that senior level of "God, we must have you work for us!" experience and respect. From a corporate perspective, it's a R6 000 a month salary as opposed to forking out R14-16K.

Most frustrating of all is that this preference for Juniors seems to apply especially to online content generation. Despite the fact that the web is the future for struggling print publications, potentially crucial web editor positions are being given to noobs... as opposed to people who have over a decade of experience writing for the Internet. *ahem*

This said, while I usually am "overqualified" for positions I apply for, I have now yo-yo-ed to the other side, where my experience and background is respected but I'm not qualified enough. You see, when it comes to online content, the buzzword that pops up time and time again is SEO: Search Engine Optimisation.

The simplest way to explain SEO is that you write content for websites in such an optimal way, using certain keywords and phrases, that search engines bump your site up the search results page, thereby increasing your hits and hopefully your business. The second part of SEO is that your hits grow because you become a respected authority through the regular production of informative content related to your field/subject. People like what you have to say, link to your work and this admiration helps grow your business. Naturally, I'm a supporter of SEO's second major component, which is a far more organic way to promote your company, and a far sturdier base as far as I'm concerned.

Now apart from my decade-plus of writing for Internet publication, I've done plenty of reading about SEO, and there's tons of material available on the Net. However, in order to use the wretched words "SEO guru" you have to have completed a course in it and own a certificate to prove you're qualified. So despite SEO being largely common sense by the look of things, I'll have to fork out money to some random new media tertiary institute and devote some study-and-project time to SEO to be taken seriously.

I have a strong suspicion that it was my lack of a SEO qualification that cost me a SEO copywriter job last week when I was 95% sure I had the position the bag. I was really excited and motivated. The work was ideal: small company, flexi-time, low stress, and a pleasant mix of financial, retail and (my favourite!) travel & tourism clients. The Cape Town company was so interested in me that they were happy to conduct a webcam Skype interview. But in the end I guess I wasn't what they wanted.

So, yeah, I am feeling pretty disillusioned right now. I see other people out there doing what I want and I can't understand why I'm not good enough. These days I feel like I'm just one goldfish in a school of hundreds (if not thousands), as if all my distinguishing features and talents are blurring away.

I know that I'm good and just what I'm capable of, but apparently nobody else is interested. Perhaps I should start writing about myself more - gut myself and let all the embarrassing and graphic stories slop out for public consumption. People love that apparently.

I'm probably preaching to the converted here. Chances are that if you are reading this, you are familiar with my writing and enjoy it. Former employers did as well, if my references are anything to go by. Now, however, it seems impossible to get companies to realise my value, let alone pay me what I know I'm worth (and will need if I'm to survive financially in Cape Town on my own).

Combined with the fact that I've been dumped by 2 great guys I liked a lot within the space of 4 months - because they couldn't see sharing a future with me - and you can probably imagine how unwanted and unvalued I feel right now. Professionally and personally.

Whine over.

Time to get back to sending out CVs and working on the various personal projects I love...


Rex said…
Solidarity and blessings (not the religious kind, maybe the Robotech kind) through your shitty period.
Dante said…
Something will come a foot. I am sure of it. Just keep at it and don't loose spirit. Hoping for the best!
Gareth said…
You may be passing up opportunities by filtering out what you call 'conceptualising' positions. It's the job of HR to find candidates and advertise, they often spice in 'PR speak' stuff to make it sound more attractive. I really wouldn't filter anything based on the wording of the ad.

Also, every job I've had has come via a connection. I'd not turn down jobs which aren't what you want (online work/location) as it may be a stepping stone/foot in the door to a better position.

Still, 30 rejections is hard, you have my sympathy. Something will come up, it's just a hard time right now.

How's the writing going? Your novel had potential, have you tried focusing on that?
Hidalgo said…
This may sound like an extreme stalker post...this being the internet, and everyone being probably will read it and not publish it, which is ok, but quite frankly i dont care. I've been reading your blog for quite some time now, and quite often I've said to myself "hell yeah, why can't i meet a girl like that (like you)". there just arent many of you around.

So if it's of any help, you seem like a great person, and any body who dumps you never deserved you to start with.

so keep your head up, things will turn, they always do.

if you ever want to get hold of me, let me know. I guess you can be creative and drop a note or post for HIDALGO on here.

Br/randon said…
In the States my experience is it's the opposite. It is extremely hard to get a job if you haven't done that exact same job already for several years. Employers are not looking for someone young they can train, but for someone who can step directly into the job because they don't that very same thing for 5 years already. It doesn't even mean they would have to pay that person any more because of their experience. I've seen people with doctoral degrees take what I consider entry-level positions with entry-level salaries, because the economy/market is so bad.

I don't know if the economy in ZA is as bad as it is in the US, but it seems to be getting bad everywhere, so I wouldn't be surprised. Don't take it personally that you've gotten less interviews, etc, because I think it has more to do with the economy than that you are "overqualified."

The number one way to get a job is and always has been to know someone, so work your networking.

And don't give up. If I took personally every interview that didn't lead to a job, I'd never have bothered to keep applying. Right now I have two very promising prospects on the table. One is at a local organization I know well. The other is actually in a different state, and I applied for it because of a job posting on an industry mailing list, and they are now paying to fly me almost 1000 miles for the interview. If I'd given up I never would have these opportunities on the table.

So keep the faith, and if the UK is where you really want to be, start applying for jobs there now. Maybe you'll get a Skype interview or someone will even offer to fly you out! Believe it!
Pfangirl said…
Thanks for the comments and kind words, everyone.

Hidalgo, I practice a very hands-off approach when it comes to comments on this blog. And thank you for the offer. Maybe one day I'll give a shout out - right now I'm a bit disillusioned to treat anyone fairly.

Gareth, I write every day, working on my blog and other projects. The novel I've decided would need such a serious overhaul I would pretty much need to restart.

As for jobs through connections, and Brandon, you raised this too, it's not like I haven't asked... or accepted an offer for people to put my name or CV out there to their connections. There's just no response ever; no return calls. Alternatively, my connections just aren't good enough. For the record though, all my jobs in the past were achieved without networking.

I just wish the universe would give me a break now. It's not like I don't keep trying.

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