Upgrading my Character: Job Search as a Video Game

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Here at Phreelance Writers we love beating horses. Especially if they’re dead. With that, let me talk about jobs and such. I’ve already explained my desire to leave my current position and since then some interesting things have happened. My job search has taken on new dimensions and gone into areas that I previously thought off limits or out of bounds. While I’m curious to see where these paths take me, I’m also wary that I’m straying too far away from my original desires. But at the same time there is a level of excitement associated with where these new paths could lead.

I keep thinging of this video game that  Gage and I have played. The game, a role-playing game, involved a lot of character development through assigning earned points to various skills and attributes. The points were earned by completing missions. As you upgraded your character, new skills became available depending on how you had allocated the points on the various skills and attributes. Gage and I would discuss how we each develped and molded our character to represent the ways we enjoyed taking on the challanges of the game. Gage had developed his into a long-range fighter, complete with sniper weapons attributes that made his character hard to target. I had created a melee character, full of health bonuses and attack damage multipliers.

I  find myself thinking in terms of collecting skills and attributes. These new avenues in my job search represent a chance to gain new skillsets and strengthen various attributes that I considered too weak to be useful. I am my character now. I’m looking for missions (i.e. continued education) to complete so that I can add those earned points to my already bolstered skill and attribute set and become even more powerful (read: more employable).

When I view my job search as a game, I laugh because it’s much more serious than that, but at the same time the comparison makes sense to me. This view helps renew my interest and desire to push through those moments that I can’t beat, those times when I feel like giving up. As any gamer can tell you, you strive for 100% completion. Everything earned, everything unlocked. The perfect character. The ultimate ending.

What’s is 100% completion for me? Good question. I’m honestly not sure. But I feel like it’s something that will just happen. I doubt I’ll be aware of it until much later. I like the idea of that because it means it’s a persistant state. Unlike video games, where you reach the end, watch final cut scene and then are asked if you want to do it again (replay value), in the real world you just stay in that moment of perfection forever.


Tiger Fist: Redemption


Photo Credit: Giorgio Verrone

I’m a huge fan of the TV series 24.  If you haven’t seen it, it’s about Jack Bauer: a FBI type who saves the USA from terrorist attacks dozens of times, and rarely receives any gratitude.  I like him because he’s a hero in the truest sense: a man who undergoes torture, beatings, hostage situations (often involving his own family members, a la Spiderman) and ethical dilemmas of every kind, but he just sits there and takes the punishment.  Eventually, towards the 24th hour, he’ll get a pat on the back from the President, some acknowledgement that his efforts meant something.

I’ll admit it: sometimes I imagine myself as Jack Bauer.  I’m not ashamed.

Incidentally, now is one of those times.  I’m not saying I’m saving the world—I’m just saying it’s nice to have that 24th hour finally come around, to actually get a job that you applied for.

Those of you who tuned in for the beginning of operation Tiger Fist will have some idea what’s going on, but for those who missed the premier, here’s what’s up:

Tiger Fist is the art of pursuing a job with relentless determination, leaving nothing unsaid or undone.  It’s an attitude, really, but here are some snapshots that might give you a picture of it: dressing like a GQ cover regardless of the position desired.  Sending emails every other day.  Calling every other day.  Showing up randomly at the offices, demanding face time.  Refusing to be turned away.  Knowing more about the company than its own president does.  Simply put, it’s about channeling the spirit of a warrior tiger into your job application process.

It worked. Now, I’m starting a new job with a company I respect and that I could feasibly work at for my entire career.

This fact both excites and humbles me.

I’m excited and encouraged that my efforts have paid off.  This gives me hope, and it should give hope to all college graduates currently struggling to avoid poverty.

I’m humbled because this forces me to consider the possibility that the failure of my previous four hundred job applications weren’t caused by a secret society of sadistic HR staff, dressed up like the Emperor from Star Wars, systematically crushing the spirit of qualified college grads.  Maybe it was my own fault.  Maybe I just hadn’t put enough effort into them until now.


No.  I was trying hard.  I was.

I won’t even dignify that with a paragraph.  Nothing will ever justify the treatment (or complete lack thereof) we’ve received from HR over the past two years.  Nothing will ever invalidate our Phreelance beginnings, or our significant body of work.

Now, readers, let me put your worries to rest. Does this successful job application process disqualify me as a Phreelancer?  Hardly.  My Bauer-esque years of being tortured and left to die in the slums of the job-o-sphere have left their mark.  I’m still cynical.  I’m still bitter.  I will never forgive.  This moment just eases the pain a little bit.

I should let you know…

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I’ve recently applied to a job that I desire very much. It’s the first job in a while that I feel like I want to do and am also perfectly qualified for.  But I think at this point it’s safe to say that I can’t get the gig.  Here’s how the story has played out so far.

1.)   I applied to the job about two months ago with a very excellent application and cover letter.

2.)   Silence on the other end for two months.

3.)   I applied again by updating my cover letter and application.

4.)   Silence for a week.

5.)   I called the company and got lost in their switchboard maze.

6.)   I emailed them.

7.)   I snuck an email in through the website tech support request form.

8.)   They wrote back with a short email that included the following gem:

“We are reviewing applications for this position and will be in touch with candidates we are interested in having a phone interview with.  I should let you know that there is a strong candidate who has done work for us previously.  We appreciate your time spent on the application process and good luck with your search!”


But seriously.  If you’ve got some great writer you want to hire more than anyone else, why have you had this posting up for three months and not hired this person yet?  And did you not read the part in my cover letter that told you that I’m better for this job than anyone you can possibly think of?  Could someone, just for once, take a risk and actually hire someone who applied for the job?

I’m glad they appreciated my time, but I sure wish they could appreciate it by letting me spend time working for them.

I feel like I’m stuck in a poker game with a bunch of cheaters.  I ante up every round, and I play through to the end only to find out there are more aces in the deck than there should be.  These guys are pulling from their own private decks, and I’m running out of chips.

I’m getting sick of it.

Week in Review 11/8 – 11/13

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What it do, good readers! We’re back from our mini vacation and fired up for another run. We took some time off, recharged the batteries, got into adventures and trouble, and now, we’re back to do what we do best. Fresh content all day, every day. What now? You were on vacation too? No worries, here’s what you missed.

On Monday, you missed nothing because we didn’t write anything. But you know how that goes. First day back from vacation, there is a bit of a letdown in terms of motivation. Happens to the best of us. On Tuesday, we got back on the ball and I wrote something witty, or rather, about wit. We, Phreelance Writers, have it. Show some respect.

Wednesday gave Gage the opportunity to comment on National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. His take on the event is spot on. I was an example in the post and he was right. Thursday was a holiday. We love any excuse to not write, but we also want to take a moment to thank the men and women who serve our country now and served our country in the past.

On Friday I discussed my motivation (or possible lack thereof) via my current lackluster job search. Contentment can be a trap! Don’t fall for it. Saturday allowed Gage to continue our new segment of reader’s requests for fiction and personal essays. Gage is a good person, if you didn’t know read the story. Then read it again.

That’s how it went down this past week. More hotness next week, like we always do.

What’s your Motivation?


It’s been a while since we’ve complained about job searching on the blog. I’m trying to maintain the streak but it gets difficult as I look at my prospects. Sure, I’m currently employed and would hardly complain about it, but sometimes I wonder if there is something more I could and should be doing. I’ve stated on more than one occasion that it is my intention to move to Texas and yet I’m not there yet. I think the fact that I’m not in Texas already speaks volumes about my motivation. I’m not sure if I like what it’s saying.

It feels like my current job is hindering my search for new/better job. There is a level of contentment that comes with receiving a steady paycheck, even if that paycheck doesn’t quite help sustain a basic quality of life. Sometimes I feel myself falling into that contentment, it’s easy to look at my current situation and say that it is “good enough.”

It’s not.

I had a conversation with my father the other day. He said, “if you stand still, life will run you over.” It should be known that my father is prone to say all sorts of things, mixing and confusing adages like an alchemist attempting to turn iron into gold. But this quote stuck with me. Perhaps the reason I’m feeling  stuck is because I’m not moving. If that’s the case then what will it take to get me moving? What is my motivation? These are necessary questions because I know I can’t stay where I am, mired in contentment.

My motivation is twofold. First is getting to Texas to join my girlfriend, who has been waiting patiently for my arrival. We have made commitments to each other that are strained by our distance. My second motivation is to leave Boston. I’ve been here for three years. I did school, and since I’m not looking to live here, it’s time to go.

The bottom line is that I need to regain my motivation and keep it firm in my mind. There is no reason that I can’t be in Texas before the year ends. And, I will.

Big Hunnid: Phreelance Writer Favs


the inspiration for our lingo.

Dear Readers,

In case you haven’t been keeping track, this is our 100th post.  It’s kind of a big deal.

We’ve have many notable milestones so far.  We’ve been jobless, we’ve applied to jobs, we’ve been ignored by jobs, we’ve gotten jobs, and in between, we’ve written about some other stuff as well.  Like any self-respecting publication, we’ve recruited contributors to work for free for us, and we’ve used social networking to our advantage to gain readership.  We’ve missed our self-imposed deadline of daily content maybe once or twice, and we feel that’s pretty damn good.

We’ve looked back over our work and felt that some posts have risen above others. Below, we’ve listed our favorites in four categories: Dash’s favs, Gage’s favs, favorite guest contributor posts and favorite collaboration post. We invite you to add your favorite posts in the comment section. After all, you are just as much a part of the blog as we are.

Dash’s Favs

Job Search Depression – This post was great for several reasons: It contains video, numbered bullet points and a metaphor. It really doesn’t get better than that.

Back to Square One – This post was excellent because it gave Gage a chance to flex his journalism skills by writing the beginning of a full-length feature. It’s a pleasant return to form.

The Other Travel Writer – This post epitomizes the essence of blogging. I think blogging is the ability to see something and comment on it in a public manner. Gage wrote this post on a bus while traveling across the state in such a way that the reader feels as if they are sitting next to Gage on that bus. The photo enhances the feeling.

Gage’s Favs

New (Old) Jobs – This one is great because Dash is exercising his all-too-capable wit.  There’s a lot going on here, some riddle, some social commentary.  See if you get it! If not, no problem: we figured out how to put our answer upside down, like on a cereal box!

Of Mice and Music – Dash is a trained journalist, but that doesn’t mean the man can’t write some poetic prose.  This post is great because it uses journalistic observation as well as creative style and language.

Teachable Moments Part II – At our jobs we need to individualize our teaching strategies.  Dash is a master of motivation, but sometimes we have to let the students motivate themselves.  This is a well-told blog story that captures Dash’s character and some of our workplace environment at the same time.

Favorite Guest Contribution

Top Five Reasons I’ve Ignored Your Job Posting – We lament that Dez hasn’t written for us in, well, a long time. We miss her. But when she did sling words for us, they were razor sharp and full of wit. She was the aggressive voice shouting those things we were all thinking but were too timid to say.

Love and Art in Handwriting – Even though Nick is the newest guest contributor, he’s made his mark early. When you hand write a blog post like he did, you have to respect his work ethic and commitment to the craft of handwriting.

Favorite Collaboration Post

Come On! (8/28/10) – This post makes me laugh because of the what went into writing it. I wrote the first blurb about Marcus Evans at 3:30 a.m. after being out all night with Gage and some other friends. My ire was fueled by massive inebriation and fatigue. The next morning, I reviewed what I had written previously and found it to be quite accurate, so it stayed.

Stuff We Don’t Miss –  Who doesn’t love top ten lists? Furthermore, I dare you to show me someone who has completed an undergrad degree who doesn’t miss any of the top three. If you do, I’ll show you someone who is lying through their teeth!

Thanks for reading. We’ll see you down the road for Big Two Hunnid.

Back to Square One


Danny Hoffman is, even in the face of job market disaster, an optimist.

He’s the kind of guy who, when it was discovered there were mice invading his apartment, hoped that the rest of the mice would leave after they saw their comrade silenced by the first trap.  He’s the kind of guy who stays positive when someone else at work eats the lunch he made, or when the water heater in his apartment combusts all over his bedroom, or when his car is broken into—or when his car gets towed (repeatedly).  Unlike many people who fight fire with fire, Danny has a seemingly endless supply of fire extinguishers.

In the past year, Danny has held four jobs—some of them simultaneously.  He worked for a Children International’s street team, requesting donations to sponsor children in third world countries.  He left that job for a more stable (if small) wage working with Americorps as a mentor for at risk grade school youth with a program called Friends of the Children.  He supplemented this income with a gig at a small Starbucks shop, which he left as soon as he was brought on full time at the mentor position—much to the despair of his Starbucks manager.

At Friends of the Children, Danny excelled.  Over the past year he’s worked with nine kids in the Boston area, with no small amount of highlights.  He worked with his “achievers” in and out of school, helping them with anything from schoolwork to social skills.  “I basically single-handedly raised the funds for one achiever to attend a national football camp,” says Danny.  His involvement with the program was also a personally rewarding experience. “Two kids had to write their end-of-summer essay, and they both wrote about trips to the park and the beach with me—like it was the best thing they ever did.”

But yesterday, with no warning, Danny was let go.  The directors told him they were merging the Friends program with social work, and that his position was no longer in existence.  The issue, like most these days, was one of funding, and they said it would be cheaper to have interns do the work.  Danny, ever positive, isn’t as concerned with the treatment of his position as he is with the treatment of the kids.  “They’re making me say goodbye to seven families in four days,” he says. He’s not looking forward to it.

Now, he says, it’s back to square one.  “I searched for jobs, got on food stamps, finally got a job, lost that job, now I’m going to file for unemployment, get back on food stamps, and get back to searching for jobs.”  In fact, he’s already started.  This morning he woke up early to update his resume, and he’s already found a couple jobs he’s going to apply for.  “I’ll be fine,” he says. “I’ve saved my pennies. I’m going to write some kick-ass cover letters, and I’m going to get a job, just to spite them.” He pounds his fist on the arm of the couch, and in that moment it’s easy to picture Danny lowering an oxygen mask over his face, pulling two fire extinguishers off his hip and twirling them like revolvers as he wades into a forest fire.

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