Having just finished a hilarious novel entitled, “The Pursuit of Other Interests”, my sensitivities towards middle-aged, out-of-work job seekers is at an all-time high. The book, which profiles a 50-year-old advertising executive named Charlie, paints a bleak, if heartwarming, picture of the current landscape for middle-aged, unemployed white collar workers.
So, knowing how few employment opportunities exist as well as how thin the margin for error is, I was totally flabbergasted to receive the following note from a guy I’ll call Buck.
Dear Seekers of New Revenue:
I am currently seeking a full time, salary plus commission New Business Position in Manhatan. I would address these personally, but with over 2,300 names, I need to solve the challenge quickly. I am the most dedicated, energetic, and knowledgable person in the Tri-State Area with respect to opening doors for corporate pitches.
I have been in the business for over 15 years and I work from 7 to 5 and can make at least 100 calls per day. I can very quickly develop a custom database for cold calls for your firm and set 2 pitch meetings per week.
Should my skill sets meet your requirements, I would love to speak furthur. Also, should you have a person or people in place to handle cold calling, I also work as a consultant on a per diem basis to upgrade their best practices.
(800) 555-1212 DesperateBuck@ISPProvider.com
To begin with, it was e-mail addressed to Sally Kennedy of Cossette Communications in Canada. Sally: sorry to be reading your spam. Second, Buck lets it be known that he’s an accomplished business development dude looking for a full-time salary plus commission gig in Manhatan. Yes, that’s Manhattan minus one ‘t’. Ouch. Misspelling Manhattan in the opening sentence of one’s pitch letter doesn’t augur well.
But, it gets worse. Buck lets me (or, Sally to be precise) know that he has a Rolodex with 2,300 names on it and is the most dedicated, energetic and knowledgeable person in the Tri-state Area (I wonder if that includes Toronto where, I assume, Sally is headquartered?). Buck’s been in the business world for 15 years, works from 7am to 5pm daily (he later amends it to 6am to 5pm daily), makes at least 100 calls each and every day (and that has to start hurting the fingers after awhile) and can produce “…a minimum of 2 valid pitch meetings over week.” Talk about Always Be Closing. Wow.
But, here’s the rub. If Buck is really that good and can produce a minimum of two valid pitch meetings per week, why is he blasting unsolicited e-mails to me (via Sally, of course. Sorry Sally). The sad truth about Buck, and the hundreds of thousands of other Bucks out there, is that he’s desperate. He’s probably been out of work for at least a year and has no solid prospects whatsoever. So, driven to desperation, he creates a rambling, semi-lucid, almost laughable pitch that is chock full of typos, poor grammar and inconsistencies.
Buck is not unlike the fictional character Charlie in the aforementioned Jim Kokoris book. Whiling away his time in an outplacement firm’s offices, Charlie puts together a database of former co-workers, clients, prospects and friends and blasts out a periodic e-newsletter entitled, “The Charlie Update!” Its subtitle is “Charlie B. Out on the Street.” One by one, the people on his hit list asked to be removed from the unintentionally hilarious mailings as Charlie becomes increasingly desperate and despondent.
Buck and Charlie are part of what a recent New York Times article called the 99ers. If memory serves, there are some 1.4 million unemployed, middle-aged, white collar workers who have passed the 99-week mark and no longer qualify for unemployment benefits. That’s when, driven to the brink of despair, they hit the send button and distribute embarrassingly bad missives like the one from Buck. I feel for these people and I wish I could help. But, sadly, I don’t have an answer except to suggest a dictionary and Thesaurus.
Looking forward to picking it up at the library tonight (no Kindle for me). Good thing I just finished “The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” which I highly recommend.
Thanks for the note, Peter. You’ll love the headhunter character in the Kokoris book. He’s mercenary to the max.
I’m a headhunter and as you can imagine, I get many cover letters with a similar stench of desperation. Thanks for the tip about Jim Kokoris’ book.
I’m humbled, Jim. Thanks so much for the note. You MUST write a sequel. I’m dying to know what’s next for Charlie. Also, FYI, I recommended the book to a headhunter friend of mine who could have served as the role model for the Wizard. Well done!
Thanks for the nice words about Pursuit! Glad you liked it. I wrote the book first, then I planned the recession to help sales.
Julie’s right, Lunch. Within most large organizations, human resources is paid about as much respect as marketing communications when it comes to cutting costs. Both are seen as expendable, ‘overhead’ items. There are lots of unemployed human resources types out there.
I’ll have to check who committed the original typo. Nonetheless, you missed the hyphen in the word ‘producer’s’ in your post, little girl. Not good.
julie, that is a good point.
did I catch a typo in your blog? or did buck actually write “…a minimum of 2 valid pitch meetings over week.” Sorry dad, but if you are going to call out someone for poor spelling, you should proof your text as well….that said, if buck did, in fact, write that then..well, then he’s an idiot. But hey, that’s just one graphics producers point of view
and how did you end up getting someone else’s spam e-mail?
Hey Lunch – Even corporate HR folks get laid off… If a company isn’t hiring, there is no reason to have an over-flowing HR staff… It’s catch-22.
hey, when he wakes up and realizes it is all over, he should note that there is always corporate HR divisions! they should apply there…i am not certain that those people do anything but interview candidates (and listen for buzz words since they know nothing about he given position they are trying to fill), push files and folders, gossip and eat lunch (which i am okay with). i used to think i wanted a corporate job, but realize i need the thrill of the next project, next client, next story to stay fully engaged. that’s why i will stay on the agency side…either as a employee or owner.
excuse this tangential rant.
Good for you, Art. And, congrats on the new gig. From everything I hear and read, you landed something pretty quickly. I agree with Lunch and you. The sooner one accepts one’s fate and gets busy locating sources of supplemental income, the sooner one will land a full-time job. Sadly, though, far too many laid-off middle managers have very few, transferable job skills. That’s one of the questions the book poses: What does one do when one has coasted along in a corporate gig, pushing paper and playing the game, only to wake up one day and realize it’s all over? Sobering stuff.
I gotta agree with Lunch, too. When you’re out of work and have a family to feed, you gotta do what you gotta do. I was laid off on July 1, but landed on my feet at a new firm a week ago, so I consider myself VERY fortunate. But my job search included warehouse work, retail–anything that would pay more than unemployement and offer benefits. My thought was even if I land a blue-collar role I could prove myself and move up the ladder very quickly. But I’ve known plenty of folks who get laid off and for some reason are very picky about opportunities, whether its the industry or company or salary. I’ve never understood that mindset, and I’ve never understood the families who choose to put up with that kind of a mindset.
“Good stuff, Lunch. Here’s the difference between you and unemployed, middle-aged guy. He’s used to pulling down 250k per year, delegating real work to his staff and, basically, playing corporate politics. As the book illustrates, these guys first go through a period of denial. Then, they decide that some of the part-time gigs you describe are beneath them. It’s only after months have passed and they haven’t had so much as one serious job interview, that they begin sweating bullets. By that time, their panic is palpable (and offsetting to any prospective employer). It’s soon after that realization that desperation sets in and horrific, blast e-mails start blasting off.”
poor economy aside, i can’t believe that anyone could go past 98 weeks of being jobless. are they really looking? are they really trying? was there a period in their unemployment where they become comfortable and slacked off? now, as the 99th week stares them in the face they panic and make these silly mistakes you highlight? i’d like to think that during those times i would adapt/change gears and rely on one of the trades from my past, be it bartending, waiting tables, painting, landscaping, bagging groceries or even babysitting! i realize it would be most difficult to make ends meet…so your change the “ends” so that they can. or, i would double up on those jobs mentioned.
i really would hope that if my back were against the wall (and i had nothing to lose) that i would chase my dream and become an actor or full-time food blogger. i also wanted to be an athlete, but it turns out that i am too slow and fat, not strong enough and not nearly athletic enough to play any professional sport.
i will check out this book.