Tag Archives: job search

Pick a Card

[Just so you know, you’ll have to click on the graphics to see them properly. Ah, technology…] 

I have now had roughly a gazillion people tell me I need to have a business card. Long ago, I had one for my freelancing stuff – but then all my contact information changed. Since I’d never really found much use for them (I had a ton of my old ones left over), I just let it go.  

But now people say that I need a card. Not for freelancing, but for my job search. 


 Yes. I need a card for a job that I need to have. 

At the book shop, I’ve always just written my name on the back of our bookmarks. The bookmarks have all my contact information at the shop on them, and no one expects booksellers to be especially slick. 

My resistance may be born from past attendance at telecom trade shows. For reasons that in retrospect seem unclear, I used to go to a lot of these. They suck. If I ever tell you that I’m going to a conference for telecom stuff again, shoot me in the head. It will be the kindest thing. 

At those sorts of uber-boring gatherings, guys in suits who think they’re cool (take a high-school bully, put him in an off-the-rack grey blend, send him to college and remove some of his hair: you have the man I am talking about) hold out their business cards to you while scanning the room over your shoulder, looking for a client with more money. This fails to charm. And here’s where the cards are these fellows’ downfall: They think you don’t notice them looking behind you for a fatter mark. They think you are looking at their card. 

So: we come to the ugly bit, where I ask myself, along with every other under-employed generalist on the planet, what the heck do I put on my card? 


“Highlight your strengths and duties at your present job,” I hear all you What Color Is Your Parachute* readers saying. Ok: 


That doesn’t mean I’m overworked. That is just indie bookselling. And it is (except for the toilet fixing part) great fun. I bet you thought we sat around and read all day, didn’t you? 

The point is that no card is big enough. And if I were to get a variety of cards, each highlighting a different skill, I would wind up with a set of 52 (collect ‘em all!**). 

What to do? I could get a card that just says my name and contact information. Like an old fashioned calling card. But then I’d feel like I was living in a Henry James novel. Also, I’d have to learn to turn down various corners to signify different things, as they did in Victorian England.*** And we’d all have to go out and buy silver salvers for people to leave them on, and the purchase of a silver salver would necessitate me having a job that paid more, so you see where this is going. 

Besides, if my card had nothing but my name on it, people would retrieve it from the depths of their wallets and purses and briefcases and say sad things like, “who’s this?” and “So what?” 

There is a school of thought that advocates putting one’s photograph on one’s card. Realtors do it all the time. It makes sense, since when you’re looking for a realtor, you probably talk to more than one and with their photos there, you can remember which was which. There are also people who think you should put your photo on personal cards. One of these people runs a matchmaking service and writes books.**** I think having a photo on a personal card makes someone looking for a “match” seem as though they are looking for something offering more concrete remuneration, but maybe that’s just me. 

Do feel free to comment. The great What Should Mary Put on Her Card debate is open to all (but remember: this is a family show). In the mean time, I give you: 


*Yes, the banner at the top does say, “The Hard Times Edition.” Kind of makes you want to take to drink, doesn’t it? http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781580089876 

**And for fun geeky-ness (I mean that in a good way) check out: “Collect all 21: Memoirs of a Star Wars Geek” at http://fieldsedge.com/wordpress/?page_id=155 

***For more on this, see the Etiquette Grrls, who are funny and snarky and are determined to teach the world a thing or two whether we like it or not.You can find this book at: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780425183700 

 ****Patty Stanger, who has a show on BRAVO came up with this idea. God help us all:   http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781416597711

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The Sun is Shining, the Sky is Blue & Girlfriend Needs a Job

As some of you returning readers may know, I am a bookseller with a quest: To acquire a job remunerative enough to support my tragic addiction to selling other people books.

That’s right: I love my job at the book shop like Romeo loves Juliet, like Homer loves a doughnut, like… Steve Martin loves the way he is unable, though he abase himself right into the orchestra pit, to avoid upstaging Alec Baldwin. And yet, these affectionate feelings do not pay the light bill.

So I’ve been looking for a better-paying job. Fear not, dear readers – I will remain firmly ensconced at the shop nights & weekends should more lucrative employment present itself.

But that’s really the problem, isn’t it? Even if I manage to tackle an HR director in the street and charm them into giving me an interview on the basis of my fiercely marketable talents, not least of which is the ability to recite Byron’s “Epitaph on John Adams” from memory, I will have to actually Go on That Interview. And then someone, or possibly more than one someone, will ask me the question feared and hated by every interviewee:

Where do you see yourself in five years?

This was a silly question when I graduated from college and sillier still when I left grad school, but in today’s economic climate it has attained the status of Truly Inane. It’s right up there with asking, “Read any good books lately?” above the din of a thrash metal concert.

For most of us seeking work these days, it is precisely our own, Wall Street’s and the world-at-large’s inability to predict what would happen five years down the road that has landed us in our present economic pickle. I should know better than the average investment banker what the future holds?

Hark back to your last interview. Did someone ask you this same question? Did you, in response, say something along the lines of: “I see myself right here, giving my all for the Impressive Corporate Giant of which this company is a part”? Are you still there, doing just that? If you are, how did that happen? Are you sacrificing a virgin every solstice, or what?

Now, I’m not knocking interviewers here. They get paid to ask that question. And really, how are they supposed to know anything about what we potential hires are like from a resume and a 40 minute chat? Do we have ethics? A sense of responsibility? Any skills at all? Are we basically decent to our fellow human beings when we aren’t all dolled up in our Interview Suit, laying the nice on with a trowel? What else are they supposed to ask?

I suggest drawing randomly from a sample of questions asked of beauty pageant finalists. Consider these ever-popular options used to grill the young & cute:

Tell me something about yourself.

Describe a recent goal that you achieved.

Sounds good so far, right? Here are some more:

If you could play god for a day, how would you change the world?

That could be a useful one – definitely weed out some psychos…

And – asking,

If you could be on the cover of any magazine, which one would you choose and why?

will keep you from accidentally hiring Sarah Palin.

Of course, there’s always:

Do you prefer a love marriage or an arranged marriage?

Popular at pageants held in parts of Indonesia, I am told… This question has infinite comic potential when used in job interviews, and will keep the legal department on its toes. But don’t let pageant questions limit you. Why not branch out? Try:

What is your favorite color?

to identify Monte Python fans, and:

Rock, paper or scissors?

when you need to make a quick decision.


What is the sound of one hand clapping?

if you need a sec to go and grab a cup of coffee. Leave your interviewee to think about it for a while. You could even take lunch while they mull.

As I fling my resume, along with various carefully crafted cover letters, out into the void, I look forward to encountering new and exiting interview questions. Any takers? I await the adoption of the Mary McDonald Interviewer’s Guide as a standard for hiring practices sometime soon. Possibly on April 1st.

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