Coffee heat rising


Ugh! Spent the entire darned day yesterday building a package to sell The Copyeditor’s Desk to university presses. I hate writing stuff like that.

It’s exactly the same as writing a résumé and cover letter to apply for a job, and just as stressful: not only what do I say and how do I say it, but what is the most effective way to structure a pitch, what do they need and how do I talk about that instead of talking about me, when do I say X and how far do I push Y and how do I get something that should be in the emphatic last position in a graf out of the freaking MIDDLE of the graf without coming up with something that sounds incoherent and….augh! And then I had to targetrésumés for both me and Tina and tweak our track record so the reader will easily spot the work we do that’s relevant to his or her needs…gasp!

After all that, I have one, count it, ONE package ready to mail. Meanwhile, I didn’t get a lick of work done for GDU. I expect this will go easier for the other three presses whose ramparts we need to assault this week: I set up the draft material in boilerplate sections, so that really the only segment that will need to be rewritten to customize for each press is the first paragraph or two. The routine is very much like applying for jobs. The first cover letter is torture, but once you’ve got it on paper, you can reuse a lot of it with relatively light revisions. Ditto therésumé: when you start with the “list of accomplishments” or “relevant skills,” you can adjust those to move the job description’s desiderata higher on the list.

Speaking of job applications, I need to do a bunch more of those, too, in light of Our Beloved President’s recent online fireside chat.

Unfortunately, though, I’m going to be forced to actually work today, as extreme as that sounds. Two new math articles have been sitting on my flashdrive since Friday.

And it’s already 6:37 in the morning. Dang! Gotta run! 😯

Layoff fears surface again

Harvesting Dollars reports that he survived the latest round of layoffs at his workplace. He describes the basic unfairness of the process as people were kept or canned based only on what job they were lucky or unlucky enough to occupy, rather than on the quality of their performance.

The rumored layoffs at GDU that had me so exercised haven’t occurred yet. But get an eyeball full of this!

If that’s not a university president saying “we’ll soon be canning everyone in sight,” I’d like to know what it is.

Well, so far the employer I covet hasn’t called me back for a second interview. However, if I understood them correctly, it still may be a bit early. The two people who spoke with me said they would do a second round of interviews late this month (it’s now only the 21st) and they hoped to make a decision in the first week of November. So I’m still hoping. If they come in with an offer that even approaches what I’m earning at GDU, I’ll probably jump ship…since it’s clear GDU’s boat is sinking fast.

Sigh. This is so disturbing. Even if I get another job (not bloody likely!), I like the job I have and don’t want to uproot myself this close to retirement. Damn those SOBs in Washington!

A vote for Obama is a vote against stupidity.

Layoffs? Market crash? Great Depression II?

It’s after 4:00 p.m. and no news has leaked from this morning’s meeting that was supposed to announce the occupational demise of all us year-to-year academic professionals. Sorta looks like my spies were right and my friend’s were wrong.

Meanwhile, a different chunk of the sky has stopped falling on our heads. Hevvin help us, the Dow Jones closed up 936.42 points—that’s 11 percent—and all of us have avoided having to put down our deposits on a campsite in Bushville (the latter-day Hooverville).

The outcome of either of these two ongoing dramas remains to be seen. Given the market’s vertiginous volatility, we all know it could drop 11 percent (or more…much more) tomorrow or the next day after tomorrow or next week. And given the mysterious ways in which the Great Desert University works, we peons all could be laid off any day in the same time frame.

So what does it all mean for you & me? Well, I dunno about you. But I’m not holding my breath until my savings return to their former level. Sure, I’ll be glad if they regain their value (since I’ll be needing them in a year or two…or a week or two). But I don’t expect anything.

One thing about pessimists: our surprises are always pleasant.

As for employment: your employer may be slightly less wacko than GDU, but my employer has wacked its last wack where I’m concerned. It’s hard to escape the conclusion that I’m rowing a leaky canoe. I intend to keep my job applications out there and add a few more to the mix. The first really good offer that comes across my desk will take me off the bailing team and put my feet on dry land.

The single targeted hire who was courted to take over our sister program has never bothered to respond to the (very generous!) offer sent to her a few weeks ago. One can only assume she’s waiting for another offer that she must consider more desirable, placing ours in the second fiddle’s chair. If this woman doesn’t accept, that program is as good as gone. And when it goes, our office will be at huge risk: nay, let’s admit we probably will go, too. The soonest we could be closed down is the end of December, when the other program may shut down if no accommodation with the interim director (who hates living in Arizona) can be made. The latest will be the end of next summer, when all our research assistants will graduate (oh so conveniently!) at once. If no Scholarly Publishing Program remains to staff our office, I will have to hire from the English department and then teach the new RAs the equivalent of a semester course in basic editing and another semester course in advanced editing (oh yes, all at once) with no increase in pay.

And guess what I’m ain’t a-gunna do?

So. If a bullet was whistling through the air and I somehow dodged it, I’m left to calculate how to deal with the sand dune collapsing under my feet. At least falling sand gives one a little more time to engineer an escape.

Interview No. 1

Yesterday afternoon I had the first interview in the new job search, for a program manager’s position at a prominent local cultural landmark. It seemed to go well. I think they liked me, and it certainly is a job I could do well. On the other hand, I’m pretty long in the tooth. The East Valley Tribune just laid off 120 employees, and so a great raft of people in “communications” will swarm across the land in search of jobs.

If I don’t get this job or something like it very quickly, I’m going to be in deep trouble. With the market tanking, my savings will not support me, not by a long shot. Apparently it can take up to three months after you apply for Social Security to start. If it is true that credit is pretty much nonexistent, selling my house or even borrowing against it to get enough to live on is an unlikely prospect. Unlike GDU’s HR people, the UofA tells retirees that RASL—the amount the state pays for unused sick leave—is considered earned income, not a retirement benefit, and so is taxable at your regular rate. This would cut the annual amount I’m supposed to get for that over the next three years to around $4,000. COBRA alone will cost $5,000 a year. I may end up without health insurance, since I may not be able to pay for it and also eat.

I do not know what I am going to do if I don’t get another job quickly.

At any rate, after the interview I wandered around the grounds and ended up in a monarch butterfly exhibit. There I met a meeter & greeter who was all alone and happy to deliver her lecture on the wonders of butterflies. When I remarked that I had just interviewed for a job, she said she had started there as a volunteer and wangled her way into paying work. She said she loved it; the place is a great place to work.

News from GDU is uniformly negative. The library director at the West campus has been replaced by a part-time interim director whose job, we are told, is to figure out what to cut. Librarians no longer have a budget to buy books, and the president is trying to spread the West campus’s library budget among all four campuses. Staff expect widespread layoffs in the near future.

While strolling around the gardens, I thought wouldn’t it be wonderful to work for a place whose management you don’t hate!

Well, we’ll see. I don’t hold out much hope. But nothing ventured, nothing gained. Here’s what it looks like at the place where I’d like to work.

The Continuing Saga…

1. Unemployment for Christmas?
2. Does any of this have meaning for individuals?
3. Rumors start to fly
4. On the trail of the elusive job
5. Beating the layoff stress
6. How low can I go?
7. Interview No. 1

Beating the layoff stress

For the first six or eight days after I learned about the rumored layoffs, I felt so stressed that my chest hurt. One day at the office I had to lie down on the floor for a few minutes when an anxiety attack started to come on. Determined not to end up in the ER again, I managed to get the feeling that I was about to pass out under control with some breathing and relaxation exercises. But that didn’t stop the scary ache in the chest.

Today, though, I’m feeling a lot better: no pounding heart, no chest pain, no sense of oxygen starvation, no distractibility, and no sleeplessness. For sure, yesterday’s call from one of the employers I applied to helped. Even if I don’t get the job, at least now I have some hope that my age won’t disqualify me from every job I ask for. That was a big worry.

Also, with amazing speed I’m getting more and more comfortable with the idea of not working for GDU—even if it means taking a lower-paying job. Matter of fact, that prospect not only looks less scary, it’s starting to look downright welcome. Although I personally have had relatively little to complain about (other than the months-long PeopleSoft fiasco, the [probably illegal] reneging on an approved job offer I made to a prospective employee, and the overall toxic atmosphere on the campus where I taught), I certainly have seen the administration treat many of my coworkers abominably.

The prospect of being somewhere else begins to look more attractive. So does the idea of a new job with new things to learn and do.

I’m glad I started the job search before any university-wide announcement came down and before I knew whether this next round of lay-offs will apply to me. Just doing something to help yourself, rather than hunkering paralyzed in the headlight while the train bears down on you, goes a long way to make you feel better. It gives you a little sense of accomplishment, and it jump-starts the process you’re going to have to put into gear soon, anyway.

The first cover letter and résumé took a good five or six hours to put together! I thought I was gunna die. If every job application took that much time, how was I going to manage the work for the day job? To say nothing of all the freelance work The Copyeditor’s Desk has taken on?

However, the next application only took 30 or 40 minutes, and neither of the other two took any longer. Because the jobs I’m seeking (with exception of driving the zoo train…) are in the same general family of work and they’re all at nonprofits or colleges, tweaking the cover letter and resuméis pretty easy. It’s just a matter of writing new first and last paragraphs for the cover letter, adjusting the “what I can bring to your job” paragraphs—deleting some of them, moving others closer to the top—and shifting the resumé’s “list of accomplishments” to highlight the items most relevant to a given job. After I realized this, I began to feel a lot more confident that applying for a series of jobs isn’t going to kill me.

And really: if I get an offer from next week’s interview and then learn I’m not included in the next set of layoffs, I may take the job anyway—even if it pays less than I’m earning. The recurring workplace flaps, which seem to come more and more often, are ridiculous. I don’t need to put up with this kind of grief. And besides, the prospect of starting something new is beginning to sound pretty good. Darned good!

The Continuing Saga…

1. Unemployment for Christmas?
2. Does any of this have meaning for individuals?
3. Rumors start to fly
4. On the trail of the elusive job
5. Beating the layoff stress
6. How low can I go?
7. Interview No. 1

Unemployment for Christmas?

Rumor has it that a big announcement is coming down: along about mid-October, the PtB (Powers that Be) will announce that everyone in my job classification is to be laid off. That’s a lot of layoffs, even for a gigantic learning factory whose student body is larger than the entire populations of most of the state’s counties.

The jobs in question are so poorly paid that all Our Beloved Leader would have to do is cut the six-figure salaries of his trophy hires by 5% to make up the part of the payroll that goes to the likes of us.

The rulebook that governs the university’s operation specifies that employees in this category have to be given 90 days notice of nonrenewal or dismissal. Conveniently, if O.B.L. makes this announcement on October 15, our time will be up on the last day of the semester, December 15. This will keep the donkeys in harness until they finish their current round of plow-dragging.

I’ve already found a job to apply for: $15,000 a year less than I’m earning, but at least it’s an income, and the place is only about five or ten minutes from my house. Truth to tell, I could cheerfully forego 15 grand to be free of the hideous commute to lovely downtown Tempe. Last night the freeway was gridlocked; plodding home across the surface streets into the glare of the setting sun took well over an hour. Besides, GDU will owe me $17,500 in tax-free severance pay, to be doled out over three years. A third of that sum added to the proposed new net annual pay will add up to a larger net than I’m now taking home.

Plus the coveted new employer pays ALL your health insurance, AND it offers a “cafeteria plan” that gives you an extra $600 to put toward three pay-it-yourself plans…one of which is a flex plan. So in other words, if you want the flex plan, you don’t have to pay for it out of your regular salary. And, interestingly, instead of automatically taking 7% out of your salary (and matching it) for a 403(b), this outfit offers a simple IRA for which 3% is deducted…leaving you with dollars to put into your own Roth IRA.

So, weirdly, even though the gross pay is lower, the net may be about the same or even higher, with or without the extra income from GDU’s good-bye gift.

It remains to be seen whether this rumor is true. This evening at the Arizona Book Publishing Association shindig, we sat at the same table with a GDU colleague who was privileged to attend our Dean’s meeting with the chairs. She reported that Her Deanship announced, as she had promised to do, that our office is seeking a new client journal.

If our dean’s boss is about to can me, which will shut our office down, why is she telling the world we’ll take on new work? A very limited number of possibilities present themselves:

  • She hasn’t been told about the plan.
  • She is pretending not to have been told about the plan.
  • She doesn’t know what my job classification is.
  • They don’t plan to include me among the cannees.

None of those scenarios is out of the realm of possibility. In fact, they’re ranged in order from most likely to least likely.


Next week I’m meeting with my financial adviser to figure out how I can survive if I don’t get another job. This weekend I will fill out a job application, update the résumé, and write a cover letter, to be shipped off to the proposed new employer on Monday. And I will finish editing a freelance client’s copy, earning another $500 this month. The Copyeditor’s Desk is attracting a surprising number of clients—tonight I believe we may have picked up two or three more—and the truth is that we may manage to develop this business well enough so that neither of us will have to work for the university. Or for anyone else, besides ourselves.

The Continuing Saga…

1.Unemployment for Christmas?
2.Does any of this have meaning for individuals?
3.Rumors start to fly
4.On the trail of the elusive job
5.Beating the layoff stress
6. How low can I go?