Archive for the ‘Jobs’ Category

Dabbling in Real Estate

February 5, 2007

I’m gonna preface this one with the fact that I hate selling things to people. Why I’m trying to get into politics with that mindset I haven’t quite figured out yet. But it’s true. I felt the tiniest bit uncomfortable every time I made a persuasive phone call in Montana. How I ended up selling condos in Washington, DC is also a bit of a mystery.

I arrived in the nation’s capitol four weeks ago, a wide-eyed and idealistic not-yet-young professional, with no job, home, and few friends. Thanks to my cousin Sandi, whose generosity rivals that of any artist’s patron, I landed a weekend job as a sales assistant at luxury condo developments.

I sit at the desk, answer the phone, greet potential buyers, and remind people that I’m new, so I can’t really answer their questions knowledgeably. When showing model units, or unfurnished ones, I can provide helpful hints such as “Room really do look smaller before you add the furniture,” or “You might want to think about a flat screen tv to go with the built-in surround-sound wiring in this unit.” These are useful life skills.

There is a glut of condos on the market in DC. The whole city seems to be rising from the ashes of abandoned neighborhoods into towers of condos with amenities and incentives. And it all seems so normal to the people involved. Nevermind that nowhere else in the country is the condo-concentration of real estate so high. Apparently the difference between a condo and an apartment is just that you own a condo and rent an apartment, but there seems to be a lifestyle difference as well.

Last weekend I worked at a building where people have already moved into a large chunk of the units. Almost every person who walked through the lobby had either a baby or a dog in tow, as if these were required accessories for occupancy. In the sales office, a picture of idealized young professionals drinking wine coolers assured potential buyers that living in this building would bring them status, friends, and loads of fun. “Buy a condo here and you’ll look this happy too!” the pictures suggest.

The sales agents are also mostly young and hip, playing to their demographic: young, sometimes hip people with money. Single male lawyers, lobbyist couples, IT workers from Virginia, whoever else makes that much money in DC. Certainly not young nonprofit professionals.

In this way, the DC real estate market is a close parallel to John Edwards’ Two Americas campaign rhetoric, except perhaps with a little more mobility. The haves buy the condos for sums that might buy a small island in a Kansas lake, and the have-nots, or have-not-yet-established-themselves, rent rooms in dingy group houses for sums that would buy only a time share on said island.

One day, the haves will sell their condos and upgrade to houses where the kids can each have a room. Then the have-not-yet-established will buy the condos created out of the old buildings that have been gutted, refurbished, and redesigned for a new generation of urbanites to inhabit on their way to suburban family bliss.

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On Entry Level Jobs

January 4, 2007

Everyone has some morsel of advice for the job hunt. What no one ever seems to say is that it can take a long time to actually get a job. Sometimes I wonder about entry-level jobs, though, when they’re advertised like this:

Senior Democratic Senator is seeking highly qualified applicants to fill entry-level office positions. Applicants must be extremely motivated, have outstanding interpersonal skills and great attention to detail. Relevant experience on and off the Hill is strongly preferred. Tasks will include basic clerical and front office duties as well as answering phones and scheduling.

The Senator wants someone who has gobs of experience already for an ENTRY-LEVEL position. It’s hard to get a job these days right out of college without having any sort of internship/unpaid experience first, maybe one that even leads into a job. And society wonders why our generation still lives in our parents’ homes.

phenomenally unemployed

December 14, 2006

Economists say that you’re not unemployed until you’re actually looking for work. By that definition, I’ve been unemployed for almost a month. Sure, I haven’t sent out that many official applications, but I feel like I’ve forwarded my resume to just about every family friend and friendly acquaintance who’s offered their third cousin twice-removed who works for Congressman so-and -so’s district office and would be willing to sit down and chat about what it takes to get a job in his field.

It’s a process, that’s for sure. About a year ago, when I was still a columnist for the Daily, I wrote a column about finding jobs and being clueless when it came to navigating the big bad world of job-hunting. Then I wanted to throw up my hands at the process and become a psychic in Palo Alto (they can charge at least $100 an hour). Now that I know a bit better what the whole process entails, from networking to sending out a bazillion copies of a tailored cover letter and DC-addressed resume, I don’t know that I feel too much differently. Life might be a lot easier if I just decided to make up other peoples’ futures for them, instead of figuring out my own.

But being a psychic isn’t the only possible career path I’ve explored recently. Last week, I discovered that the Washington Post has a great jobs section. They run classifieds, but the Sunday front page was the real gold mine. In the front page articles alone, I discovered two new careers that had never even occurred to me: dairy economist and paint store owner. They even ran an entire story on people who watch death row executions as a civic duty in Virginia.

Craigslist and Idealist may offer real opportunities, but the Washington Post offers real inspiration for the unending options in career epithets. Next time I worry that I’ll never find a unique career path, I’ll just open up the Post, where the magazine will tell me all I need to know about being a silhouettist, a worm curator, or bikini tailor.

Washington, DC, here I come!