Ok…what do I do now?

There’s some not so great news I haven’t told y’all, although I knew about it back in November: the Gap is closing the store I work at on Colorado Boulevard. We figure that the rent must have gotten too high: there are a bunch of stores that are closing around us, so we’re not blaming ourselves.

Still…it does mean that me, Svetlana, Tatiana, Olga and the rest of us are looking at being unemployed starting the last week in January.

Our manager told me that they could try and transfer me to another store, but nothing’s guaranteed, I might have take a demotion…and I’m not sure I want the transfer anyway. Maybe this is a sign that it’s time for me to move on. I’ve had 3 years in retail to recover from the disappointment of my ball-playing career ending…and now it’s time I started looking for something more serious. Something that could maybe become a career.

I don’t know what my plan is, but I know it ain’t spending the rest of my life initialing returns and folding tshirts. It’s not that I didn’t like working for the Gap – I did. For starters, I’d never have met my girlfriend if I didn’t work there. And I’ve come out of it with more clothes than I’ll ever know what to do with…including almost a whole drawer of blue tshirts…and a few bright red ones, now that I’ve discovered how good I look in that color too lol. I think we can also say I learned how to work with the public, which is probably a useful skill…and, although I don’t think about myself as anyone’s boss, I did have to look after the store and the people working in it when the manager wasn’t there. So, even if they start you off at minimum wage, it wasn’t a joke job. I worked hard at it…and think I did it pretty well.

And dang did that make me not want to start the next paragraph about how it’s probably time to move on lol.

But move on is what it’s time to do. That suit I got for Christmas was a not very subtle way for Mom, Dad and Meemaw to tell me I needed to start interviewing for more serious positions. I don’t want to say ‘real jobs’, since I think my job in retail was plenty real…but I know what they mean. I’m 27, and, although it scares the shit outta me to have to write it, it’s high time I started thinking about what I’m gonna do for the rest of my life.

Ok, so any of y’all who have an idea what I can do ‘when I grow up’ can post comments to this blog with your suggestions lol.

I tried typing up a resume when I found out the store was closing…but it sure doesn’t look like much. Putting aside my job in high school parking cars and my bartending experience in college (neither of which I put on the resume), I’ve really only had two jobs, and one of them was playing baseball. Even if I was more than just a clerk at the Gap, I don’t feel like what I’ve done has prepared me for one of those ‘real’ jobs in the ‘real’ world. I don’t know what other people my age have been doing since they got out of college, but I get the feeling that they’ve been working at more responsible jobs. Or going to graduate school. Shoshanah’s probably a doctor or a lawyer by now.

I guess the first thing to ask myself is: what do I want to do?

Working with Lucas and Cody has made me realize that I want to have something to do with baseball, but I don’t have enough pupils to make a living from being a baseball tutor. That also made me realize I don’t want to work sitting behind a desk all day…if I can help it, that is. I’m still an active type and I think I’d go crazy having to sit still all day. But I reckon I may have to get an office job of some kind and get used to sitting behind a desk like most people. Nobody’s had to tell me, but I know that work isn’t necessarily supposed to be fun. It’s what you do so you’re able to eat and keep a roof over your head. I hope work doesn’t have to be like a punishment, like it seems to be for a lot of people, but, well, if I want fun, I can go play softball or go to Disneyland with the money I make sitting behind that desk I don’t want to sit behind.

And what kind of job leads to I have anyway? It was easy to get a job in retail…but I don’t know a whole lot about looking for a job…and even Dad’s not much use to me, since the whole job market thing has changed completely from when he was seeking employment. (Remember that Dad’s worked for the same company for most of his life.) Now it’s all done on the computer, where, back in Dad’s day, you got a job through human contact. Think of it this way: back then, the first person to read your resume was a person; today, the first ‘person’ to read your resume is a computer.

I know I said I wanted to get out of retail, but I did put in some online applications to other stores before Christmas – to places like Starbucks and Pier 1 – but the only answer I got was a chance to interview for a seasonal position, and the Gap was seeing to it that we were taken care of through the holiday season. I just tried again with Starbucks (apparently they’ll hire anyone), but I’m not expecting to hear anything back this time, either. Svetlana said she was gonna try for a barista job too; she’s put in like a dozen Starbucks applications and she hasn’t heard anything back from any of them.

“Why are you applying to Starbucks at all?,” Joyce asked me when I told her I was trying my luck with them. “You said you wanted a more serious job. Not another one in retail.”

“I need a job to pay rent,” I explained, “and it doesn’t really matter what it is when you get down to it.”

“Nonsense,” Joyce said, “you can do a lot more than retail, we all know that. You need to set your sights higher. Or…”

“Or?”

“Or try to get more baseball clients. You wouldn’t even need to do that full-time and you’d make more than you were making at the store.”

“That would be great…but where do I find ‘em?”

“I’ll bet Cody has little friends who’d like a coach, for starters. You could ask Daphne and Simone to ask around. They like you…I’m sure they’d be glad to help. And what about Lucas? He must have friends…”

“His best friend can’t afford me and would rather play soccer anyway. Then there’s a conflict of interest if I work with other kids at his school,” I explained. “And I’m not sure how much Lucas would like it, either.” I think he likes the idea that I’m his secret weapon.

“Well…what about other schools? I can ask around at work to see if anyone has a kid who needs help…”

I guess I was looking kinda hopeless, since Joyce said:

“You have a future, darling. You just have to have a little faith in yourself.” I started to say I was a washed-up baseball player, but she interrupted me by saying, “don’t say you’re a washed-up baseball player. How about coaching a team?”

“You mean like high school?,” I asked. “It’s a low-paying part-time job usually…unless you’re certified as a teacher and can teach other shit too. Our high school coach was awesome…but he worked another job. There’s better money in tutoring.” I added “ironically.”

“You know what I’m going to say next, right?,” Joyce asked. We usually had this conversation over breakfast. She said that after getting up to make us more coffee. (My baseball mug is awesome, but it takes nearly a whole pot of coffee to fill up.)

“The resort?”

“Of course the resort. Isn’t that what you want long-term?”

I have to admit I’m not sure. I can’t envision myself running a whole resort I designed, and they say you have to dream it if you’re gonna be able to do it. Still, it is at least a plan, and one that’s pretty well thought out. It’s also my only plan…and I do still think it’s a cool one. I may not believe in its being possible, but I do still think it’s a good idea.

So I said: “I reckon.”

“No ‘I reckon’,” Joyce said. “It’s the first thing you should try. How would you go about starting on your path to your resort?”

“I don’t know. When I told the guys about the idea this summer, Trey said I should get a job in a hotel and learn the business that way.”

“That’s a good idea. Hold on,” Joyce said, pushing down the plunger on the coffee maker, “Adam and Allan are good friends with the manager of the L******. Weren’t they going to send him your resume a while ago?”

“I think so. But I never heard back from him.”

“Then….?”

“I should remind Adam, I know,” I said.

“You know they’re going to want to help all they can. They like you. And I don’t just mean Allan.”

“I know,” I said.

“We need to do something about your resume too,” Joyce said. She took it in to one of the human resources people at her office to get an opinion about it from someone who knew about resumes. Joyce’s friend said it nicely, but she said my resume sucked. “She says we need to tailor it specifically to a hotel job, if that’s what you’re looking for. So we need to play up that you’ve worked with the public…and I just realized you need to put in your bartending jobs too. That shows you’ve worked in the hospitality industry.”

I trusted Joyce, mostly because I didn’t have any ideas of my own about my resume. We worked on it together that night, and Joyce took it back to her friend. She said the second version was much better.

So I went up to Adam after our next game and asked about the dude at the hotel. It took him a minute to remember the story.

“Oh…of course. I did send him your resume. I forgot if he answered, though. Sorry…I may have dropped the ball on it.”

“Do you…do you think you could follow up for me? I’ve got a new resume you can send him. I understand my earlier ones sucked.”

“Yeah,” he said, “it’s become a whole science. Leslie is looking for a job now and she’s having no luck. She finally hired a professional resume writer.”

“We had a human resources supervisor at Joyce’s company look at it as a favor. She said the one I have now is decent…if I’m looking to get a job in a hotel. Seems like you have to write a whole new resume for every job you try and get.”

“That’s what the resume writer told Leslie too. Although she has a vested interest in writing as many resumes as she can,” Adam said. “Email me the new resume and I’ll email it to Dan and follow up with a call. I’ll get you two together. I should have done it over the summer. It’d be good for you to start learning about the hotel business if you really want to build that baseball resort of yours. And I don’t want to make it sound like Dan’s gonna be another Allan – but one look at you and you’re gonna have a job.”

“Keaton said I’d look good standing behind a hotel front desk.” I laughed.

“When was the last time you saw someone ugly behind a hotel front desk? Think about it.”

I gotta hand it to Adam: he came through for me. Three days later he called me to say that the manager of the hotel, Dan Balsam, was interested in meeting me. Whether it was because of my redone resume or what Adam might have said about my looks, I don’t know…but I was taking it either way. It was the closest thing I had to a job lead.

Mr. Balsam’s secretary called me the next day and set up a ‘mutually convenient’ time for me to go in and see him the following week.

I cornered Adam in the dugout before our next game. I told him that Mr. Balsam had called me, that we were going to have a meeting…and what did he think that meant?

“I reckon my biggest question is: is it a job interview?”

“I wish I could tell you. It all depends on whether he has a job to offer in the first place. I told him a little about your plans to run a resort down the line, so he knows you’re interested in the hotel industry. If it were a straight out interview, they’d have told you that. Besides, you don’t even know what kind of a job you want or would be good for. What I’d do if I were you is make a list of questions about getting started on your way to your dream and see if Dan can answer them for you. If there’s a job in it, that’d be great…but don’t count on it. He didn’t mention anything to me one way or the other.”

That sounded like it made sense, even if it didn’t answer my question.

“What do you think I should wear? I got a real nice suit for Christmas. My folks sent it to me with job interviews in mind.”

I reckoned that was a good question to ask a gay dude lol.

“Dan wears a suit to work every day…so I say go for the suit. The only time you don’t want to be in a suit at an interview is in a situation where the person interviewing you is gonna be dressed business casual and you’ll make him feel bad by looking too sharp.”

That made sense. I just hoped that Adam knew what he was talking about, although I knew I was gonna get plenty of advice from Dad, Meemaw, Keaton and Joyce.

Joyce might have given me the most useful advice, but she’s had the most experience looking for work. She’s changed jobs a few times, which is way more often than Dad or even Adam, who’s had his own business for a long time now. She reminded me about things like eye contact and told me not to cross my legs, since (according to her) when I do cross my legs, I tend to slouch down. She also told me to look out for shaking my foot, which is a habit I know I sometimes have, but which I didn’t think other people noticed. Joyce also told me not to think that she was a professional job coach, and that she was just trying to give me the best advice she could. Mostly, she said, I should be myself, seem interested in what Mr. Balsam had to say, and ask intelligent questions.

“Do that…and the good looks and Southern charm should take care of the rest.” Easy for her to say, she’s my girlfriend.

Keaton’s advice was to look sharp, smile a lot, make sure he gets to see how blue my eyes are, look interested…and don’t fuckin start shaking my foot when I’ve got my legs crossed.

Dad gave me his usual advice: shake hands, look him in the eye, don’t sit down until he asks me to, and don’t cross my legs and start shaking my foot. Is it really so obvious that I do that lol? He also gave me an interesting piece of advice: don’t come off too Southern. The fact is that there are a lot of Yankees who look down on us Southerners like we’re illiterate rednecks, so I should watch the southern expressions, even if there’s next to nothing I can do about my accent. I know there are a lot of southerners who lose their accents when they leave the South; I’m totally not one of them lol. I don’t know if I did that on purpose or if it just happened…but I’m not ashamed of sounding like being from where I’m from. Still, I think I get Dad’s point.

On the other hand, he said it would be good to come off as a polite southern gentleman and say “yessir” and “no sir” like I was taught. That always makes a good impression, Dad said. Dad may not have interviewed for a lot of jobs, but he does interview people looking for jobs these days, so I reckon he knows what he’s talking about.

And what about Meemaw? “Whatever you do, don’t wiggle your foot, HB.” Seriously. It’s like that’s the most important advice anybody could give me. She also said something interesting: try not to come off too entitled. She says I’m used to having people react to me a certain way because of how I look and that that might not make the best impression. I know what she means, although it may seem conceited when I try to explain it. Not everybody, but a lot of people want to get to know you if…well…if you’re the cute guy next to the register…or the cute guy standing between 2nd and 3rd base. So, as Meemaw puts it, I’m used to people reaching out to me without my having to reach out to them…and I shouldn’t count on that happening in a professional setting.

Lucky for me none of the advice I got was contradictory, even if everyone seemed obsessed with me shaking my foot. I was able to take it all to heart, although it was a lot to try and remember. I took Adam’s advice too, not just about the suit, but about making a list of questions about the hotel business and how someone like me would make his way to opening his own baseball resort. I should add that I’m not totally clueless about the hospitality industry: I took a whole course in hotel management in college, but, between what they teach you in college and what works in practice there’s a whole lot of difference. That much I know.

And that’s why going to see Dan Balsam made sense…even if he wasn’t going to offer me a job.

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