16 January 2009

Jacked Of All Trades

I finally have been getting around to laying some comments on other blogs near and dear to the Gumbo ticker, playing a furious game of catch up (which I’ll probably lose), and I just finished reading the latest brain fireworks from Jeff at GoodFatherBlog.com. The unsinkable GoodFather, like yours truly, was laid off late last year (we’re siblings in that respect, you could say) and has a few things to say about the state of that union. Please do give him a visit and lay down some luv, you won’t regret it. Sure it’s not exactly a feel-good topic, but Jeff pulls it all together with some of that cool GF humor. Speaking of humor, it brought to mind this really good joke, hope you like it:

(Phone rings. I nearly sprain an ankle leaping to answer)
Me: Hello, Irish Gumbo* speaking.
Voice: Irish, this is Sparky McDinglefritts** with Gobsmack Placement Services, returning your call from yesterday, about the job reference and openings.
Me (excited): Wonderful! Thanks for the return call. So, what do we have?
Sparky: Well, I have two positions with AtlasRoarkRand Architects***, requiring at least 15 years experience…
Me (wetting self): Yes! I have about 19 years of experience!
Sparky: ...as a Director of Operations or Senior Planner, sort of a “rainmaker” position concentrated in health care projects.
Me (sound of balloon deflating): Um, no, my experience is spread out over a lot of different project types.
Sparky: Ohh…(pause)…most of our clients come to us with very specific requirements.
Me (mouthing ‘shitshitshitshit’): Oh, I see.
Sparky: Yeah, the ‘jack-of-all-trades’ types generally have a harder time getting offers.

HAAAHAAA! WOOOooOOO! HAAA! Oh, Sparky, stop it ya killin’ me (wiping eyes) BWAAHHAAAHHAAH (gasp) HAAH (hic)HAA(hic)…See what you (hic) did, now I’ve (hic) got the (hic)cups! Oh, jay-zus, I gotta sit down (fans face) wooo, hep me, hep me! Oh, snap!

What, you don’t get it? See, there’s ‘jack-of-all-trades’…harder to hire…I’m a jack of all…and that means I…job…oh, never mind. I guess it isn’t as funny if you have to explain it. (sigh) Wow. That’s a wicked pissah! I am astounded that I have as much experience as I do and yet am now somehow harder to hire. Does this make sense? Does this mean that after all these years of taking the jobs I could get, learning as much as I could and trying to cover all my bases, that I am less attractive to employers looking for experience? Man, what a mess.

In another little twist (is that the hot metal tang of irony I smell?) to this tale of woe, I do have something approaching a specialization in architecture: a concentration in churches. That’s right, peoples, churches. O, sweet lawd, can you dig it? The snag is that even in the best of economic times, that sort of work is not as widespread or as financially secure as a lot of other types of projects, such as health care. The current crunch has everybody by the short and curlies, so when even the mo’ money types like hospitals, schools and the like are cutting back, church work is definitely not on the table.

So what to do? It is a bit discouraging to strive to be a Renaissance man**** when what the world wants are encyclopedias devoted to one subject. Architectin’ is the biggest skill set I have; reasonably certain I am overqualified to be a paperboy (I was a paperboy for 5 years) or a groundskeeper (briefly, one summer) or a shop gopher (one summer). Say, does anyone have any ideas? Anyone? I don’t know, maybe I could give this writing thing a try…

*All names have been changed to protect the befuddled. Plus, I don’t want to get sued.

**See? Sparky? Who would name their kid Sparky, really!

*** Inside joke for architects. Sorry.

****Okay, I can’t play a lute. Nor can I use an astrolabe or read Greek. And I totally suck at fencing. But you get the idea.


  1. ***Uh, no dear - inside joke for anyone who might have once in their lives considered themselves an Objectivist and read some really BAD prose.

  2. Oh, and might I add - give the writing thing a whirl. You're GOOD at it.

  3. Jan: Well played, m'lady! I bow (moves sword out the way, hitches up tights) to you! Methinks its time to put pen to paper...

  4. While you are working toward your new career in writing, why not hang out a shingle advertising your architecture skills? You know, start your own 1 man firm. Your jack-of-all skills would be a benefit there.

    My dad in architecturing (that's what it's called right?), and the same thing happened to him. They said he wasn't specialized enough, so he got into free-lancing. He did that for many years and was waaaaaaay happier being his own boss.


  5. Of course you should write. I keep forgetting how you're able to produce all of the long, quality posts of late. Perhaps things are exactly "as they should be" so you're forced to pursue something you might not have otherwise. Hmmmm.

    Smart, funny stuff. You sound like a total Renaissance man to me. I'll continue to send you good thoughts - the blanket of stress during these times covers us all.

  6. Writing yeah definitly writing...

    I am taking my first Eng 110 class this semester, and scared shitless. Maybe you could be my tutor? ; )

  7. Gumby, I can't believe you're not a millionaire yet with that peanut butter in a can idea...
    I agree with IB. You could work for yourself. I also think given our current economy, more businesses will skip building new for refabing the old... Maybe start that way...
    ~Winking at you love~

  8. Motha-a-gawd, you must have spent some time in Boston to be spoutin' the wicked pissahs! Or is that just the Irish in yah?
    Seriously, I have been going through this for a loooong time.... I told you I was laid off but I never mentioned when. It's just too depressing. Only the Sparky McDinglefritts aren't recruiters (there are none in my field... gasp!) but potential bosses who look at my background and have the same exact reaction. As in, whaaaaa? You know too much about too many things! Can. Not. Hire. You.
    Oh, that and the fact they want to pay me the salary of a 25 year old.
    Anyway. Great post, as usual, and you know I am pulling for you.

  9. Specializing in churches? That's rich. And also cool.
    It's hard not to laugh at the stuff recruiters come up with...
    Good luck. And submit your writing. Send it everywhere.

  10. I can read Greek, well, as long as it is ancient Greek I can - don't ask!

    As far as jobs - like i mentioned to Goodfather - have you thought about teaching? My brother did that when he got laid off and since he has a Masters that is all they really ask for in local colleges and schools. Just a thought

  11. Sweetie, if I ever won the lottery, I'd hire you to build something. I wouldn't care what.

    But, alas, I haven't won...yet. I'll keep trying though, m'kay?

  12. *blink*



    i'm in love in a very DIRTY kind of way.


    wtf? since when does the ability to multi-task and spread it all over make for harder placement. what a bunch of shit.

    i'm loading up the civic and wearing my ass kicking shoes. be there shortly. sparky should say his goodbyes. fuckface.

  13. oh, how frustrating!
    perhaps you could take up pole dancing?? just a thought.. ;)

  14. I am soooo sorry that you are having such difficulty in securing a job, WITH your varied experience. Isn't that a crock! Writing may be your best bet! Magazine, feature articles? Newspapers? Grant writing? With your varied experience you may be just what a college or some institution needs to secure grants! You can do anything! Believe it and it will come! Start submitting some of those stories! They're really brilliant! Teaching is an idea too! There is such a need for teachers. Creative writing..English, Journalism? Whatever! You got it! Go for it!! This just may be the start of something big kiddo! I just ask that you remember use little people when you become a star!!!:) Blessings and prayers for the perfect situation to appear! Lisa

  15. I feel your pain. I actually just posted about the downturn in my teaching/writing career today (with pics of Susan Sarandon).

    I'm kind of a RenWoman myself but it's tough out there.

    And as any proper RenWoman, I love me my Pogues and my Black 47 and my Flogging Molly, and of course, my Joe Strummer.

    BTW, the pic I was referring to is the breastfeeding one. Facebook is kicking moms off the site for publishing photos like that.

    They're obviously not RenPeople.

  16. So, does having no real marketable skills at all mean I'm a sure hire come September?

    I'm totally fluent in Linear B.

  17. well, goodness IG. that just sucks monkey butt. i feel very blessed to have a job that will pretty much never be eliminated. unless that sci-fi book/movie children of men comes to life and there are no more kids around. (i'm not a sci-fi reader...the only reason i know of this story at all can be summed up in 2 words: Clive. Owen.)

    on the bright side: more time for you to give the writing thing a try. hurrah for that! :-)

    i like irony, usually. but that building churches thing does come across as rather twisted. i would speak with the universal powers that be about it. just so they know you aren't amused, if nothing else.

    *sigh* this place is in such a friggin' mess of a mess. i feel for you on the overqualified thing--it does seem that, after so many years of learning a profession so you're an expert, suddenly you're too much of an expert. which i believe translates into "we could afford you, but want something for free and so we're going with less skilled labor." and so, hello! no wonder everything comes out crappy or from china. (do i sound too republican there? my horrified apologies if i do.)

    but what's an astrolabe? dude, this is so messing up my smart chi. i'll google research it and figure out how to fit it into some conversations this weekend.

  18. Hi GUMBO
    Life is mad sometimes. Employers seem to think that people with skills are not a blank page on which to write their own messages.
    They forget that experience is all - that is in my book, anyway.
    Anyone with a brain could see that a person who can design churches should be able to turn their hands in a lot of other directions.
    Keep battling my friend.
    June in Oz

  19. I hear you, mate. I'm looking for a job myself, and I swear if I hear one more hiring manager say anything about the "current economic climate" I'm going to murder his face.

    Hmmm, maybe I should put 'invented face-murdering' on my resume. :)

  20. Treehouses, my overexperienced Friend. Treehouses.


    Then...we write a Book about it.

    And, say 'fuck' a lot in it.

  21. How about those mini-houses that are all the rage? There's really only one or two guys doing it, and they're not on the east coast, if I remember correctly.

    Old folks are really into that whole 'living in less than 800 square' crap.

  22. We used to call the radio operator on the ships "Sparky"...back when there were radio operators.

  23. Or Sparks, we also called him Sparks. But you knew that. You talked to him today after all.

  24. IB: I have been toying with this. The crunch is murder especially when I don’t have a project to get me going. Freelance solo practitioner would be sweeeeeeet!

    C2plus3: Hey, it’s been awhile, thanks for dropping in! You are probably right: there is a preponderance of evidence that os increasingly hard for me to ignore. Thank you – I like the good vibes!

    Sarah: Yes, ma’am! The fear? Turn it into a pen (or keyboard)…

    Sweet Cheeks: I forgot about that! I could draw up a proposal, get a patent. Spot on assessment: rehabbing and space planning will pick up little. Now, if the big fish would just stay out of the market, let the little fish have a go at it…(thanks)

    Robin: I’ve pahked my cah up there a few times, Boston and the Cape/Martha’s Vineyard/Nantucket. Oh, and the Berkshires, too. And all those elementary teachers, telling me I needed to know all that stuff…sheesh. Thank you!

    OAM: Church work is actually pretty cool in a lot of ways, but a real balancing act to be a profitable concern. Yeah, I was a little taken aback by that. Thank you, and I will!

    Krystal: You read ancient Greek. That is AWESOME! I would love to be able to do that! The teaching angle has crossed my mind. I actually have a very tentative contact into just that.

    MD: Let me know, birdhouse, spa addition, you name it. I’d be honored! Crossing my fingers for you…

    MIW: Are you batting your eyes at me? “Give me, your dirty love…” (Extra points if you can name that song) And Sparky? (giggle) To be fair, we did discuss other possibilities, he was actually helpful. You could still load up that Civic, though, I’m waiting…:)

    CPM: *blush* They told me the audition tapes would be erased! Oh, man, I am so embarrassed…so, uh, was I good? My legs hurt…

    Cw2smom: It is, that’s the problem with general knowledge in a specialist world. The companies have us all at a disadvantage. I like the writing idea a LOT. Grant writing I had not thought of before. And submit, I will. Thank you so much!

    PHFL: Sorry, my dear. Oh, and Flogging Molly? Joe Strummer? Ohhh…would you go out with me? :) (and that policy on pics is a WTF?, breastfeeding? that’s messed up.

    Captain: Dude, you are so IN. (What’s Linear B? Some kinda hip-hop stylin’?)

    Amy: Monkey butt (gigglesnort). Ha! I’ll take the church thing as a good sign. I have sometimes thought that in a past life, I was a cathedral builder. Now THAT would rock! Astrolabe is some kind of orb/globe thingy, used in navigation and astronomy (?) I think. Fuzzy memories on that one.

    June: Mad indeed. It is an ugly truth that architecture tends to treat people that way. Constant struggle to get the Higher Ups to see their employees are not drones and are not interchangeable. Thank you, I will!

    Vanta C: HA! What a phrase! Yes, get a copyright, stat! Thanks for dropping in :)

    cIII: I’m thinking we go with it. Although we may have to market it to adults…(second post in a row you made me spit take!) Holy shit! I just checked that link! Freakin’ A dude, let’s get crackin’!

    Pamela: A lot of the local zoning codes (and nearsighted zoning reviewers) make it tough to do that, at least around here. Worth looking into, if we can rejigger zoning. Cool idea, though.

    KMcJoseph: So that’s where all the unemployed radio operators ended up: JOB RECRUITING!

  25. I'm with KMcJ: loser radio announcers end up in job recruitment. You rock. I want that glass of wine now, and am happy to see it's still there...:)

  26. Braja: By all means, honored to have you at the bar!

  27. Gawd. From one architecture person to another, I totally know what you're going through with the whole specialist vs. Generalist issue. Our entire retreat in the fall was on this very topic. A firm needs both to survive.

    I would think smaller firms would need a person with a robust variety of projects. Churches? You're going to heaven for sure. My husband worked for one of the same churches you did and I keep telling him that he's going to heaven because of it. He's done hospitals too. Now all he needs is a school and he's a shoe-in.

    Could you maybe contact that large church to see if they need anyone to do upgrades and additions in your geographic area? A lot of architects do it around here from home.

    Keep looking. Keep going. What about pimping out CADD services? Pick up and relocate your family to Phoenix. Our office down there needs someone with connectios to the church.

  28. I'm just laughing at Irish Gumbo.

  29. Hang out your shingle.


  30. I'd go for the Jack of all Trades every time - a bit of flexibility in thinking.

  31. Mum's one of them - Jack of all Trades, or perhaps Jill in her case. But at least you have a 'profession' even if nobody wants you. Mum hasn't even got that. What about dog walking? Or..NO! I've got a FAB idea. Perhaps you could train to become one of those hypnotist guys then you could hypnotise folk when you go for interviews and make them give you a job. Whilst under hypnosis you could get them to agree to a huge salary, brilliant health benefits and 60 days paid holiday a year. Goodness! I'm a genius!

  32. The brave thing is to imagine something new. A different kind of life from what you knew. You are fortunate to have so many interests and talents (although, that lute thing might have come in handy!)

    When a door closes, a window opens. This is not a set back. It's an opportunity! Dream the impossible dream... You've heard this?


    Write. Or don't. Hang out your shingle. Or don't. The ball's in YOUR court now. You finally have the opportunity to do all those things you never had time to try in the past. What's the worst that could happen?

    Volunteer your time. It's a great way to network and show off your talents and discover something new about yourself and the world.

    These are just ideas, Gumbo.

    Best of luck with whatever you decide!


    P.S. My degree is in the Humanities, so I do know your pain...

  33. I absolutely agree with IB. Keep looking, but in the meantime freelancing is a great idea. What about writing some pieces about architecture and sending them out to magazines on the subject? You have a wonderful writing style and a great eye for detail... plus, any byline would state your name AND that of your new company ;) So... advertising.
    Oh, and Renaissance men are MUCH sexier... just sayin'.

  34. I'm still getting over your comment back to Jan. You carry a sword and wear tights? I think we may have zeroed in on your job search problem. :)

    As always Gumbo, good luck...we are all rooting for you!

  35. If I had the money, I'd hire you to design my dream house. I've had it sketched for years.

    I think Ib's idea is a good one. You are very personable just through your writing, I imagine even more so in person. You could start your own free lance business.

  36. Those who can, do. Those who can't, recruit.

    I got laid off in November after 33 years in IT and decided to take a job as a bookkeeper/office manager in a free clinic -- at 40% of what I was making in IT. My old boss, who also got canned, is frustrated that I refuse to go after another high-powered job, but I'm tired of that crap. It's a lot more fun working someplace where they're thrilled to have someone with my skills.

  37. where's the waiter with my drink? Oh, this isn't the Olive Garden????

  38. frankly, I'm still laughing at everyone else's comments. There a LOT to be said for making an entrance, and I am making mine LAUGHING right now.

    uh, churches? CHURCHES? Christ, do i have to pray to you now????

  39. So what to do? It is a bit discouraging to strive to be a Renaissance man ~ Please say it isn't so...that you don't call yourself that. It is just that every single guy I've seen claim this online, was, emmm NOT ONE, plus usually had delusions.
    This does not seem to be the case with you, since someone I admire very much turned me on to your blog, singing your praises.

  40. Great Ayn Rand reference! Are you changing the name of your blog to Howard Roark?

    My brother, also an architect, moved to Portland to look for a job, struck out and is en route to SF, CA to try there.

    I think the writing thing should get a second (3rd) look.

  41. you know you just can't win for trying sometimes! \Why can't these blogs PAY!?? Cuz you are certinly a "writer" even though you don't get paid for it!. Ya know, I was eyeballin' my own resume and up to 10 years ago, i was also a jack (or is it jill) of all trades...and darn good at it. It appealed to employers when I was in my 30s that I was such flexible and easy to train and it landed me some fun gigs....now i am wondering if my longevity in my current job makes me less desirable since my career tends to demand new and creative all the time

  42. Hang in there! You're a smart, creative guy... I know it will happen for you. I've been working for myself for a very long time. It's stressful at times with no regular paycheck but once you get the hang of that it's amazing. Wouldn't change it for anything! So, yeah, I'd highly recommend being your own boss!

  43. To all: you guys are so SMART. Man, this internet thingy is coming in handy!

    Time to promote myself to Captain!

  44. AtlasRoarkRand - Hee Hee!! And I'm not an architect...it's my favorite book!

    You should write. I'd buy your book in a heartbeat. I don't care if it's about shoelaces!!

    I can't catch up so I'm randomly picking updates through my page!!

  45. Simplicity: Funny you should say that, my book IS about shoelaces!

    It's called "Lost in Tie-land".
    Get it? HA!

  46. Now that's MY kinda humor!!! That literally made me laugh out loud!!

  47. If I ever have a child, I'll have to name it Sparky McDinglefritts (boy or girl). I suspect this strong streak of evil within is exactly why I shouldn't breed.

    I alos now want a lute and an astrolabe. Just sounds classy. "Where's the lute? Oh, it's right next to the astrolabe."


"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...