Dot.Com Refugee #2: Tater-Tot Hot Dish

April 8, 2001


I hope this finds everyone well.

The job search continues … there’s a new Kohl’s department store opening up near our house and they are accepting applications. I’m wondering what they have available in upper management.

I had a great conversation with Habitat for Humanity. They were looking for a Managing Editor for their magazine that has a circulation of 2.2 million. I asked the Editor, “What’s the best thing about working at Habitat?”

She said something about doing meaningful work and knowing each day she was directly helping improve peoples’ lives.

I said, “I’m sure that’s great, but I thinking more along the lines of perks, do you get free weekly massages or Friday afternoons off?”

Later, I told them that I couldn’t move my family to Americus, Ga., for the salary offered.

I had a great interview with the COO of Ocean Journey. It was great. But when I asked the COO, who used to be the CFO, why there was so much turnover in the marketing, development and public relations offices, he responded, “I’m sure you would get many different answers if you asked all of those people why they left, but I don’t think they wanted to work for me.”

I couldn’t really think of a follow-up question to that answer. Inside, I was thinking, “Why would they make the bean-counter, the chief operating officer?”

When I left the aquarium that day, I was really excited to work there. The aquarium is successful (it cost $93 million to build) with 1.4 million visitors in the first year with major plans for growth. The building is right on the Platte River just outside of downtown Denver and the working hours were 9-4.

Plus, I really thought they wanted me too. (The HR guy went to UW-LaCrosse, where he was a swimmer, which might explain how I got picked out of the 700 applicants to be interviewed.) But they called and told me the position was filled. I have to believe they found somebody locally who would accept less money. I have to believe that because the alternative would only lessen my self-esteem.

Cone, Inc., the PR firm in Boston that I interviewed with, finally let me know that I wasn’t their choice. I did the interviewed on Feb. 16; they finally responded on April 2.

I did an interview with Rotary International on Feb. 12; still haven’t heard back on that one. I’ve sent a couple e-mails.

Sometimes you can just tell when an interview starts going downhill, like when I was sitting down with the people from the Fountain Valley School, a local boarding school for grades 9-12. It costs $28,000 for the 135 kids who live on campus. The perks for this job were pretty sweet. You only work six hours a day in June, July, and August. Plus, you could use their mountain chalet for free. The interview was going great, I was saying all of the right things and then my supervisor said, “Well, as you do know, the salary is $30,000 … ” She said a bunch of other things after that and when she was nearly finished, I blurted out, “Did you just say … $30,000?” I felt a little betrayed because she said on the phone that the salary was going to be in the $30s, “but we might be able to stretch that a little bit.”

Naturally I took that to mean … $42,500. Add in a little side work for me in the summer with Rose getting a job in town and we’re back in business.

But no, a flat, non-negotiable $30,000. That put a little damper on the lovefest that was the interview to that point.

I thought the job search was over after interviewing with the Greater Minneapolis Convention and Visitors’ Association. The last time an interview went this well was back in 1989 when I spoke with Mary Howard and Toni Woods about the University of Florida job.

The VP of Marketing and PR Associate call me on the phone and somehow, some way we got on the topic of hot dish, Minnesota’s version of casserole. I told them, “This is so weird because I just stumbled on a “Hot Dish of the Week” website and I am an expert in this area because my mom used to make hot dish all of the time.”

The two ladies asked, “What’s your favorite kind of hot dish?”

A make-or-break query, I nearly froze. I said, “I don’t know what it’s called, but it’s got tater-tots in it.”

Both ladies squealed in unison, “TATER-TOT HOT DISH!”

I couldn’t help but think, “Dude, I am so in with this job. We’ve spent the last 20 minutes talking about my mom’s hot dish.”

The ladies kept saying stuff like, “That’s what I loved about your letter” or “That’s what really impressed me about your resume.”

I was floating. Finally, I was killing an interview. I said, “I don’t know about you, but for me, I think listening is an under appreciated form of communicating.” They said, “We totally agreed with you. Listening not under appreciated here.” Then they talked to each other, “Remember that other guy we interviewed; I don’t think he was listening at all.”

I’m thinking, “They’re dissing my competition; this is great.”

Then they called back on Friday: “We’re moving forward in the process with two other candidates. Their skills and experience more directly … blah, blah, blah.” Thanks, just in time for the weekend. They left a glimmer of hope. If those two candidates don’t work out, they might call me. Maybe.

So now what … I use to have this deal where I only applied for jobs that I was interested in and/or somewhat qualified for. Now I’m applying for any job with the word “salary” in the description. For example, locally, there is this place called Compassion International. They feed hungry kids around the world. In the application, you have to give a Statement of Faith, I might have messed that one up. I wrote, “I have a problem with religious organizations … ”

I’m reading the book, “Catcher in the Rye.” A book favored by only the best-crazed gunmen, like Mark David Chapman and John Hinckley. I’m also reading, “Pippi Longstocking,” to Carli and Gina.

In spite of how it may sound, being unemployed isn’t all that bad. I’m my own boss and I make my own hours. Plus, there’s no heavy lifting. Based on the response from my last update, I’m afraid I gave everyone the impression that I was one step away from becoming another Winthrop from Trading Places. You remember the scene. He’s wearing that Santa Claus outfit, trying to eat that fish, stealing food and drinking liquor in streets in the rain.

It’s not that bad … but enough about me. How are you?


Dot.Com Refugee #3: Send Cheese Curds

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