The Miss Jobless Chronicles: How to Shamelessly Self-Promote

Ed. note: “The Miss Jobless Chronicles” is a weekly series written by Caitlin O’Toole. Read the rest in the series here.

My cats are suicidal. Last night I came home and they had turned the gas on the stove on. Found a copy of “The Bell Jar” next to the litter box. They left little notes: “hate you, hate new york, i’m taking lucy down with me.” –ethel. And Lucy wrote, “couldn’t … open… door….”

I’m finding that these days, I communicate better with animals than people. Hours of isolation, looking for jobs, trying to stay cool and networking has made me extremely socially awkward.

I’ve been volunteering a bit, mostly at GMHC, and I find that it’s hard to have normal conversations with fellow volunteers and staff members due to spending long periods of time with just my cats. A basic conversation might go:

“Hi, I’m Geoff.”

“Hi, I’m Caitlin.”

(Limp handshake)

“What do you do when you’re not volunteering?”

“Well… um… I listen to CDs a lot…”

“Oh.”

A good friend of mine says you should always be prepared with a succinct, professional blurb about yourself to whip out at a moment’s notice in an elevator, an interview or cover letter. Before I started to work on my “blurb,” it went something like this — what I call my insecure blurb:

“Hi, I’m Caitlin. I’m an Aquarius. I like the color blue, but some days I like red better. I used to work for magazines, but now I’m unemployed. I’m from Washington. I went to NYU. I’ve really close to my family. I’m in therapy.”

And so it would go. Horrible, right? Who needs to know that shit, especially potential employers?

Now I am working on my new blurb:

“I’m Caitlin O’Toole. I’m a professional, freelance writer with years of web, print and TV experience. Right now, I am pitching TV series ideas — including a sitcom and a unique reality show — to L.A. production companies, and looking for a literary agent. I also write a very popular blog in which I offer job tips to people looking for work, and I’m about to launch a new blog. In my spare time, of which there’s not a lot, I volunteer at GMHC. I’m also working on a book and screenplay (insert chuckle here) — but isn’t everyone?”

(Or should I take that last part out? I think of it as a little bit of the human touch in an otherwise pretty un-funny blurb.)

I’ve been trying to practice this blurb, as I think if it becomes ingrained I’ll begin to believe it and feel more confident. All of it is true, but when you’re unemployed you suffer from major self-esteem and focus on the negative — or dull — aspects of your life.

If you’re unemployed, or underemployed, here are some words and phrases that you probably use that you should definitely try to eliminate from your vocab:

Unemployed (replace with “Freelance”)
‘In transition’ (replace with “writing a screenplay”)
On vacation (replace with “Business trip”)
“I’m on the other line” (“I’m in a meeting”)
“I’m at Starbucks” (I’m at ‘the office’)
Broke (“another victim of market fluctuation”)
Taking a walk (“doing research”)

And so on. Basically, NEVER let anyone know how much time you have on your hands.

Unless, of course, you write a blog about it.

caitlinotoole.pngCaitlin O’Toole is a New York City-based writer and editor. A native of Washington, D.C., she began her illustrious journalism career as a Washington Post paper girl. She has since written and edited for Sesame Workshop Digital, Star Magazine, The National Enquirer, Glamour, People.com, Parade.com and Washington’s City Paper. Her work has also been featured on Fox News, ABC, MTV and VH1. She lives in Chelsea with her two cats, Lucy and Ethel. She can be reached for work at her LinkedIn page.