Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Conjecture: The Price of Rants

For more than a year I've been looking for an IT technical writing job. It's not my preferred mode of existence, but it is work I can do well and not lose my mind. As any jobseeker will tell you, it doesn't take long -- especially with online resume submissions -- before you're pumping out a few dozen applications per week (depending on the number of job openings, that is). In the past 13 months, I've had exactly one interview. And I have to wonder if having a link to this blog from my Web site, and my Web address on my resume, isn't costing me calls.

For any prospective employer to read my blog and consider me an unfit employee would be a mistake. My rants on this blog are motivated by several reasons, chief among them an abiding disgust and intolerance for dishonesty. I criticize corporate executives because in my experience they work not for a company's benefit, but their own -- and always to the detriment of the ordinary front line workers whose tenacity, dedication, and fear of losing their paychecks keeps them busy at the business of actually making companies function. I remember reading, a while ago, about some examples of how it's more lucrative to be a bad CEO, than a good one -- there were three or four examples from companies such as Kodak and Coke, in which CEOs had to be bought out of their contracts because their performances were so horrible. The cost of buying out these thieves? It ranged from $60 million to $460 million.

When I was laid off from EDS in October 2001, two days before my wedding, it was the beginning of my awakening to what the corporate world is all about. Not surprisingly, the CEO, Dick Brown, who oversaw this massive layoff at EDS left the company not long after with a golden parachute worth $35 million. There's a basic fairness and sense of rightness that is ignored, harmed, murdered by such turns of events.
Brown's salary for 2001 was $1.5 million, and he received a bonus worth $7 million. In 2001, Brown also was given restricted stock valued at $27.7 million. Brown's compensation information for 2002 has not yet been made public.
So, this jackal received from EDS during my time there approximately $71.2 million. How many people in my position would have been sustained by Brown's sums? About 1780 of us. After that layoff, it took me nine months and more than 800 resumes to find my next tech writing position. No "poor me," I'm just throwing out a few stats.

My opinions about the Iraq war also cost me my relationship with my first publisher. He and I were going great-guns by March of 2003, looking forward to releasing a novel I had written. My collection of short stories, As My Sparks Fly Upward & Other Stories had been a solid, though humble seller -- among the bestselling titles he had. My publisher ran a small press and our numbers were modest. But they were rising. Then the United States invaded Iraq. Knowing that my publisher had two grandsons heading over there, and that he had been a military man himself decades before, I simply didn't comment on the growing outrage the U.S. was creating in the middle east. But then my publisher began sending a steady stream of email jokes about the French and pro-war shit from such political luminaries as Gene Simmons of KISS. It was then that I gently and respectfully indicated that I didn't feel as he did about the war in Iraq. Our correspondence was cordial, civil, friendly, but very soon after he ceased all talk of publishing my novel, and at the same time dropped Sparks from his roster of titles.

As I do, I made the best of the situation, locating another publisher for Sparks and continuing with my writing career such as it was, such as it is.

But there is little doubt in my mind that had I heartily agreed with that publisher about the Iraq war, he would have published my novel and Sparks would still be among his company's titles. I hear from him every once in a while, and it's a pleasure. He's a damned good guy, fascinating, and quite affable. I've never talked to him about why my novel was dropped or why Sparks suddenly wasn't among his roster of titles. There seemed no point.

I am no martyr, simply a person who values honesty and integrity -- doubtless these are what is preventing my re-entry into corporate life. I don't apologize for my opinions, I won't back away from controversial subjects, and though some around me have questioned my interest in anything occurring beyond the perimeter of my backyard, I will continue to take a global interest in our world.

In the documentary Hearts of Darkness, about the making of the film Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola was asked if he ever considered quitting the project as its production appeared to break down on every side. I'll never forget how Coppola suddenly looked at the interviewer like the interviewer was quite insane, and said, "What? Quit from myself?" He was bewildered by the question.


Ascendantlive said...

I'm sorry to hear about your troubles. I have read several news stories where people have been fired from their jobs for expressing their views on blogs. I'm not sure of the exact instances however. And you could very well be correct that your link to this blog has cost you interviews, although I doubt many people are willing to read through it to understand what exaclty you are saying. Their unwillingness to read may also be hurting you as they may read the first paragraph and see one word or sentance they don't like.
But this very concern kept me from putting my writings or a link to my blog on my professional site. I wish you luck,

Whetam Gnauckweirst said...

I appreciate the Zen you send along. Actually, I think you're right that few (if any) people seeing my resume would bother looking at my blog. Maybe I should disconnect my blog from my Web site. Anyhow, I'm slowly finding my way as a freelance writer, so those calls for interviews are becoming less and less important to me.