Jack of All Trades, Master of None

Like millions of other Americans (and, really, many millions more all over the world), I'm unemployed. I would hazard a guess that anyone reading this has also been unemployed at some point in time, so I won't go into detail on how powerless it makes you feel, or what a blow to the ego it can be (and, for those of us of the masculine persuasion, our egos can't take a whole lot of hits).

My wife, Nicole, is also one of those millions, which means we're ZINKs: Zero Income No Kids. We've managed surprisingly well, to be perfectly honest, between the money we'd saved up (which is slowly disappearing) and the unemployment we've been paying into for all these years.

Nicole is freshly unemployed, so I've slowly been teaching her the little tricks to maintaining your sanity. Her field is much, much different than mine, so she doesn't have as much daily searching as I do. But she still finds herself going a bit stir crazy.

I'll say this much about being unemployed: your apartment will never be cleaner. Looking for work is such an exercise in frustration, that it's nice to be able to do something where you actually see results. What better way to see those results than a clean kitchen, a clean bathroom, a clean office? The idea that you can set out to accomplish a specific task and actually see that come to fruition -- well, it's not something you get much in the daily job search.

That's why errands suddenly become so appealing. When I had a job, having to stop at the grocery store for something we should have bought the last time we went was annoying. This time it's something I can put on my list the night before, and check off the next day.

I actually started putting "shower" on my to do list, just to have something to cross off.

Nicole and I find ourselves on opposites ends of the spectrum when it comes to looking for work. She has spent the majority of her life working towards one career and made a lot of progress along those lines, far more than most people her age. But her resume consists of one line of work. If she suddenly decided she wanted to do something different, she would have to start from scratch. She has a very specific skill set and a lot of experience using those skills, and that makes her uniquely qualified. But it also limits her options. She's locked in.

On the other hand, I am the epitome of "jack of all trades, master of none." I have done a lot of different things and I've done most of them well. But I have no real expertise in anything other than comic books, and even then I'm not as well versed as people who actually make a living on that knowledge. If a little knowledge is dangerous, I am the most dangerous person on earth. I even had a head hunter tell me to cut down my resume as I just had too much information on it. I had to concentrate on just one area. I now have multiple resumes, depending upon the job, because I can sell myself as so many different things.

In any other economy, I would be a great hire. People generally seem to want employees who can do a number of different things. Middle management thrives on people will ill-defined roles. But middle management are the ones who are getting cut loose. This economy wants two types of people, those who create and those who make. Those who facilitate need not apply.

That's not to say I don't have some leads; I do. And it's not to say that I haven't tried to use all this down time wisely. But it does make me wonder if I could have prepared better, or at least been more proactive in my decisions regarding my career. And then I think about the fact that Nicole is so locked into her occupation and that our economy will eventually recover and if she ever wants to make a move, she's going to need her husband to support her -- her husband who, in a better economy, will be able to find a job almost anywhere, doing almost anything. So maybe it's a good thing that my skills are so above average and wide ranging, and hers are so superlative and specific.

I guess we're doing a good job of playing the odds.

For those reading this on my Facebook feed, you won't be able to see this. Just click on my blog if you want to see my latest video choice: