MEMOIR: Job-hopping and networking
My job as a press officer and editor with the U.S. Interior Dept.'s Fish & Wildlife Service, about which I wrote in my last Memoir, was was my first job after my 1946 Army discharge and my college graduation in 1948.
My career there was short-lived. I resigned a year later when I was informed by the U.S. Civil Service Commission that I was about to be "displaced" by a disabled Army veteran who had job preference over me. He had received a medical discharge after six months of military service because of stomach ulcers. (I had served in the Army three years, more than two of them overseas.)
I didn't resent my "displacement," for I was eager to extend my career into a wider field. Moreover, I had already landed a new job as a staff writer for The Machinist, the weekly newspaper of the AFL-CIO International Assn. of Machinists. It was only a temporary three-month summer job, but I had a far greater personal interest in labor affairs than in fish and wildlife.
I had been recommended for the union job by Bill Doherty, the Interior Dept.'s director of information. He was familiar with my work, having had to approve the Fish & Wildlife Service press releases that I had written before they were distributed. His recommendation represented my first experience with the phenomenon of "networking" as a tool for getting a job.
The Machinist was a far more professional newspaper than most labor union publications. Its editor, Gordon Cole, had been a Washington correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, and he had made the paper more than a mere personal house organ for the union's leaders.
In my new job, I reported and wrote about such matters as labor-management contract negotiations, labor-related political issues, organizing campaigns, and union elections. I also wrote the union president's opening statement at a Congressional hearing on a bill to ban discrimination against workers because of age.
During my temporary stay with the union, I took a formal civil service exam for the job of "information & editorial specialist (press & publications)," my job title at the Fish & Wildlife Service. It was the first time the exam had been conducted in about 10 years.
I passed the exam, but that did not assure immediate employment. I had to find a job opening in a Federal government agency. But I now had regular civil service status to qualify for employment without being vulnerable to displacement by applicants with some type of job preference or political influence.
However, when my temporary job with the Machinists Union ended, there were no Federal job openings available in Washington. Nor could I find a journalistic job in the private sector. After two months, I became discouraged about my prospects. Reluctantly, I returned to New York to live with my parents because I could no longer afford to live on my own.
But the job market for journalists in New York was now even tighter than it had been when I graduated from college, because four daily newspapers had recently folded.
Shortly after my return to New York I got a lucky break. The director of information of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in Washington, Larry Klein, phoned me, offering a job similar to the one I had had with the Fish & Wildlife Service. I was now on the civil service register, which made me eligible for the position.
I had been recommended to Klein, a onetime editor of the AFL-CIO United Auto Workers Union's paper, by Gordon Cole, my boss at the Machinists Union. It was another demonstration of the importance of professional networking.
I was now on my way back to Washington.