Thursday, April 09, 2009

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.

Labels: , , ,


Blogger Sylvia K said...

Marvelous! It's always such fun to read about all your wonderful adventures, your intersting jobs over the years. Hope all is going well with you these days. Have a lovely weekend!

Friday, April 10, 2009 12:33:00 AM  
Blogger Dorothy said...

Isn't it amazing as to what things have a long term affect on our lives and their future.

Enjoy the's going to be nice here in Western New York.

Dorothy from grammology

Friday, April 10, 2009 8:15:00 AM  
Blogger Darlene said...

I believe that the world of Jouralism was better off due to your good luck.

I wrote a comment on Ronni's blog, TGB, about networking. I think that may be the only way to get a job in these tough economic times.

Friday, April 10, 2009 2:37:00 PM  
Blogger Mary M. said...

I have been reading your blog for quite a long time and enjoy it.
Sure understand how you felt when you were replaced. My experience was a bit different, but reminds me of what is happening to young people nowadays. I was out of Business College in 1941 and took a job with Illinois Printing Company. They began to lay off and being the last one hired, was the first laid off....

Several people encouraged me to apply at the University of Illinois, and finally after a number of interviews, was hired. I retired in 1979........during those years, I decided to stay at home with my 3 sons for 14 years, then returned, to the U of I and ended up with 24 years and retired with a good pension and health care.

I'm sure you and I understand how all these people losing their jobs nowadays feel....and I'm hoping with networking they are as fortunate as we have been.

Saturday, April 11, 2009 7:00:00 PM  
Blogger Lydia said...

How interesting to have this background on the concept of networking. I think that people believe it came about in the 1980s, but you've shown that smart professionals knew about it all along.

I was also interested to read that four of the papers had shut down when you were there. It's so depressing what's happening to our national newspapers, but reading this gives me hope for regeneration.

Monday, April 13, 2009 3:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Bud said...

What an interesting story; thanks for sharing.

I just read a story about Bob Sheppard, the Yankees announcer, who is now 98 and has just retired this year. He's been working for them in some capacity since 1951! Talk about a long career. God bless him.

I read this piece on electro-mech, a company that makes sports scoreboards but also writes about sports.

If you want to read, here's the link:

Wednesday, June 24, 2009 1:42:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Blog Flux Suggest - Find and Search Blogs
Web Traffic Statistics Coupon