Posted by: Mark Wollemann: On the move | August 27, 2015

Job hunting … in middle age

Talking about journalism at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year.

Talking about journalism at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year.

Over the past four years, I stood in front of students at the American University in Bulgaria and casually tossed out bromides about job hunting.

“Don’t be afraid to pursue jobs that aren’t ‘perfect.'”
“Use whatever contacts you have to network.”
“Be confident without being cocky.”
“Remember, they’re not on YOUR schedule. Be patient.”
“You will find something. I’m sure of it.”

Now, after more than three decades of continuous employment (save for the few months after the demise of the greatest sports newspaper known to man, The National Sports Daily), I’m looking for work, too. Shoulder to shoulder with all of those college grads, post grads, mid-career professionals and newspaper refugees. I’m trying to practice a little of what I preached.

I’m going to use the blog to track my progress and my fragile emotional state. Actually, I’m not so fragile right now. But if weeks become months without work or I struggle to get people to return emails, phone calls or cover letters attached to resumes attached to electronic job applications, well, that may change.

Here’s where things stand right now:

  • We returned to the U.S. and moved into our condo in Chicago in mid-May.
  • Just like most college students, we then spent the next two months traveling and sight-seeing and visiting friends and family. Not much on the job hunt took place there.
  • We returned to Chicago in mid-July (after adding 5,500 miles to our car’s odometer and subtracting many thousands of dollars from our bank account). Live for today, right?
  • I’ve now begun the arduous and somewhat painful task of introducing myself to a job market that doesn’t know who the heck I am (nor should they, since I’ve never lived or worked here).
  • So I’ve written 12-15 strategic emails to either people I know, or people recommended to me by people I know. And I hope to grow that network exponentially, of course.
  • I’ve tried to arrange meetings with people doing work that most closely aligns with what I’d like to do — I think.
  • I’ve received some help from a headhunter (another friend of a friend) who helped me reframe my resume and polish it a bit. I haven’t hunted for a job for almost three decades. Lots has changed. There was even a momentary flirtation with a job. More on that in the future. Maybe.
  • And I’m trying to let anyone who needs freelance reporting, editing or help publishing projects that I’m around and available.
  • I’m continuing to write letters and making phone calls. But late summer seems to be a difficult time to get people to return your messages. I’m trying to be patient. I know I’m not anyone’s priority right now. That’s humbling, but understandable.

In the meantime? Well, I’ve been doing some work for AUBG’s office of marketing and communication. Editing, mostly, and helping strategize future communication plans. I’m hoping they’ll keep me on for the coming school year, which would allow me to work remotely and stay connected to the school.

The other complicating factor — but also a safety valve for us: We’re currently on a one-year leave. If things don’t work out — if I don’t land a real solid job — we can (and will?) return to Bulgaria and leap back into the world of academia. And that’s not so bad, after all.

But, hey, in the spirit of the job hunt — do you know anyone who needs a word guy in Chicago?

Gearing up for AUBG graduation with my friend Len Berisha.

Gearing up for AUBG graduation with my friend Len Berisha.



  1. Good luck Mark. Job hunting is mentally exhausting, but the right one will come at the right time.

  2. I will think hard! I know some folks in Chicago…. good luck. (And you’ll find something. Maybe not perfect, but ….)

  3. Proud of you, Dad!

  4. I don’t know anyone in Chicago (except you, of course!) but I’m happy to serve as a reference — and I’ll be just as happy to send freelance work your way, if I hear of anything. I’m very confident you’ll land on your feet, though. You’re smart, skilled, and emotionally intelligent. The world is your oyster, Mark.

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