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A Guy At His Computer
project jobhunt
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In my last post I talked about how I'm taking advantage of the "Gig Economy" to make my unemployment savings last longer by shoveling snow. It's not always snowing so I'm adding a little something different to the pot. For quite some time I've wanted to develop A Guy At His Computer which is basically a kind of telephone concierge service for people who need information but don't want to fuss with a mobile app. Such a service would not be complicated, it would literally just be a guy (me) sitting at his computer taking calls, Googling, and providing information to callers.

While I find myself sitting on my ass a lot these days filling out online apps and waiting for callbacks it occurred to me this is actually a great time to develop and test the concept. Maybe even make a little side scratch via tips from extremely satisfied callers. Hence, I spent today coding it up and releasing a crude framework of operation and will officially launch on Monday. Starting then, anyone needing information from the Interwebs can dial my number and give me a chance to provide it.

Here's an example conversation I imagine:

A Guy At His Computer: "Hi, thank you for calling A Guy At His Computer, how can I help you?"

Caller: 'I'm standing here waiting for the university shuttle. Do you know where it is right now? I'm a student at UB at the South Campus loop area."

A Guy At His Computer: "No problem, they have a live shuttle tracker, let me just pull up the express route GPS map."

Caller: "Thanks!"

A Guy At His Computer: (after some clicking and typing noise) "Ah, a shuttle just crossed Sheridan Avenue and is headed your way."

Caller: "Awesome, that's about 5 minutes or so then, thanks a lot Guy!"

A Guy At His Computer: "No problem, thanks for calling A Guy At His Computer!"

Mind you this initial launch is not the "enterprise" version of the service, just a crude example of it based on the budget and time I have to actually run it. If it tests well and I fall into a few thousand dollars someday, perhaps I'll grow it into something that looks legit. Right now I just need to toy with it in a loose way to see if it's viable and what kind of issues crop up.

The service lives under the domain aguyathiscomputer.com but for now it just forwards to the guts of it all at davethewebguy.com.

For more information check the links below.

Linkage

Joining The Gig Economy For Now
jobhunt
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I'm going to shovel snow. I'm breaking in with a manual snow-shoveling crew to make money while waiting for a prospective long-term employer.

Picture of Misty our cat sitting on ping pong table.

Some people are as good at ping-ponging between job opportunities as Misty is at actual ping pong!

Fortunately in Buffalo all that snow I talked about earlier needs to be cleared and crews crop up ad hoc to do so. It's all part of the new "Gig Economy" which is perfect for people in my situation and maybe many others. Positive cash flow, necessary work, fun to do. Don't ask me how or why but I love shoveling snow and vacuuming carpets.

Would You Post This If You Were Job Hunting?
jobhunt
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It is typically considered the worst thing in the world to be blogging about a job hunt in progress when one knows full well the potential of curious HR departments and managers to discover it through a simple Google search. The possibility of saying the wrong thing, accidentally disclosing non-favorable attributes or facts about one's history or habits, exposing contrary political leanings to those of a key hiring figure, or just putting a bad twist on some phrase that leaves someone otherwise on the fence thinking 'blech!, nah', are all very real potentially unintended consequences.

And yet, I really want to talk about the hunt. It's part of my 'be honest' mantra on this iteration of the personal blog. True, to gratify myself may be risking a decent life here in Buffalo or anyplace beyond, but I grit my teeth, at the same time, that something a good person could say in reasonable form, could in any actuality cost them a position. The idea of being shut out of a position because I have a communicative personality, enjoy writing, and admittedly enjoy presenting myself here and at my previous and concurrent blogs with a benign narcissistic flair, kind of turns me off. So is blogging a problem or a test for all parties involved? Let's not presume all the world is that uptight.

In my very particular case I think being so open and accessible online actually helps my situation. I am, after all, a bit old to be searching for work and blogging and developing my presence online shows people I am dynamic and well attuned to the ways and means of today's digital workflow. I can mention to people I've actually written and distributed a pretty good blogging engine from the ground up, by way of example, (a tribute to technical aptitude, not professional coding, to be sure) but maybe my soft nature leaves interviewers rather doubting it. Listing my various hobby projects at my website should demonstrate at least a basic ability to use an FTP client, work with databases and HTML, and a wide range of other technical skills it takes to bring these things alive. These aren't massive accomplishments in the traditional sense; I'm not rich for all the time I put into everything, but they should push a potential employer over a mere chuckle about hit-the-ground-running capabilities.

Most importantly my blog is a vehicle to dispel rampant erroneous negative information one might uncover about me online. Specifically I'm talking about that guy who used my personal information in the 90s whenever he was arrested, which resulted in Google pollution against my name. I posted a web page to assist 'casual' researchers of my name in making sure they understood not to confuse me with him, though, in time I would learn that employers don't actually rely on Google searches leading to personal home pages to qualm fears over official records.

Because I couldn't count on employer searches alone vindicating me is why this past year I worked with the courts to finally set the official record straight. Thanks to a particular helpful individual in the court system 'my' false record was finally cleaned up, but the question left is, does it matter? Do private background checking companies synchronize with adjusted court records or not? It's not like any of them owe you an explanation or employers are required to disclose to what extent a background checking company factored into their decision making. Bringing the matter up online in a forum I control is, still then, one way I have to make sure someone who's really settled on me as a candidate stays that way. For those not settled but on the fence instead?, the impact is uncertain. Ultimately I have to choose whether to disclose drama (actually guilty of what erroneous court records say or not, isn't it a headache to have think about it? Aren't there 'cleaner' candidates to whisk through?) or hide it.

Strategically I imagine myself to be looking for the 'whale' position in roles I believe I might thrive in to everyone's satisfaction, and yet provide a secure financial basis for my new life with Nirvie. There are many of those in Buffalo, particularly federal government positions and within any number of Buffalo's universities. But much like Wilkes-Barre, my hometown which I recently left after a brief layover from New York City, Buffalo is 'kind of' economically depressed. Great jobs are viciously coveted and the odds are stacked against anyone paying attention to my digital line item on their side of the online application screen.

So, I have an equal concurrent stategy to take what I can, so long as I believe I can thrive at it (and of course my potential employer also so believes), and turn it into a whale job by putting every effort into developing it as such. Right now my (our) cost of living is cheap while Nirva concentrates on school and I have virtually no debt in my life - I can afford the run, if there's a qualified future to it. I have a small catalog of industries and positions I am working on in order to make that happen. The difficulty with this particular front is convincing employers I'm serious about sticking with them even at initially low wages.

My job status today as a 49-year-old job-hunting Homer is a challenging one but I wouldn't change anything about what brought me to this point. I mean, of course, there are behaviors and decisions I might have changed to the extent the journey here might be less turbulent; a smart man learns from his mistakes. But my wanderlust and my convictions are part of who I am and what generate real value to my employer of tomorrow. Here is where I would ultimately wind up in any universe albeit perhaps with less experience and wisdom and thus with less prospect.

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