"It’s easy to get lazy. You can get very lazy when there’s nobody watching. It’s tough to stay focused.” he says, seemingly pleased to have someone to talk to.
Clay is focused on finding a job. He says it’s the toughest job he’s ever had.
"It’s not easy. Sometimes it’s a discouraging. You have to keep looking forward. You have to stay positive. You have to force yourself to keep going. You can’t let yourself procrastinate.”
Clay’s regimented approach to his job search is self taught, learned at the school of hard knocks, through trial and error.
“I’ve probably posted to about thirty to forty positions.”
It took several errors for Clay to learn he has to structure his day just as he would if he were going to work for an employer. That was lesson one.
Lesson two – something that may not seem to matter but which, for Clay, is crucial -- get dressed.
"Even though I may not see anybody all day long,” he says, standing and modeling his business casual attire – khaki slacks and a long-sleeve button-down shirt – I’ve got to project an image to my wife and kids and to myself that I’ve got it together personally.”
What prospective employers will see today are this job seeker’s resumes. That’s plural. He sends out as many different documents as there are job openings.
Lesson three – custom-made resumes.
Each one, he insists, has to be designed to fit the position for which he’s applying. Each one has to portray who Clay really is and what he’s all about.
"Dynamic. Innovative. Colorful.” he says, as he described himself matter-of-factly. Clay is soft-spoken but clearly very confident.
Weldon’s work demonstrates why. He has worked as a director of creative services, a graphics artist and designer, and a marketing consultant for companies across the country. For about a dozen organizations, Clay’s creations are their public image.
This morning, he’s hoping to get the attention of a company called BackCountry.com, a
“I lost a custom screw on a pair of ski bindings I bought from BackCountry,” he says with a smile, staying focused on the computer screen where he’s working. “They couldn’t replace it so in no time they set me up with a new set of replacement bindings. They take care of their customers. I want to be a part of this company.”
Clay will spend the next three hours, studying the job posting, paying close attention to the wording of the job description, its requirements, and the description of the ideal candidate for the position.
"Ideation and providing leadership in a cross-functional setting to provide new ideas.” he recites.
This reporter, who sometimes fancies himself a wordsmith, has no idea what any of that means but apparently Clay speaks the language. “That’s what I’m all about,” he confidently announces to me. “That’s what I do!”
Sometimes, Clay does it free of charge. One of his freelance clients, who make it possible for him to pay the family’s essential bills, is a non-profit advocacy agency in
Lesson four – volunteer.
"Who knows what can happen from that?” he says. “Plus, as a person, as a guy, you feel like you’re needed, and that’s important.”
Just as important, Clay says, is making sure partner and spouse Julie feels important.
Lesson five – report to your partner.
At the end of a twelve hour day, Clay reviews his work with Julie – resumes built and sent, applications submitted, calls dialed, decision makers contacted, questions asked, answers received, progress made. Whether or not any of it helps him find a job, it helps him manage a relationship with his wife that, admittedly, has been strained by the stress of economic hardship.
"If I never talked to her it would be like, ‘What’s he doing all day in that office?’” Clay says.
Having something to report is another challenge entirely. Clay works in a veritable vacuum, waiting weeks or sometimes months to hear anything from prospective employers, almost all of whom tell applicants “Don’t call us. We’ll call you.”
He’s been waiting for more than a month for word back from a company that was once considered one of his hottest leads. He won’t tell me the name of the company. “I don’t want to jinx my chances,” he says.
I decide to put him on the spot. “Would you be willing to call the company now and let us watch?” My photographer, Dan Salmon, immediately zooms in on his subject’s face to get the response.
The corner of Clay’s mouth turns up. He squints ever so slightly. “Sure.” He says.
Three phone calls. Two go to the quiet employer. They’re answered by machines. One goes to a case worker at the placement company that gave Clay the lead. A person answers. Clay reintroduces himself and asks for information on the client company’s talent search, for which he was one of three final candidates a little more than a month ago.
“I don’t know anything about that search,” she says, somewhat apologetically. Clay asks if she can call and find out. Another apology, and the woman says she can’t call for an update.
Lesson six – no one cares about your job search nearly as much as you do. Besides, no headhunter is going to annoy the client company that pays its fees.
Clay Weldon keeps working, alone in his office, doing his tedious, thankless job … for no pay.