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Leitch still contributes his Life as a Loser column to the financially bereft Ironminds site, but no longer sees the title as ironic. Last week he was staying in Pseudo.com founder Josh Harris's WeLiveinPublic.com loft, not out of any exhibitionist tendencies, but because he was homeless, and a friendInside.com writer Greg Lindsaywas caretaking the webcam-loaded loft while Harris was away.
Leitch had gone home to Mattoon, Illinois, shortly after getting laid off. "I told all my friends I was leaving to work on a book," he says. "And it was true. But I was out of money. So I went back to my dopey town that I left to make it big in New York." He returned to the city at the end of December, book incomplete, expecting to get a job within a month. Reality hit like an anvil. Leitch says he makes checking online media resources such as MediaBistro.com and InscriptionsMagazine.com a daily routine and has sent out more than 100 résumés. "I've only gone on four or five interviews," he says. "And then, only because I knew people at the company. At this point, all I want is a job where, at five o'clock, I hate it so much that all I want to do is come home. That sounds fantastic to me right now."
Marilyn Matty, the new media recruiter for Judy Wald Partners, a midtown headhunting agency, has seen dramatic changes since she began a year and a half ago. "When I first started, people were taking jobs to play the horses," she says. "They'd only want jobs with X number of stock options. A lot of people did that, and a lot of horses didn't win."
Now, Matty says, it's those who are less demanding who are finding work. "A lot of people started with new media and were paid high salaries without a traditional media background. We've had people come in here who've had a year or two of experience and are making 45 or 50 thousand dollars. They are having to take a step back. If you are realistic and have done good work, there are jobs out there. But part of being realistic is realizing that it might not be your first job of choice."
Leitch and Beltran say they apply to any position they feel they are remotely qualified for. Jacks laughs at the suggestion she's being too picky. "I look at every job I see, long and hard," she says. "The other day I saw an ad for an assistant at Childmagazine. I was like 'Could I do that job? I mean, I don't really like children. . . . ' "
For those who can afford it, additional training might be a good idea, suggests Alice O'Rourke, executive director of the New York New Media Association. "There are a thousand jobs on NYNMA's Web site at any given moment," she says. "There is very little disconnect between the number of people looking for jobs and the number of jobs. The disconnect exists between the skills of the younger people looking for jobs and the jobs. No one is saying that you have to be a C++ programmer. But there are clearly technological skills that you might pick up."
Jade Walker, the editor of Inscriptions.com, says she has noticed the trend toward required technical skills in jobs posted on her site. "Publishers aren't looking for good writers or editors anymore," she says. "They want to find someone who can write, edit, surf the Net, be an expert in every current computer program, and have journalistic ethics."
Jacks accepts a need for broader training. "I've contemplated going back to school and learning HTML, or other things that might make me more eligible for a new media kind of world," she says. "My fiancé is a Web producer and he's bringing home books. I'm trying to learn some technological skills. It's sort of disheartening to me, because at this point, I can word process."
The biggest skill young techies need now may be the ability to survive a recessionsomething they've just never had to do. "I think there are a lot of young people who are dealing with a glitch in the economy for the first time," says Matty. "There were jobs waiting for them out of school, and the economy has been good for as long as most of them can remember. Things really aren't that bad out there."
Lessons are certainly being learned. "We all knew that layoffs were coming at Ironminds," recalls Leitch. "But I didn't want to believe it. Right until the last minute, I wasn't looking for work. Most of us weren't. I had my dream job. I think when a lot of people talk about dotcommers, they say, 'Oh, they failed,' and they think it was all about the money. But it wasn't, really. We just wanted to take over the world. We were all like 'The New York Timesdidn't appreciate us,' and 'Citysearch didn't appreciate us.' I look back now and think I was so stupid. But at the time, I thought I deserved a great job. I was a good writer. I deserved these things. When I was laid off, I was convinced I was employable to everyone. I thought they would find me."