For reasons we might want to explore at some other time, I spent over 30 years toiling in the corporate vineyards as an advertising copywriter – an occupation which enjoys a level of social prestige roughly equivalent to that of garbage collector, lawyer, and snake oil salesman – although to be sure – the latter group is begrudgingly afforded a modicum of respect since almost everyone abhors a squeaky snake. I know I do. But I digress. Writers, as you know, are a disreputable lot. As a rule they live in culverts, subsist on scraps of food left by others in greasy spoon diners on the outskirts of town, frequently showing up for work with three day’s of stubble, pockets crammed with losing lottery tickets, reeking of bourbon and cheap cigars. The men are even worse! As a bipolar dipsomaniac with a chronic attitude problem that includes contempt for authority, you can imagine I lost and found and lost employers the way others misplace car keys. Some jobs were submerged deep within the bowels of soulless corporations shamelessly exploiting the witless populace, while others resided in neurosis factories referred to as advertising agencies where paranoia, throat-slitting, and British wardrobes were passed off as creativity.
Those of us who fit the description “mentally ill” face exceptional challenges when it comes to networking, career advancement, and interviewing techniques. Johnny All-American Lunchbucket probably never had to explain away that year in a Turkish prison to a horrified Human Resources executive. And yet, for the likes of us, that is not even an exceptional challenge. The mentally ill – (extra-normally enabled) – job seeker needs to be ready with plausible explanations for suspicious terminations, demotions, and outstanding warrants. Honesty is always the best policy, but, bear in mind that when you are talking about intergalactic chess tournaments played in five-dimensional swimming pools, your interviewer simply isn’t qualified to understand you. There is a fine art to crafting alternate explanations that might conceivably be true and satisfy your HR representative’s need to fill out a form that will never be read, or even touched, by anyone else. It is your responsibility to make yourself easy to hire, and one of the ways you do this is by discussing your past in terms that do not fill prospective employers with dread.