Sunday 5 April 2009

Going insane: How not to find a job (but do network)

Unemployed and looking for a job – unsuccessfully? I’ve been there, friend. A number of times.

I was even jobless in America for a while. This was back in the early 1990s when “It’s the economy, stupid” was the mantra that would eventually help Bill Clinton win the US presidency. Those seem like the good old days now.

I was financially desperate enough that I signed up to be a human guinea pig in a drug trial.

For a few thousand dollars, all I had to do was stay in this dorm-like facility for three weeks with 15 other males aged between 18 and 45, take some mystery pill at the prescribed time and kill time by playing video games most of the day.

The only side effect was I wasn’t able to produce any semen. How I “accidentally” discovered this by myself cannot be described in a family newspaper. (I was masturbating in the bathtub.)

Also, I would occasionally feel so depressed – because of my unemployability and also because I had just went through a really bad break-up – that I talked to my fellow inmates about killing myself.

Or did the drug have something to do with it?

So a psychiatrist was called in to counsel me. I remember he asked if I was familiar with handling firearms. I told him I was trained to use the M16 rifle in the army during my national service. He seemed alarmed by this.

The next day, I was out of the drug trial and moved to a psychiatric hospital.

During group therapy, I came to know the other patients. One woman was there because she was obsessed about losing her hair, which I thought was hilarious but refrained from making fun of her.

Another patient was a 50something silver-haired gentleman who ran his own one-man specialty travel agency and suffered panic attacks. His name was Hal.

It was also during group that I mentioned I was looking for a job. Hal asked what I did. I said I did some desktop publishing. He said he was looking for someone to lay out travel brochures for him and asked if I was interested. Yes, I was.

So I called Hal after we were both discharged from the hospital and I designed brochures for him for about a year until I returned to Singapore.

Now I’m not suggesting that to find a job, you need to join a drug trial, become suicidal and be admitted to a mental institution. That would be crazy, not mention way too much trouble – although it worked for me.

The moral of the story is that you should always network at every opportunity – even when you’re in an insane asylum. Otherwise, you’re just nuts.

- Published in The New Paper, 4 Apr 2009