I spent Halloween day and the first day of Day of the Dead in this workshop in Laurel that was sponsored by the state of Maryland on how to improve our job hunting skills. I’m still looking for a new day job since my stint at a startup went spectacularly bad back in May. I’ll admit that I was less than thrilled with the timing of that two-day workshop but I went through with it any way because I really need money bad so I can do things like pay off debts, make a bunch of minor home improvements (which all cost money), and a few other things that I really don’t want to go into at the moment. I also wasn’t sure if another workshop was going to be scheduled before the end of the year. (I’m glad I did it because it’s late November and there have been no announcement of any repeat of that workshop.)

I spent both days in this conference room in the same office building where I worked my first post-college job, which I’ll get into later. I was stuck in the back of the room both days but behind my seat was this window that provided an overlook of the local commercial area of Laurel. I periodically took photographs outside that window on October 31.

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The following day I ended up in that same seat in the back. Since the day was more cloudy and less sunny than the previous day, I decided to take a few more pictures of the view from outside that window.

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The second day was November 1. During one of our breaks I took a walk around the Laurel Shopping Center, which is adjacent to the building I was in. I happened to be standing in front of this Haunted House when I noticed that Christmas music was already playing on the public address system. This was going on despite the fact that Halloween was the day before and there was a Haunted House featuring a large cardboard standee of Chucky the killer doll from the Child’s Play movies. I shot this short video showing the total cognitive dissonance. I wrote about it a couple of weeks ago but I’m going to embed this video once again because there’s nothing quite like hearing cheerful Christmas music while standing in front of a giant homicidal doll named Chucky.

The last photograph shows the building where the two-day workshop took place. It’s now known as the Laurel College Center because it’s a joint operation of Prince George’s Community College and Howard Community College. Other companies and agencies also occupy that building, such as the Maryland Workforce Exchange, the state agency responsible for the two-day workshop that I attended. My first post-college job was in that very same building, back when I worked for the Arbitron Ratings Company. At the time this building was known as the Arbitron Building because it occupied the whole building. Its name was on the top of the building in blue letters and it lit up at night.

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I worked at Arbitron for a few years as a telephone interviewer. I worked on the fourth floor of that building. My job was to call people begging them to keep a diary for one week where they wrote what they watched on television or listened to on the radio. Arbitron would use the data gathered from those diaries and come up with ratings which it would send to the various TV and radio stations across the United States. My job sounded glamorous for about the first week or two but it quickly lost its luster with me because that job was really dull and stressful at times. It was a challenge trying to find people willing to take part in the ratings survey for one week. I had a lot of hangups and people screaming at me. It definitely wasn’t fun.

A few years after I left the company, Arbitron decided to get out of the TV ratings business altogether, which left Nielsen as the only ratings company that did TV. Arbitron became a radio-only ratings company, which led to it laying off half of its workforce. Subsequently Arbitron moved to a smaller building in Columbia and the Laurel building was left vacant for a few years. (Arbitron was purchased by its competitor, Nielsen, in 2012 and it’s now known as Nielsen Audio.)

At one point I toyed around with going back to school for retraining. I looked into the Art Institute in Arlington but I decided against going there because there was something off about that school. (You can read more about that experience in my 2015 rant How I Dodged an Expensive Bullet From the Art Institute.) I also checked out the Computer Learning Center, which had set up operations in the former Arbitron Building. I waked in the first floor office and the receptionist on duty told me that all of the sales reps were in a meeting. I asked for a course catalog and she only gave me a color brochure about the school saying that I would have to meet with a sales rep in order to get a course catalog. I was turned off by that response. It turned out that, like the Art Institute, I had dodge another expensive bullet since it would subsequently file for bankruptcy and was ultimately closed by the federal government.

So I was back at the same building where I worked my first post-college job all those years ago and it was because I wanted to improve my job hunting skills. I felt like my life had come full circle.

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