THE BLOG
11/16/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Will Work for Charity

''Job Offer Vanishes!" is the title of the cover story in a recent issue of National Enquirer. Unfortunately, I saw a reflection of my own experience in that headline staring back at me while waiting in the checkout line at Ralphs this morning.

You see, the L.A.-based firm that offered me a job a month ago has retracted its offer. An expected contract that was to have funded my position is held up and God knows when it will come through, if at all. So I have lost an albeit slow summer month in my search for a new job and suffered an unwelcome blow to my professional self-esteem. As I spend down my severance buying coffee for gracious colleagues at informational interviews at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and prance around the Web with my virtual sandwich board reading "Hire Me," I have become the victim of a confluence of unfortunate events, not the least of which is the Great Recession.

In May, I was let go from a job so terrific that back in 2005 when I was hired I couldn't have written a better job description. The job was pretty unique - I was the director of charitable giving and political director for a large privately held L.A.-based holding company. My day-to-day charge was to build strategic charitable and business partnerships for a raft of interesting and successful agricultural and consumer product goods operating companies, and vetting candidates for federal, state and local office. But also I was tasked with creating, managing and marketing a unique employee-directed corporate giving program, starting and running a corporate foundation, managing the owners' family foundation, and helping out on a number of special projects including the establishment of a central valley charter school.

What had been an unseasonably cool June, July and August in Los Angeles for me has been a long hot summer. Like the parched, brown Southern California landscape gasping for precious imported water from the delta, it has been for me a pretty barren job search so far. The dud offer described above and a few meaningful nibbles but mostly bubkes (nothing), as they say in Pico Robertson.

Please remind my wife and three kids that we will be OK. Assure them that with my loaded BlackBerry and a strong presence on every networking site from LinkedIn to Twitter, the close of summer will bring a better employment picture and I will return to work. Tell them that someone out there will find me soon and save us from becoming yet another Southern California mortgage statistic.

And for all of you unemployed Westsiders with kids in private school, feel free to ask me about our generally good experience with LAUSD. Boy, I am glad we never fled the much maligned and admittedly uneven district for the equally uneven but costly private schools. As my son sat in high school orientation recently he was surprised to see kids he hadn't seen since elementary school when they peeled off for Crossroads, Brentwood and Harvard-Westlake. I wasn't surprised at all to hear that so many had come back to public education.

As you read this, I know you are probably thinking, with so many Angelenos at all levels of the food chain out of work, why shed a tear for a director of charitable giving searching for a job? Some may even smirk and say aloud, "What a luxury it is for a company to have a position like this in the first place."

But, like the canary in the coal mine, the job market for corporate giving professionals says a great deal about the state of the L.A. economy. And, when businesses lose their commitment to the community, we all lose out. Just ask Homeboy Industries, the Weingart Center, and other model social service programs struggling to meet an increased demand for their services in a funding environment that has drastically slashed their budgets.

Or better yet, ask one of the unemployed M.B.A.s, lawyers or other former recession-proof professionals jostling for a quiet café table at which to hold an informational interview.

With the local economy showing modest gains in indicators such as a rise in Southern California home prices, let's all hope that the Great Recession is coming to a close and that everyone will be getting back to work soon. I, for one, can't wait to find myself sitting in traffic on the freeway on the way to work very soon.

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