White Collar Reset: The two-minute pitch

So it's come to this. Eight months into my job search, eight months of clinging to my old magazine journalism career like an alcoholic clutching his last Scotch, I arrive at the weekly Penn Station Meeting of The Five O'Clock Club seeking absolution and a new life. The Club, one of the country's largest executive and professional job coaching firms (in addition to three physical branches in New York City, it holds eight teleconference branches in the Eastern and Central time zones each week), reports that of the 17,000 people it's helped over the past decade, 58 percent change careers. Given the woeful state of my former industry, the statistic provides a kind of anxious hope on the same week the stock market has shrugged off news that continuing jobless claims have now reached the highest level since the statistic was first recorded, in 1967.

The meeting is held every Wednesday evening in a large fifth-floor conference room directly across Seventh Avenue from the station. The crowd of fifty includes a handful of men in their twenties, a smattering of African-American, Asian and Hispanic women, and a lot of white, middle-aged males, the 21st century's answer to The Man In the Grey Flannel Suit. Looking around the room, I count 13 (sorry, make that 14) bald or balding heads. The smell of Old Spice and stale coffee fills the air.