The wrong kind of attention.

September 29, 2011

So it has recently come to my attention that people still read this thing!  Go figure.  Honestly, this started as an outlet for my unemployment rage, but as my rage subsided into acceptance, I lost some of that “must bitch about things on the internet” fire.  But hey, there are still things to talk about!  One of the biggest reasons I haven’t really been around is that I got married a couple weeks ago!  The plans were all made pre-lay-off, and since she still still loves me even though I’m a fat bum who sits around the house all day, we went through with it.  It sure would be nice to have money to spend on a honeymoon, but hey, it is what it is.

So I acquired a brand spanking new resume, with fancy lettering and words and other super impressive qualities that are hard to really describe.  Suffice it to say that it has been getting some hits.  I’ve been on a couple interview recently- nothing really to talk about yet, as I’ve learned to control my post-interview excitement these days, but time will tell.  But at the same time, I seem to be getting a lot of calls about really sub-par positions.  Like, a lot of calls.  Like, “I now screen any and every number I don’t recognize” calls because I don’t want to talk to these people.  A lot of the voicemails are from companies who have 1 or 2 stars for employee satisfaction from, which is pretty pathetic.  And yeah, the most vocal people about a job are the ones who hate it, but still- they had a poor experience for a reason.  And I know some of you are screaming “Hey, it’s a job, look into it!”  But in this economy, I flat out refuse to get into any sort of commissioned sales position where I have to make cold-calls to people who have probably been ignoring calls from that phone number for years now.  Hell, one of the reviews said that if you didn’t make a sale by noon, they sent you home for the day.  What the heck is that?!

And seriously, recruiters- if you or your website can’t tell me what the job actually IS, then maybe you’re doing this wrong.  I just got a call from a company whose office is around an hour away from me (and 2 stars on Glass Door), and they didn’t even tell me why they called me, other than that they saw me on CareerBuilder and “thought they’d give me a call”.  A call to do what?  Just chat about your day?  What do you want from me?  So I go to their website.. and I guess they’re a call-center or something, but I have no idea what the heck they actually DO.  And for the love of Pete, did every insurance company on the PLANET get my phone number?  I’m sure there are people who do very well in these sorts of positions, but I’m not one of them, and I really don’t know what part of my resume makes you think otherwise.  Sure, I worked for an electronics store and made commission on some sales, but certainly not everything!  I lived off of my normal salary.  Commission was- and should be for every job that offers it- icing on the cake.  I get the whole “you don’t get paid unless we do” mentality, but damn, give me something for my time and effort!

Tomorrow, I get to do one of my least favorite things- call someone I interviewed with and see if they’ve made a decision.  Since, hypothetically, if they HAD made a decision in my favor, I more than likely wouldn’t have to call them in the first place..  Such is life.


Once more, with feeling

August 22, 2011

Well hey there.  It’s been a while.  I went a bit crazy with rapid-fire posts when I started this blog, and I kind of burnt myself out early.  Quite frankly, I ran out of stories.  And in the meantime, I picked up a temporary position at a college book store, and worked that out for a few weeks.  But that’s all come to an end, and I think I finally have things to talk about again.

So yeah, you read that right- I had a job for a bit!  But I didn’t make a big deal about it here, because, well, I wasn’t quite comfortable bragging at the time.  And now I know that it was for good reason.  It was one of those temporary, seasonal bits, with the added “but if you really bust your ass for minimum wage, we might throw you a bone and make you permanent” type deals.  So I went in, jumped through all the hoops, worked the long days for little pay, dealt with the awful Western Blvd traffic in Raleigh, and got two and a half weeks of pay out of it before the self-fulfilling prophecy of a “temporary” job came to fruition.  It’s frustrating, though-  I had the thing I had been searching for.  It wasn’t the ideal thing, but it was a thing.  And then it was gone.  Poof!  Like magic.  It was like some bad joke, like a twenty dollar bill on a bit of fishing line.  It was a break from the tedium of never ending job applications and the subsequent rejection letters.  It was nice.  And then it was gone.  So here I am, once again- on the prowl for my next round of unemployment-waiting-to-happen.

So I have put out some applications, to many varied places.  Same old story with those- takes too long to fill out the same info over and over, with the same stupid questionnaires.  It’s maddening.  And do you know what’s worse?  Today, I filled out an application with a long, timed questionnaire at the end.  It was for a Supervisor position, which I’m very familiar with.  Similar jobs make up the bulk of my resume.  It took around an hour- one hour of the 24 that I get today, an hour that I’ll never get back, sitting at my computer answering the same stupid questions I’ve answered on a thousand other applications- but this one was different.  The text for the questions was INCREDIBLY small.  Like, bizarrely small.  It didn’t make sense.  The answer blocks were the right size- probably 12 point Arial, very readable.  The font for the questions? 6 point Arial.  6.  I’m not exaggerating.  If it were smaller, it wouldn’t have been discernible as letters on my screen, just a mash of pixels.  Yes, I know you can zoom in on web browsers, but it made the answer text incredibly huge, and every time I finished a 4-question page on the 64 question test, it would revert back to normal as soon as I clicked “Next”, so it wasn’t worth it.  So I finish it, leaning into my screen squinting like I needed new reading glasses, and I finished the application.  Within 8 or 10 seconds of hitting “Submit”, I got an email letting me know that my application had been successfully submitted.  And I’m absolutely not exaggerating here, I’ve looked at the time stamps- within the next 10 seconds, I got a rejection email from the job I had JUST applied to.  That’s it!  They just said “You just wasted a friggin’ hour of your life, you loser.  Deal with it.”  Really?  Are there speed-readers poised at dozens of terminals across the country just waiting to read incoming applications?

I’m not a felon, I’m not a financial risk, I don’t have limited availability.  I’m a solid candidate for the position.  Anybody could see that!  But that’s just it.  Nobody read my application.  I’m sure a computer did.  It found some minute detail that it didn’t like and kicked me to the curb.  At least humans have the decency to give you a few minutes to process everything before they slap you in the face.  So what was it?  Was $10 an hour too much to ask for a Supervisor role?  Was 3 years of management experience coupled with 8 years of customer service and a Bachelor’s degree too much for your poor little company?  Or was it that you’re relying too heavily on a flawed system by requiring good people to spend inordinate amounts of time answering inane questions on your obnoxiously formatted questionnaire?

Finally, I ran into this comic the other day from the creators of the always hilarious Penny Arcade.


(Click to make it bigger)

Credit where credit is due: “The Trenches”  “Penny Arcade”

Even unemployed, I still have meetings.

June 30, 2011

So hey.  It’s been a while.  What’s new with you guys?  I’m still.. you know.. bored, broke, jobless, going out of my mind sitting at home all day.  My diet is suffering because I’m not active as much.  And I’m at home.  With food.  All day.

Part of your unemployment benefits deal is that you have to attend whatever classes they make you.  My first go-around with unemployment was a couple years ago, and it wasn’t as bad as it is now.  I honestly think I got more money every week- something closer to $200-, and I was still living with Mom, so it was all a lot easier to deal with.  Now I have my own place, and rent, and bills, and my own groceries, and it’s just.. well, it’s maddening.  To add to my frustration, I was randomly selected to start attending “workshops” at the unemployment office.  Mandatory workshops.  “Show up or we don’t pay you anymore” workshops.  And that’s fine.  They’re trying to help me.  Awesome.  So here’s how that went:  I showed up early to a crowed room of people- 30, at least, with one little old lady checking everyone in at the door.  Some were well dressed, some were in normal clothes, some were in pajamas, and some looked like they live in a shopping cart behind a K-mart.  Eventually, a man came out and asked for everyone who had gotten the letter to attend the workshop was to follow him.  Most of us got up and trotted along after him and were led to a little room in the back where we were greeted with name tags and folders.  We all sat down and tried to avoid eye contact with one another and waited for him to get started.  Here’s the thing- I thought- and everyone thought- that this was some one-on-one interview or something.  The letter says that this was a “Reemployment and Eligibility Assessment Program”.  Hey, I’m eligible to be reemployed!  I just saved you guys a ton of time!  Can I go now?

But no.  I was forced to be at this meeting, which I thought would be a one-on-one sit-down.  Everyone had questions, the first of which being how long this would take.  Three and a half hours.  I was totally unprepared for THAT.  Sitting in this cramped little room with 20 strangers watching some presentation on where to hunt for jobs for three and a half hours.  Oh, but we weren’t being forced to be there!  But we’d lose all our unemployment benefits if we left.  Other than a folder with a bunch of job hunting advice (99% of which I already knew), I gained nothing from this experience.  I wrote down one thing- verbatim from my notepad: “Employers want more with less- less pay, less people, less benefits, less comfort”.  That’s all I wrote down.  I was going to blog about it, but I have already written so much to that effect that I had nothing else to say.

So the message of this three and a half hour meeting was “Keep job hunting!”  Awesome.  Thanks.  And that was when I realized something.  I looked down at my nice polo and slacks and comfy work shoes, and I looked over at the man with his infant in a carrier and the woman in rolled up pajama pants and a tank top, and I realized that I had just been lumped in with the people who don’t give a crap about this stuff.  Me, applying for a half dozen jobs a week, up til 3 or 4 a.m. filling out applications, getting a dozen job emails a day, talking to multiple friends for leads..  I’m there with the people who were fired for not showing up to work 8 times in a row or who had a bad drug test or who cursed out a customer.  And on an application, when the hiring manager sees that I’m unemployed, that’s what they’re going to think too!  In the U.S. job market caste system, I’ve just become an “untouchable”.

I have another mandatory three hour meeting on Friday, and I hope I glean some useful information from this one.  Thanks for sticking with me.  More to come!

This post needs more exclamation points!

June 20, 2011

Another day, another round of job applications.  You know what would make my life a thousand times easier?  If all the jobs in the world had one application that carried all the information needed to apply, and didn’t require you to re-type every single detail about yourself dozens of times every time you want to apply to a job.  Maybe they could even give it a French name.. like, I don’t know, résumé maybe?  We could drop the fruity accent marks.. This is America, dang it!  We don’t need no stinkin’ accents!

Well, wait a sec- resumes already exist!  I have one right here!  I put a lot of work into it, too!  Well then why in the hell am I forced to re-type all that information over and over and over again every time I want to apply to a job?!  And the worst part of it is, they still want your resume to go along with it all.  Guess what, employers? It’s the same information I just gave you in your online application!  And I get why you do it- I really do.  You’re trying to prevent the riff-raff who aren’t going to take the job seriously from applying.  That’s why you make us go through all that hard work.  But man, if you’re doing it several times a day while jobless, it starts to make your brain turn to mush.  That’s one of the reasons I started this blog- to prevent mush-brain.

The big job postings make you go through a 45 minute questionnaire for the same reason, too.  I wish there was an easier way to get through them, because every company’s is the same.  They are always stupid questions that want you to rate your response on a scale of 1-5, with 1 being “Strongly Disagree”, 3 being “Neutral, and 5 being “Strongly Agree”.  Well guess what, folks?  My insiders have spoken- anything that isn’t an extreme doesn’t even matter!  It doesn’t work that way in real life, though.  Life isn’t black and white- there are always shades of gray.  You just have to pretend that the gray isn’t there, and STRONGLY AGREE! with all the things that are positive, and STRONGLY DISAGREE! with all the things that are negative.

Maybe there should be a step in between.  Maybe take a look at my resume first, THEN decide you want to know something more about me?  Give me a time-frame.  Don’t make me take an hour to apply to a job that will probably never call me back in the first place.  I’ve already applied to 8 other jobs today, and by the time I get to yours, I really don’t give a crap anymore whether I STRONGLY AGREE! with your stance on whether it’s better to be part of a team or work on my own..

But yeah.. I’m out of things to say about that.  It was just on my mind, because it’s what I’ve been doing all morning.  Jumping through hoops, putting out applications, tweakin’ the old resume.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll get a brand new batch of generic, depressing email rejections so I can start the whole process all over again.  C’est la vie!  Au revoir jusqu’à la prochaine fois!

20 Second Rule

June 17, 2011

People are reading this! That is fantastic.  It’s amazing what happens when people listen.  You can convey thoughts and ideas that nobody knew you had.  Pass them on, make a difference, influence people’s thinking.  There is no better feeling than knowing you have a voice, and knowing you can be heard.

My resume is.. me!  Well, it’s not really me.  It doesn’t say what my favorite color is or what bands I like.  But it’s the “me” that will either make a potential employer pick up the phone and give me a call, or throw me in the trash.  One of the unwritten rules of resume building is that a resume has 20 seconds to get a potential employer’s attention.  That’s it.  20 seconds.  Time yourself- say everything there is to know about you in 20 seconds.  Go on.  I’ll wait..

It’s not easy, is it?  That’s one of the hardest parts of the job hunt.  Does my resume say what I need to say quickly enough to grab attention?  Then, there are other “unwritten rules” of the resume.  It should be neat.  Clean lines, succinct layout.  Bullets and indentation- but not too many bullets and indentations!  Then, it just looks like a mess.  You want to say all the important things about yourself- but you also don’t want to look like you’re bragging!  Keep it to one page.  Otherwise, the reader might be bored, and toss you away and pick up someone else.  There’s too much to keep up with!  And here’s a newsflash- what you learned about resume building in school is probably out of date.  Bet you didn’t know resume building had an expiration date, did you?  Now, everything has to be modular.  If you apply for a job where your education is a focus, put it at the top!  Not a focus?  Put it at the bottom.  Maybe don’t even put it at all!  That would save you from potentially being over-qualified.

Your resume is every scrap of information that your potential employer will ever know about you unless they call you in for a face-to-face interview.  You, on a two-dimensional piece of paper.  Thin, and fragile, and able to be destroyed by the clench of a fist or a trip through a shredder.  Isn’t it comforting that your future rests on something so delicate that it can be moved by a gust of wind?  What’s the harm in calling me in?  Just listen to what I have to say and see for yourself if I’m a good fit.  If not, you can kick me to the curb in 5 minutes.  That’s all it should take to know if you want to hear more.  Just 5 minutes out of your busy day.  You don’t really want to be working anyway, do you?  At worst, you’ve wasted 5 minutes.  At best, you’ve just found your ideal candidate- albeit one that needed more than 20 seconds to prove it.

But, hey, rejection from a job isn’t the end of the world, right?  “The worst you can hear is a ‘no’!”, and all that.  You’ll get an e-mail that says “We thank you for your interest in our company.  Unfortunately, we have decided to pursue other candidates at this time.”  Well, then it all comes down to why?  WHY wasn’t I good enough?  If I didn’t meet the requirements of your posting, I wouldn’t have applied!  What did the other candidates have that I didn’t?  You don’t even want to meet me?  See that I’m flesh and blood and bone, not some piece of scrap paper on your desk.  What part of my life on paper made you turn away in disgust and send me that bland, generic form letter of rejection rather than telling me the facts?  It’s like a bad break-up.  I’m not saying every employer should take the time to sit down with every applicant and lay out why they’re going a different direction, but it would certainly be nice to know a little bit about who is more worthy of paying their bills and putting food on the table than I am.  But no, I- with my lovingly crafted resume, every detail, every word, every bit of punctuation scrutinized- get the same generic rejection letter as the guy who wrote his resume on a used napkin five minutes before he handed it in.

But.. I know how it is.  There’s not enough time in the world to do that.  People get busy, and there are hundreds of applications for every job that gets posted.  So you have 20 seconds.  Just 20 seconds.  So tell me about yourself…  Ready?  Go.

My life in dollar signs

June 15, 2011

Hmm, it seems I’ve had some visitors already.  Feel free to comment.

So it occurred to me that not everybody reading this will have any experience at all with the unemployment process.  In North Carolina, to the best of my understanding, it works like this- one week after losing your job, you can apply for unemployment.  You basically tell them “hey, this is what I made, and this is where I worked”.  An agent will contact you by phone, and they will fax a form to your old employer.  They then confirm or deny the information and get the form back.  The faster they fill out this form and get it back to them, the faster you start getting your unemployment benefits.  If they don’t send it back, after a month or so, it’s a default “yes” and you get paid for all of your time that your old job wasted.  Luckily, this go-around, I started getting paid quickly.  To keep getting this pay-out, you have to go online every week and fill out a quick questionnaire, which is basically a series of Yes or No questions to the tune of “Did you work? Did you apply to jobs? Did you turn down work?”  Easy, peasy.  Now, when I get paid, I’m not talking “Scrooge McDuck swimming in gold coins” paid, I’m talking “there is no way you will ever be able to survive on this, so you best get a job soon” paid.  Let’s do some math now, shall we?

My weekly unemployment pay-out is $173 a week.  If you break this down into a 40 hour work week, that’s like getting paid a whopping $4.33 an hour!  I would have been filthy rich back in the 1920’s.  So maybe I could go out and get some other source of income- like a part time job, right?  Wrong.  Part of your “agreement” with the Employment Security Commission is that to receive these benefits, you can’t make more than a certain amount of money every week.  For me, that’s 35 buckaroos.  That’s like me having a minimum wage job for under 5 hours a week.  So yeah, I think I’m going to stay at home, thanks.  No need to try and better myself unless I find something permanent.  So what does $173 a week equate to?  Let’s say I get paid 4 times a month.  4 x 173= $692.  That’s like $8304 a year.  But my monthly rent is $600 a month, not to mention utilities, credit card payments, gas, groceries.. Oh, and my insurance is gone because I’m out of work.  Luckily, I have COBRA to help! (Note- COBRA is not nearly as awesome as it sounds.)  COBRA is the government’s gift to the unemployed- a continuation of your health benefits after losing your job.  The problem is, it’s REALLY expensive.  Like, hundreds of dollars a month.  For basic coverage.  Better not get hurt while you’re unemployed!  In fact, why even leave your bed?  Nobody is hiring anyway, and you can’t afford to do anything.  Just sleep the day away…

But no.  We have to soldier on.  We have to keep clawing our way through the dirt and mud until we land something- something that works, something that pays the bills, something that can help you get back on your feet.  So who do you look to for help?  Well, there are job agencies out there, but they’re flooded with people these days.  So you turn to friends.  Your “network”, as it’s called.  The problem is, most people don’t know how to respond to that question.  Sure, you want to help your buddy out, but you don’t always have anything.  So when you want to give advice, here are some things not to do.  And I am not- I AM NOT– saying NOT to give advice.. Just make sure it’s GOOD advice.

First off, don’t give your friend a nonchalant “Oh, just go get a job at X”, like that will solve all their problems.  Man, I was sure glad when my friend told me that I could go get a job at Skippy’s Wombat Emporium.  I donned my best wombat-wrangling attire, strode into the store, and announced loudly to the staff that I was their new employee!  After the police showed up, I discovered that, like everywhere else on the friggin’ planet, you can’t just snap your fingers and acquire a job wherever you’d like!  Telling someone to “get a job” to solve their unemployment problem is NOT advice!

Also, if you want to give someone leads, make sure they’re GOOD leads.  I appreciate leads- any lead I can get.. for the most part.  But if you’re telling me “Oh, Company X is hiring janitors for their new facility”, forgive me if I don’t jump for joy at the prospect of cleaning up after people.  Not that there’s anything wrong with being a janitor!  But, do you think, maybe, with my background and college and all that jazz, that I might not fit the mold of what they’re looking for in an ideal janitor?  I don’t even like cleaning my own house, but it’s a necessary evil, and I certainly haven’t done it professionally.  Even if I DID apply, they’d take one look at my resume and throw it out.

And I’m sure I’ll come up with something else, but this post is too long already.  If you’re reading- thanks.  I really do appreciate it.  Most of this is just venting, and if you’re in the same boat as me, you know all this already.  But it’s nice to be heard.  Until next time..

Stuck in the middle

June 15, 2011

That link is a story on about how crappy the job market is in the Raleigh/Cary area.  Great time to be on the hunt..

So, if you’ve been gainfully employed for your entire adult life, you may have no idea what this blog’s title is all about.  I graduated with a (nearly useless) Bachelor’s degree in History Education from East Carolina University in 2008.  Beyond my year of student teaching, which was horrible, I haven’t set foot inside a classroom.  It was a soul-crushing experience, and I’d give anything in the world to jump back a few years and change my major, but as Doc Brown closed up shop in the 80’s, George Carlin is dead, and my TARDIS is on the fritz, I have to make due with what I’ve got.  I worked a few retail gigs, rising to low-end management positions.  But retail is flooded with applicants these days, and it’s hard to find a way to make your resume stand out when it seems the only job requirement is that you have a pulse and are able to work for next to no pay without complaining too loudly.  Now, granted, there are some fantastic retail options out there, but none of them seem to want to give me the time of day.  Maybe asking for more than minimum wage is off-putting to them.  Minimum wage- a.k.a., “we would really like to pay you less, but the government won’t let us” wage.

So where does that leave me?  Well, I have a college degree and a few years of management experience.  So when I apply for anything lower than “supervisor” at retail establishments, they say “Hey, this guy was a manager and has a degree.  Therefore, he will require more pay, more hours, and will probably want a promotion in a few months.  If he doesn’t receive the promotion, he will leave for a better opportunity.”  In this hypothetical situation, I would be seen as over-qualified for a low level role.  Why hire me when they can hire some a “safer” candidate to do the work for less and make less of a fuss when he’s passed over for promotion?  That was, essentially, the reason why I no longer work at my previous employer.  I say “previous employer” because- as a personal rule- I don’t want to personally burn anybody I’ve worked for in the past.  However, if this blog is going to work, I’m going to have to tell stories.  I was hired because they wanted me to take up the role of Assistant Manager a few months down the road.  So I accepted higher-than-usual pay, because that’s all I’d move over from my then-current job for.  The district manager was not happy about this, and he made no moves to hide it, but what was done was done.  This all happened June 2010.  I was promised that the promotion would come after 8-10 months of training.  January 2011, they eliminated the Assistant Manager position from the overwhelming majority of stores.  Only 24 hour locations would have one- meaning, 2 stores in the 25+ store district.  I worked at neither of them.  I became a shift supervisor making a full $1.25 more an hour than any other shift supervisor hired after me.  So, they did the only thing logical for a soulless corporation- instead of giving me a raise at my 1-year review, they fired me on a technicality and hired someone for less.

Now for the other half of the name.  There are lots of people out of work these days.  Lots and lots and lots.  And some of these people worked their jobs for a long time!  It’s a shame, but it happens- people lose their jobs.  So the people looking for new employees for their companies picked up on the fact that “Hey, a lot of people looking for a job these days did something similar to what our company does for a long time!  Therefore, we won’t hire anybody unless they have at least 3 years of experience with X.”  And this amorphous ‘X’ can be anything- call center work, IT, networking, international espionage..  I even saw someone looking for 2 years of experience for a data entry job.  Let that sink in.  You are taking data from one thing, and entering it into another thing.  How am I not qualified for that?  But I haven’t done it for 2 years, so therefore, I’m apparently not qualified enough to type things written on a form.  That said, if I don’t meet that requirement, I am under-qualified for the position.  Let me give you an example- I interviewed for a position with a company that I really, REALLY wanted a few weeks ago.  The man doing the interview (who was awesome, by the way- don’t get me wrong) told me, point blank, “Oh, you don’t need ANY networking experience to do this job- we’ll train you right here!”  Jackpot!  Awesome job, AND I get networking experience.  Well, a few days later, the email I got from him said- in a nutshell- “Well, you were basically exactly what we were looking for, but we went with the guy with network experience.”  WHAT?!  You told me that I didn’t NEED network experience, that I’d get it from you?  What changed?  I was under-qualified for the role since I didn’t have network experience.

Here’s the problem- who is willing to give out the experience?  Nobody wants to hire “newbies” anymore.  Everyone wants experience.  Everyone.  And nobody is willing to train anymore.  That takes time and money.  And until companies are ready to step up and invest time and money into employees to get them ready for work, the job market is going to continue to suck, and perfectly hireable people- like me- are going to suffer for it.  So here I am, either over/under-qualified for seemingly every job on the planet…  Stuck right there in the middle.