Tag Archives: job

At long last, I am going back to work

It has been a very long, winding, tumultuous two and a half years of unemployment since March 2009 when I was laid off from The Record in Stockton, Calif. It has been a very difficult time for so many people, including and especially those in the newspaper business.

But I’m starting a new job on Monday Tuesday – a 60-day trial as the editor of the Central Valley Business Journal, a monthly publication with offices in Stockton and Modesto. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity and confident that this will be a good fit. I get the feeling that the Central Valley Business Journal hasn’t had true editorial leadership in some time, so even small improvements in the publication will be noticeable.

I have never been a business writer/editor before so the experience will be challenging in that respect. I haven’t been the sole editor of a publication in quite a while, so it will be challenging in that respect, as well. And I haven’t had to get up early for work in quite a while, so that will be pleasantly challenging.

I have written here in the past of the complete emotional toll unemployment takes on a person. You lose your self-worth, self-respect, and sense of self. Friends and family who haven’t been through the situation cannot truly understand what the unemployed go through, but they still offer suggestions – “You know what you really should do is …” – of actions already taken time and time again. They mean so very well and knowing that kept me from screaming just a bit. Prospective employers reject you simply for having been unemployed. And society turns an uncomfortable cold shoulder to those of us who were unemployed for so long.

My girlfriend, Brenda, has been very supportive and encouraging through the past few months. I thank her for helping me maintain my enthusiasm for, well, everything and for encouraging me at every step. She is solidly in my heart.

Long-time friends – especially Teresa, Rick, and Michele – have provided part-time work, room and board, beer and tequila, laughter, and encouragement. I do appreciate everything they have done for me in the past two and a half years. Other friends, those not so “long-time,” also have provided encouragement and even groceries from time to time. For those veggies and peppers, Kathi, I am grateful. And I thank those Facebook friends who over the years have helped me maintain my sense of humor, perspective, and sanity, who have provided encouragement, job leads, and a place to vent. Thank you.

And now a new adventure awaits! I’m excited for it to begin.

All rights reserved by Keith Michaud ©

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Back at the job search all over again

I haven’t written here much in the past month or so because of a project that has kept me from the job search and from blogging, except for shorts burst on Coffeehouse Observer.

The project involved fact checking several chapters of a travel guide due out next year. The travel guide publisher has promised me more work and the editor just emailed me about two projects. I could use the money.

But now I’m back at full speed, at least on a limited basis. I’m still looking for work and trying to line up freelance gigs to get by.

What I really need, of course, is a real job, one with steady pay, some benefits, and some social contact.

Things are really rough out there. They just announced that the unemployment rate in California is back up to 12 percent, the second worst unemployment rate in the country behind Nevada. The unemployment rate in the county where I live usually has been about 5 percentage points to 8 percentage points higher than the state level, so I would not be surprised if the unemployment rate here is 17 percent or higher.

It is terribly frustrating and unnerving. And very, very scary. It is even more frustrating and more unnerving and scarier when recognizing that the unemployment rate really does not count all those who are out of work, people who have given up looking for work or otherwise are no longer counted by the government. Experts usually say that the unemployment rate is significantly higher when taking into account those people. I am among those people who are no longer counted.

But I keep looking.

Friends I’ve known for 20 years or longer voice amazement that I haven’t been offered work in the past two and a half years since being laid off

“You have tons of experience,” they say. “Why hasn’t someone hired you already?”

That experience is a double-edged sword – I have proven myself capable, which is good for an employer because quality work will be done within deadlines. But I’ve proven myself capable, which is bad for an employer because it will cost the employer more in salary, the employer immediately assumes.

“You’re good at what you do,” my friends argue. “Something has to come up for you soon.”

I suppose I was good at what I did, but it has been a while since I did what I did. And employers can see that and I fear now that they barely consider my resume.

Just last week I applied for a job on the East Coast and within two days I had received an email noticed that I would not be considered for the position. I was sooo happy that the company took the time to fully consider my qualifications. (Please read the sarcasm in the previous sentence.)

I’ve come to expect rejection, which does little for confidence or morale or feeling of self-worth.

I keep plugging away, though. I have no other choice. I ran out of unemployment benefits months ago and cashed in an IRA, the thing money experts – people with jobs not facing eviction or starvation – say never to do. I am living on the money that would have been a portion of my total retirement. Another portion is left in investment accounts that are dwindling with each dip of the Stocks Exchange.

I will never retire. Certainly, not in the conventional sense of “retire.” But then again, there is nothing conventional about what some of us are experiencing.

So I continue the job search. I continue to look in my field – journalism. So if you know of any openings in journalism – editing, writing, blogging – or freelance opportunities, you can get in touch with me via the email address under my contact info.

And I also look for jobs with nonprofits, green industry, colleges and universities, and occasionally government. I also look for delivery jobs and general labor jobs and retail jobs and … well, you get the point.

I suppose that’s it for now. I just wanted to let you know I’m still around, still kicking, and still very hungry to get back to work.

All rights reserved by Keith Michaud ©

 

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Crossing fingers after phone interview marred by no bars, technical problem

I had a fairly good telephone job interview this morning, despite equipment problems on both ends.

And despite me stumbling over some of the questions.

Some of the problems started this morning when I tumbled out of bed and checked my cellular phone to make sure that it had charged overnight. I was immediately troubled to see no bars, not one.

“OK, don’t panic,” I said to myself, of course, leaving out here the expletives. “I’ll just whip up some congee, grab a shower, and check the bars again. Perhaps a T-Mobile tower is down or something and it will take a bit of time to get it up again. If all else fails, I’ll make a run to Starbucks, troll for a cell signal, and pirate some Wifi. And just sit in my CRV for the interview.”

Yes, I do sometimes have extended conversations with myself.

Congee, check.

Shower and shave, check.

Car keys, check.

Laptop and cell phone, check and check.

Cell phone bars, not so check. Still no bars.

So, off I went for the Starbucks. As I drove closer, I checked the bars and the signal seem to be coming in strong. Great!

I circled the Starbucks in the Miracle Mile in Stockton and head back to my apartment to go over notes before I planned to return to the Starbucks in time for my interview call.

Funny thing, though, as I drove back to the apartment – I started getting more bars. Eureka! A strong signal. Perhaps, just, perhaps, T-Mobile fixed the glitch and I’ll be able to receive the interview in a non-stressful environment sitting at my writing desk in the living room of my apartment.

There I sat for more than an hour going over “20 Most Asked Questions In A Job Interview” – of which, the interviewers would later ask only one of the “20 Most Asked Questions In A Job Interview” – and tried to relax just a bit before my 9:45 a.m. call.

Everything was going well enough when I took another look at my cell phone at 9:30 a.m. and – PANIC! No bars, again! Ugh!

I scooped up my laptop, a notepad, a couple of pens, and my cell phone and headed downstairs to the garage. There I jumped into my CRV, cranked up the engine, and headed – at only slightly excessive speed – to the nearest Starbucks where earlier I had found a strong signal and where I could pirate WiFi. (I say “pirate,” but Starbucks provides free WiFi. Using “pirate” is an attempt at making me more edgy. Did it work?)

I parked in the same spot I had earlier, but the cell signal was at only two bars. I didn’t want an every-other-word experience during the interview. I drove around the block trolling for a stronger signal and found one – very nearly in the same spot I had been before going around the block. Time: 9:44 a.m.

OK, quick drink of water. Pull out the computer for the notes on the “20 Most Asked Questions In A Job Interview.” Pull out the pad of paper to write down the names of the people on the search committee conducting the interview. Go online for a quick check of email.

It was then that the phone rang. I let it ring again, popped open the cell phone, paused – “Hello. … Hello. … Hello!”

Nothing. Great! Well what else can go wrong?

I tried dialing back a couple of times, but all I got was the ear-piercing tone of a fax machine. Great!

OK, don’t panic, don’t panic, don’t panic … DON’T PANIC!

Oh, wait, the phone’s ringing again.

“Hello. … Hello. … Hello!”

Oh, crap, not again.

One more attempt to call them. More piercing sounds. OK, OK, OK, I’ll shoot an email to the person who arranged the interview. Under the circumstances, maybe – just maybe – we can reschedule the telephone interview.

The email was very nearly set to send when the phone rang one more time. By this time it was five or 10 minutes after the scheduled appointment

OK, don’t panic. Let it ring again.

“Hello”

“Hello, Keith. Sorry for that bit of technical problem …,” said the woman on the other end.

Sheesh, that was close. I’ve been out of work for 20 months now and I cannot afford to miss an interview for any reason.

The half-hour interview went well enough, I think, especially since it took place over the phone as I sat in my CRV with a laptop balanced on my knees.

I stumbled on a few questions. It’s a marketing job and my experience is in straight-up journalism, but several of the interviewers have newspaper experience, so they may have cut me some slack. They gave me verbal feedback and laughed where they should have, so it wasn’t all bad at all.

The job would be with a leader in its field and I think skills I honed as a columnist, opinion page editor, editorialist, and essayist could come in handy. The problem would be in having time to write about all the positive aspects. That’s a bit of a change considering all my work experience is in newspaper where much of the news is not good.

Well, I’m crossing my fingers. It appears it will be about 30 days before I find out if I was selected, so I’ll be patient and continue my search in the meantime.

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Anger, frustration from longterm unemployment

The Reporter was gracious enough to again print something I wrote. It’s a bit more personal than the last piece they published.

http://www.thereporter.com/opinion/ci_15710395

If that link doesn’t work, try this one.

http://keithmichaud.wordpress.com/writing/

Or you can simply read it here:

Anger, frustration from longterm unemployment | The Reporter, Vacaville, Calif.

Posted: 08/08/2010 01:04:20 AM PDT

By Keith Michaud

There is no feeling quite like the one that comes from long-term unemployment, especially for a person willing, able and hungry to get back to work.

Thursday marked 17 months since I was laid off after 22 years in the newspaper business, working as a writer and editor for print and Web sites.

At no time in those two decades – actually, at no time in my life – have I felt this demoralized, this useless, this much a burden on society. Never before have I felt such a void of confidence. Never before have I been without health insurance.

What? You don’t care if I’m demoralized, lacking in confidence or have no health insurance? Well, then be uncaring enough for every one of the 14.6 million unemployed Americans.

I know things will improve. U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner wrote so in a New York Times op-ed piece on Monday. But how much longer will it be before the economy really, truly turns around? How much longer will corporate America turn an uncaring shoulder to hard-working Americans who have no jobs?

Corporations are holding onto trillions of dollars, some say over concerns about possible future federal regulations. It is hard to believe that U.S. firms can be so callous, so shortsighted.

Meanwhile, those millions of Americans – of which 6.8 million are considered long-term unemployed – go without work. Members of that latter group are endangered of becoming unemployable because corporations insist on hiring Americans who are already working or who were only recently laid off and whose skills are considered sharper.

I am frustrated and mad that I was laid off in the first place. I am frustrated and mad because my job search has been protracted. I am frustrated and mad because corporations – mostly Wall Street bankers and the like – received huge federal bailouts and then turned around to pay executives millions of dollars in bonuses for finding innumerable ways to charge consumers new fees. I am frustrated and mad that Congress took so long to extend unemployment insurance benefits. Democrats and Republicans alike let down Americans across the land.

I am frustrated and mad that the U.S. Federal Reserve is failing in one of its main objectives, zero unemployment. I am frustrated and mad that my next-best option is to clear out a meager personal retirement fund, lean on credit cards, and depend on family and friends who themselves are struggling.

Long-term unemployment does more than demoralize the unemployed. It demoralizes their families, concerns their friends and causes worry even among their former co-workers. Long-term unemployment hurts the economy by eliminating consumer spending and making a downsized economy the norm. Long-term unemployment undermines this country by impeding economic recovery.

Without care for the unemployed, without job creation, without bold effort by politicians and corporate America, we can expect the economy on all levels to shrink and for unemployment to rise.

We 14.6 million unemployed are frustrated and mad, but we lack a focused voice. We, too, must be bold. We must shame the Obama administration, Congress, the Federal Reserve, and especially corporate America to get Americans back to work. There should be no comfort, no vacations, no getaways until the unemployment rate is halved.

The author, a journalist for 23 years and Reporter employee from 1993 to 2006, lives in Stockton, Calif.

What? Your job is to help people find jobs?!

Here’s a little irony for you … well, quite a bit of irony, actually.

I’ve been looking for work for the past 15 months. After 22 years in the newspaper business, I was laid off. Over the course of that 22 years I have been a reporter, columnist, copy editor, assistant news editor, opinion page editor, assistant city editor, website staff writer, and blogger. I’ve been trying to find work, usually via online job boards and websites, networking via friends, LinkedIn and Facebook, and by simply keeping my ear to the ground.

I’ve been pretty open about the experience. At least, with my family, friends, and those of you who have visited “Letters From Away.” I’ve written about the frustration of the job search and the various pitfalls that have occurred in the past 15 months.

But I wasn’t very open with the other tenants of my apartment building. I don’t know any of them very well and I felt uncomfortable opening up about that sort of thing. And apparently some of them have not caught onto my blog, if you can believe that.

Anyway, I was walking down to the basement garage on Saturday when a guy who lives in one of the downstairs apartments came out.

“So, where are you working now?”

“I’m not,” I replied.

“What?!”

“Yeah, today makes 15 months since I was laid off,” I informed him. A mix of surprise and shock flashed over his face.

“Listen, I think I can help. …”

I’ve been living in the same apartment building since late 2006 and out of work since March 5, 2009, and I had no idea that my neighbor worked for a county agency that helps people get back to work. One of the programs for which I may be eligible is a six-month, 50 percent salary grant where an employer would be reimbursed for 50 percent of a worker’s salary for six months.

That does a couple of things, of course. It gets workers into jobs, it gives the employer a worker and a chance to see what the employee can do to prove himself or herself in a job and it gives a little time for the economy a little time to come around so that at the end of the six months the employee has a better chance to be held on permanently.

 I’m not exactly sure what else the neighbor or the agency can do to help me, but I have an appointment to talk with the guy tomorrow.

Comfort food helps ease the sting of rejection

I’m feeling a little piled on lately when it comes to rejection. I batted 1.000 at the end of this week – a rejection notice each on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

I’m not sure if it would have been any better if they had all arrived on the same day or if they had come on Monday, Wednesday and Friday or if one of the notices had arrived today, Saturday.

I might have taken it hard – at least, harder than I am anyway – if I had not already moved all three of those jobs into my “REJECTION” folder on my laptop. I give jobs – or, rather, the agencies, organizations or businesses posting a job opening – about one month or so after applying for the job before pretty much giving up on that job. If I don’t hear back from them, I then move the job from “PENDING” to “REJECTION.” It had been a month or longer for all three without hearing anything. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Bubkes.

Note to human resources officials: Let job seekers know if you receive applications and resume packets, and give them a reasonable timeframe in which the hiring process will be carried out. That is especially true when the economy and jobs outlook is so tenuous, as it is now. It borders on cruel and unusual behavior to not contact people who are so very desperate.

I know, I know, I know, some openings draw many applicants. One of the rejection notices I received this week noted that the agency had received about 400 resumes for one opening. But some online or email application processes include an automatic reply that applications or resumes have been received. Including a mention in the email of a hiring process timeframe seems a reasonable request.

To be fair to the three organizations that rejected me last week, others did not even bother to acknowledge receipt of applications and resume packets. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Bubkes.

Listen, we jobseekers knows that you receive hundreds of applications and resume packets – we know, because we are the ones sending out hundreds of resume packets. We’re not asking for false hope, we’re just asking to be given word within a reasonable time whether we can expect to hear about our chances.

Note to human resources officials: I know there must be a reason – low-balling applicants seems the only reason, but there may be real reasons – for not including the salary range on job notices. But including such information helps a jobseeker sort through the openings he or she plans to apply for, thus eliminating for some potential employers a bit of the flood of applications and resumes for certain jobs.

Jobseekers’ time is valuable, too. It is incredibly demoralizing to go through the process of writing a cover letter, individualizing resumes and arranging references for a job opening only to find out midway or later in the process that the salary range cannot support a jobseekers’ cost of living.

I’m not talking extras, just the cost of living. In the past year I have applied for several jobs for which I later learned the accompanying salary would not or would barely cover just basic expenses, let alone health insurance or investment in retirement accounts.

OK, enough of the mini-rant on the job search. I remain optimistic that I will find a job, but not as optimistic as I once was. I am concerned before I find a job I will be forced into to find training for a career change. Which might not be a bad thing.

Oh, how did I handle the rejection? I made myself a very nice, hearty meal that turned around my attitude so I felt considerably – quite considerably – less rejected.

Here’s a tip, if you’re feeling a touch low, sauté some turkey sausage and onions and throw in some legumes, rice, spinach, carrots, garlic and chicken broth. Let it simmer so the aroma fills the home and then serve yourself a large bowl. Top with croutons and Asiago and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy. Comfort food is there to comfort, so let it do its work.