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My name is Keith Michaud and this is “Letters From Away,” a blog written by a Mainer living outside the comfortable and sane confines of New England. The blog is intended for Mainers, whether they live in the Pine Tree State or beyond, and for anyone who has loved ’em, been baffled by ’em or both. Ayuh, I am “from away.” Worse still, I live on the Left Coast – in California. Enjoy! Or not. Your choice.
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Tag Archives: jobless
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.
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, 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.
Today marks 20 months since I was laid off.
There are times it feels as if it happened just yesterday. Or a million years ago.
And there are other times when it feels as if this is all part of a very, very bad nightmare from which I will awake.
Eventually. Soon. … Anytime now.
In those 20 months I’ve sent out hundreds of resume packages, filled out countless applications, and uploaded my resume onto dozens of websites. I put in at least six to 12 hours every day seeking suitable employment. I look and look and look. I network. I blog. I lament.
And, so far, that effort has resulted in a handful of face-to-face interviews, a couple of phone interviews, and a few thanks-but-no-thanks rejection letters.
But no job offers.
As it has been for so many Americans – still nearly 15 million Americans, in fact – finding work as been elusive – frustrating, maddening, demoralizing – and it doesn’t seem as if things are getting much better. The national unemployment rate is stuck at 9.6 percent and I live in a county in Northern California where the unemployment rate hovers at 16.6 percent.
I blame the Republicans. I blame the Democrats. I blame Wall Street bankers. I blame greedy industrialists.
I blame everyone, including myself.
After all, I should have peered into a crystal ball and seen coming the collapse of the newspaper industry – and the housing industry and the automobile industry and every other industry that isn’t Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft or … . Well, you get the point.
I blame myself because while I was working for a living, I neglected to take time off from work to train to be proficient in the latest necessary skills I might or might not need sometime in the distant or not-so-distant future.
Of course, “the latest necessary skills” fluctuate every couple of years so I suppose I could have worked for a year and taken more time off for training in “the latest necessary skills” and continued that cycle.
But no. I worked. For 22 years. In an industry that continues to undergo convulsions.
And now I have little to show for those 22 years of hard work. No income. No health insurance. No prospects.
And dwindling hope that I will find a new job before my Unemployment Insurance benefits expire at the beginning of 2011.
In the past 20 months people have told me “You have to reinvent yourself,” “You have to be entrepreneurial,” “You have to start your own business,” “You should write a book,” “You should …”.
You get the point. All great ideas, but reinvent myself into what? I don’t even balance my checkbook, how could I be an entrepreneur or start a business? And don’t people realize how many books are written and how very few are actually published?
But even after all the disappointment, all the setbacks, all the failed efforts, I still believe I can contribute in some way. I continue to seek suitable employment in newspapers or using my skills working for a nonprofit or in green industry or government. I keep seeking any escape from the way things are now so that I can get my life back on track.
I continue to follow the mantra – one step forward every day. One step forward today, tomorrow and the next day.
In ancient tales of pirates and their bold deeds, the ribbon of the stories’ plots with few exceptions twirled their way to one common element – booty.
No, not that “booty.”
Treasure, buried or otherwise – that’s the booty.
And with few exceptions, a map to the booty included an X to mark the location where the booty – the treasure – could be found. X marks the spot, the saying goes.
Inevitably, the map was either faked, or the X really didn’t mark the actual location of the treasure or mutiny and treachery prevented story stakeholders from learning the final disposition of the buried booty.
Or there was no treasure in the first place.
Of course, in most cases X didn’t actually mark the spot. Instead, it symbolized other things – greed mostly, but also dreams, aspirations, hope, and, since we are talking pirates, lots and lots of grog.
For me, however, an X this week meant a completely different thing.
It means that thread-worn safety net called unemployment insurance – simply UI for those of us unfortunate to have needed it – is coming to an end. Without further congressional action, many of the 15 million Americans out of work will also be out of luck.
You see, there is a box on the front of unemployment insurance continued claim form, under question No. 3, to be precise – that until this point had gone unfilled. The unemployment rate had been so high, the extensions coming, and other factors, that people legitimately out of work did not see the X in the box.
The X means someone on UI must turn over the form and fill in the information on the companies at which the claimant has applied for work. Seeking employment is a requirement of continued UI, but without the X to mark the spot, a claimant needed only answer “yes” to the question “Did you look for work?”
The X – along with the additional eligibility requirements for Federal-State Extended Duration Benefits, or Fed-Ed extension – means a claimant must provide the following information for potential employers contacted each week:
- Date applied
- Company name
- Company address (Internet address is acceptable.)
- Person contacted
- Type of work applied
- Results of the contact
The EDD knows that looking for work does not always mean an opportunity to fill out an application. But the requirements are what the requirements are and it means added anxiety and pressure to find at least three jobs each week for the form.
I wish there was buried booty where X marks the spot, but there is not. Where the X marks the spot are renewed feelings of failure, demoralization and concern for what the future may bring. It brings crashing down the house of cards that is the UI stopgap measure.
EDD outsourcing their replies?
Here’s a sidebar to this whole thing. My latest continued claim form arrived last week, which was followed earlier this week by a form letter informing me of the number of employer contacts I needed to make each week – three.
The problem: The second form arrived too late for me to make adjustments for the first week, a week in which I applied for one job, but had a couple of phone interviews. The “three employer contact” rule seems reasonable – my personal goal each week was to apply for at least five jobs – but out of fairness to the claimant, the information should come along with the continued claim form.
I tried calling EDD to address my concerns, but calling the toll-free number led to a recorded message that provided another toll-free number, which led to another recorded message, that provided the first toll-free number. That, my friends, is a bureaucratic merry-go-round. There were no obvious options to be directed to a live person – although I since have been told that I should have dialed the first number and punched in 0 for an operator – so I went to the EDD website and used their online “Contact EDD” form.
I’m not sure, but EDD may have outsourced their reply services because the reply I received the next day was very nearly nonsensical. I asked several specific questions and received in reply: “Your feded [sic] claim was filed effective 09-XX-10 employers: on newpapers [sic], word of mouth, net working [sic], t.v., radio from friends and relatives maybe some of the source Good luck Thank you kindly.”
The reply – who in this country uses “thank you kindly” – failed to answer any of the questions I poised in my email to EDD. I suppose I’ll do the best I can to fill out the form this time around and pray that I am not determined ineligible. If I am determined ineligible, I suppose I could always search for buried treasure. … Now, where did I put that eye patch.
Michaud blasts Congress for adjourning without extending unemployment | Maine Public Broadcasting Network
[For full disclosre, U.S. Rep. Michaud are not related, as far as I know. — KM]
Republicans block bill to continue benefits for millions with no job | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram
[This has far more details on the proverty situation in Maine. — KM]
Maine jobless rate rises slightly in February to 8.3% | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram
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.
Spotted a story on the Maine Public Broadcasting Network website about how the unemployment rate in Maine had dipped to 8 percent.
That is below the national rate of about 10 percent.
Here in California things are not so good. The statewide unemployment rate is at 12.2 percent and the county in which I live – San Joaquin County – it is at about 16.9 percent unemployment. Yep, that’s twice the rate of Maine.
I’ve linked the MPBN story and the story from The Record, the newspaper in Stockton, about the situation here. (Note: That newspaper will begin charging for content beginning in January so the link very likely will go bad after the new year.)