Tag Archives: jobs

Maine jobs news good, but still leaves cause for concern | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Our View: Job news good, but still leaves cause for concern | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram.

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Just another day as an unemployed journalist — another step forward

I hate this. I absolutely hate this!

Today makes 14 months since I was laid off from my job at The Record in Stockton, Calif. That is one year and two months; or 56 weeks; or 417 days; or 10,008 hours, give or take; 600,480 minutes.

Give or take. But who’s counting. Phew! …

I’ve written about this before, so I won’t belabor this too much. To make a long story – at 14-month long story – short, I had been a journalist at mid-sized newspapers in Northern California for 22 years. I had been working at The Record since 2006 when I was laid off March 5, 2009.

Underestimating the severity of the downward dive in the economy, I assumed that I would be back to work within three months or so if I made finding a job my job. But three months came and went. And then six months. And nine months. And one year. Now, 14 months.

I have been looking for work every since – at newspapers, wire services, online news services, governments, green industries, nonprofits. I recently applied for a job at a greeting card company, which I’m sure my newspaper buddies will find as ironic as I find ironic. I mean, a long-time curmudgeonly crime and chaos reporter turned curmudgeonly copy editor turned curmudgeonly columnist turned curmudgeonly assistant news editor turned curmudgeonly opinion page editor – you get the point – is not your typical greeting card employee.

Over-qualified or undertrained, that’s been part of my problem. Oh, and trying to find a job in a really shitty economy doesn’t help.

I have applied for hundreds of jobs from sea to shining sea. Seriously, sea to shining sea, and a few places in between. My job search has centered on the West – California, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona and Washington state – and my native New England – Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. Frankly, I’ve noticed that the greater the distance the job opening, the lower the chances that I’ll even get an email telling thanks, but no thanks, but I keep trying. Everything has to be about making a step forward every single day.

But – again, frankly – momentum has been a problem. The holidays took a bit of the wind out of my momentum sail – too many three-day weekends that stretched into four-day segments when job websites didn’t post new openings. And – again, frankly – there usually wasn’t many job openings to be posted, even without three-day weekends that stretched into four days.

But things are changing. Or so they say. The economy is picking up. Or so they say. And businesses and nonprofits and governments and everyone is hiring or at least planning on hiring. Or so they say.

I have noticed more and more job openings being posted on job websites and more friends and acquaintances are passing along more job openings.

And I am again gaining momentum and applying for more jobs. I even feel confident enough to be relatively selective in my job pursuit – the greeting card application notwithstanding. (Very frankly, that job would be pretty cool, despite the irony of a crusty, dusty newspaperman participating in something as soft and fluffy as the greeting card biz.)

I’m fed up with being unemployed.

I’m hungry to get back to work.

I’m ready, willing and able to get back to work.

I’m just hunting for a break.

I’m sure that I will be working again. I just want it to be now. Now would be good.

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Tariff on paper to spare Maine jobs | The Morning Sentinel, Waterville, ME

Tariff on paper to spare jobs | The Morning Sentinel, Waterville, ME.

The Economics of Wind: What’s behind the interest, and what’s it mean for jobs | Lewiston Sun Journal

[I’m a wind-power proponent in that I strongly believe we need to greatly reduce our foreign oil addiction. And we need to find a much more environmentally friendly energy source. Below is the top section of the first part of a two-part series by the Lewiston Sun Journal on wind energy. I intend to link the second part tomorrow, whether either part supports my beliefs or not. It is an important issue and an important time for energy in Maine. So, it is important to have as much information as possible, even if you or I do not want to know that information. – KM]

Sun Journal Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series. The second part will run on Monday, April 12.

As Maine inches toward its goal of more wind power development, the financial justifications for and against are almost as hard to grasp as the wind itself.

Environmental activist Jonathan Carter, for example, wrote in a recent newspaper opinion piece that up to 60 percent of the cost of wind power projects is covered by federal subsidies. That figure’s important, with wind power opponents saying wind shouldn’t rely on high government subsidies and proponents saying it deserves the same treatment as other energy suppliers.

When asked, Carter pointed to National Wind Watch as the source of his information.

National Wind Watch pointed to a semi-retired former coal official in Virginia.

When the Sun Journal contacted that man, he pointed to a Los Angeles lawyer who works with wind farm developers … and his math, it turns out, isn’t so clear-cut.

Click on the link for the rest of today’s story by Kathryn Skelton in the Lewiston Sun Journal.

Union: Job cuts in Maine on table | The Kennebec Journal, Augusta, ME

Union: Job cuts on table | The Kennebec Journal, Augusta, ME.

IDEXX says it plans Westbrook expansion, adding jobs | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

IDEXX says it plans Westbrook expansion, adding jobs | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram.

Maine program tries to halt foreclosure before it’s too late | Bangor Daily News

BANGOR, Maine — Abiel and Bettyjo Martinez bought a home in Etna in 2005 with an adjustable rate mortgage, the only loan they were eligible for.

In two years, their interest rate ballooned to 12 percent and their monthly payment nearly doubled from $900 to $1,700.

They scraped by for a while until Abiel Martinez lost his job and watched several months pass before he could collect unemployment. Then his wife lost her job. So they went back to their lender to modify their loan.

“They told us we could modify, but we had to pay $3,800 to start that process,” he said. “How can we pay $3,800 if we can’t afford the mortgage?”

The mortgage company had no choice but to start foreclosure proceedings. The Martinezes and their three children were in danger of being forced from their home.

Click on the link for the rest of today’s story by Eric Russell in the Bangor Daily News.

Information about the state’s foreclosure diversion program is available at http://www.courts.state.me.us/court_info/services/foreclosure/index.html.

Maine jobless rate rises slightly in February to 8.3% | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Maine jobless rate rises slightly in February to 8.3% | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram.

Jobs bill passes in rare show of accord | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Jobs bill passes in rare show of accord | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram.

Maine Gov. Baldacci releases $79M bond package | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Baldacci releases $79M bond package | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram.

January jobless rate rises to 8.2% in Maine | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

January jobless rate rises to 8.2% in Maine | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram.

Laid-off journalist being a tiny bit whiny

Some anniversaries simply are not meant to be celebrated. The death of a loved one. The start of war. The day reality TV started. These are anniversaries best not noted.

Today is one of those days, at least for me.

But I’m going to note it anyway.

It was one year today that I was laid off. Before that I had been in the newspaper industry for 22 years working as a reporter, copy editor, columnist, assistant news editor, opinion page editor, assistant city editor and website staff writer. The only other time I had been laid off was from a restaurant table-busing job I had in college and that was because I took off with little notice for about a month to work at my other summer job as a wildland firefighter.

A beautiful and beautifully talented woman who was laid off the same day from the same newspaper calls it a “canniversary” – a year since being canned. She is among the very lucky; she counts being laid off as a blessing because she found a new career outside of the newspaper industry doing things that she loves. I am pleased for her and not at all surprised she found a bit of employment bliss.

Some of us, not so lucky. But still very much plugging away.

Really, I don’t want to come across as whiny. At least, not too much.

I have written that I knew a year ago that losing my job was not my fault, but instead the result of a convulsing economy and industry leaders who were blind to or simply ignored the emerging trends in the newspaper industry. Of course, those same industry leaders retained their jobs, while talented people such as my “canniversary” friend were sent packing.

The sting of unemployment is somewhat tempered by the fact that so many other people were out of work, too. Misery loves company, no matter the source of the misery. It was not so easy to say that there was work for anyone who wanted it bad enough, because there simply was not work for anyone who wanted it.

Like so very many others in the same situation, things have not been great for me in the past year. OK, but not great. Despite the financial, emotional and psychological stress being laid off has caused me, I think overall I’m OK.

Sure, there have been ebbs and flows, ups and downs, ins and outs, people who say “yes” and people who say “no.” But I’d like to think that I’ve gained experience and knowledge that I will be able to use into the future.

The holidays were the roughest days, but perhaps not for the reasons you might expect – too many three-day weekends. That makes for a very poor job-searching environment. Joblessness is demoralizing and it is made even more debilitating when there simply is nothing a person can do, not even search job websites because there are no new postings over the long weekend.

But you learn to move on. You learn to always take a step forward. And another. Always forward. Never give up the high ground and never give up ground gained. And you do it because there is no other option.

I don’t often quote stogie-chomping fat guys, but they say Winston Churchill told a nation once, “Never, never, never give up.” I’m rather too stubborn to give up, either.

Of course, forward movement doesn’t always work out the way you plan. And I’ve done my share of back-stepping the past couple of months. I’ve stumbled over stones and boulders and mountains, some of them of my own making, and some the making of malicious characters seen and unseen. (That’s not too whiny, is it?)

No matter, forward continues to be the only direction.

By the way, the past couple of days have been OK. I have been dreading for months this “canniversary.” I never expected that I would be out of work for three months, let alone a year, but I have been.

I remain optimistic that things will get better. I am optimistic and certain that I will find employment, either in the news industry or in a field less abusive to those people working in it.

And I am true to the idea that this will not define me, but ultimately make me stronger.

Mitchell scholars talk jobs at conference | Bangor Daily News

Mitchell scholars talk jobs at conference – Bangor Daily News.

Learning a few things about being unemployed

First – and probably always – do as I say, not as I do.

My parents used that – “do as I say, not as I do” – on my sister and me while we were growing up in Maine. We didn’t always get the context, but we got the idea.

And I use it now because I’ve learned a few things in the past nearly year that I’ve been unemployed, some of the lessons have come from failures rather than successes.

I was laid off on March 5, 2009, from a job in the newspaper industry. I had been in the industry working as a staff writer, copyeditor, columnist, assistant news editor, opinion page editor, assistant metro editor, and as a staff writer for a newspaper website. I have some pretty varied skills and broad experiences.

Unfortunately, while I was working and achieving results for various small- to medium-sized newspapers in Northern California, I was centered on those tasks and results and not looking far enough ahead in updating skills for the future. I’m paying for that now, but I accept (nearly) full responsibility for that. The rest of the responsibility – and full and complete responsibility for the current crisis in the newspaper industry – falls squarely on the shoulders of publishers, media industry officials, and media stockholders.

I started off with the old “do as I say, not as I do,” simply because I’ve learned what I’ve learned more out of trial and error rather than trial and success. At least, not yet.

Here are a few of those things that I have learned after having been laid off:

1) Do not act rashly. It is demoralizing to be laid off, to be told that your services no longer will be required. There is a practice in human resources that says a firm should carry out firings and lay-off notices on Friday. That gives the person fired or laid off the weekend to cool off and it is supposed to cut the chances of violent retaliation. I think it may be more important for the person fired or laid off to consciously take advantage of that sort of cooling off period to consider what you want to do and what you can do. Take a couple of days to consider your options before moving toward finding a new job, shifting to a new career, or moving to gain the training and skills needed for that new career. But for goodness sake, don’t retaliate; layoffs are, unfortunately, a part of business.

2) Cut spending immediately, as in NOW, and assess your personal financial situation. Know what resources you have in savings. Know what severance you have. Know what other accounts you can access in a real pinch. That said, stay away from dipping into the 401(k) and other retirement accounts for as long as possible. Such withdrawals typically are subject to steep penalty and may not worth the short-term gain and long-term detriment.

3) Apply for unemployment insurance as soon as you are eligible. The eligibility differs slightly from state to state, but typically it is a week or two after being laid off. The application can be done online. It takes some time to fill out the application and you will need financial information, such as salary, severance, and other asset information.

4) Exercise the body. Being laid off is demoralizing. It is depressing. Physical exercise does several beneficial things, including fending off depression. It reduces stress. It makes you feel better because you are healthier. Unless you have health issues that prevent you from physical exercise, get out and walk, hike, ride a bike, take the stairs instead of an elevator. Do something.

5) Exercise the mind. Trust me, the mental stimulation resulting from working everyday and interacting with co-workers and others does a world of good to keep the brain working the way it should. Read, take tutorials for things you think you might need for the future, do puzzles. Do something. I already know that despite doing what I can to stimulate my mind every waking hour, I do not feel as sharp as I did when I was working and regularly interacting with co-workers and others. The situation would be much worse if I did not read and write everyday.

6) Eat right. This is vital to keeping your energy level high enough to do the things you need to do to get your life back on track. Empty calories should be avoided. Eat fruit and veggies. Whole grains. Take the time immediately after being laid off to get your eating habits back in line to help jumpstart your career.

7) Cut the booze. Do not crawl into a bottle. It will reduce quality sleep. It will jeopardize physical and mental wellbeing. It will make you mentally sluggish.

8 ) Remain as positive and optimistic as possible when possible. This is difficult. Hope always should be at a person’s core, but being laid off can be extremely demoralizing and stressful. And the feeling of hopelessness can be overwhelming. But remembering a mantra such as “everyday a step forward” or “something good will happen soon” can help keep you moving toward recovery after being laid off.

9) Be grateful and thankful. Be gracious and supportive. What do you have to be grateful for? Thankful? Gracious, why? And supportive? You may think that there is nothing for which to be grateful, thankful, gracious? And support, you probably feel you are the one who needs the support. But there is plenty for which to be grateful, thankful and gracious. You are alive and living in a great – albeit flawed – nation with a system in place to help people like you and the others among the 15.3 million unemployed in this nation. People understand that times are tough and there seems to be less “well, he’d have a job if he tried hard enough” or “she’d be back at work if she wasn’t sucking up the unemployment insurance.” Very few people want to be unemployed. It just doesn’t make sense to willingly be unemployed. So be grateful and thankful for that system and the support system you have in place, family and friends. Be gracious to those who were laid off at the same time as you, but who are back to work before you. They deserve to be back at work. Not more than you deserve it, but sometimes that is just the luck of the draw. Understand that. Be supportive of those who have been laid off and supportive of those who are in more dire situations than you. Volunteer at a homeless shelter or kitchen. Volunteer to help disabled veterans or the elderly. Do something with the skills you have to better someone else’s life while you have a little more free time. Do something.

10) Negative feelings are not always completely negative. There will be times when you will not be able to bring yourself to be positive or optimistic. That is OK. No one has the strength to be positive and optimistic 100 percent of the time. It is OK to take a break from being positive and optimistic. As long as you learn from the down time and the down time does not last too long. You can use what you’ve learned from the negative feelings to make the positive and optimistic times last longer. While it can be healthy to vent from time to time about your own situation, remember that there is a limit to how much your family and friends should be subjected to negative statements. Sometimes you are going to have to live with your own negative feelings and ride them out until you can feel more positive and optimistic. The negative feelings will pass. And then use them to motivate you for positive action.

11) Reconnect and stay connected. You are not alone. There are 15.3 million Americans out of work. That is a lot. And most people who are laid off are not at fault. It was not my fault I was laid off from my job. It was the result of an industry in convulsions. So it is important that people who are laid off to remember that they are not alone and that it is not our fault. It is very important that a laid off person does not cut themselves off from family and friends. Stay connected. I joined the social networks Facebook and LinkedIn and started blogging, all to reconnect and stay connected with family, friends and former co-workers. I have even reconnected with high school and college classmates. Staying connected does wonders for maintaining mental wellbeing.

OK, those are 11 things that I have learned in the past year or so. I started off saying “do what I say, not what I do.” I won’t reveal exactly which of these I learned through my own personal failure, just accept that some of these were learned through painful experience rather than painless epiphany.

Bills to address Canadians working in Maine woods – Bangor Daily News

Bills to address Canadians working in Maine woods – Bangor Daily News.

Cannery closure end of the line for a way of life | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Cannery closure end of the line for a way of life | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram.

Tide effects: A lot of hopes are riding on the final demonstration of a turbine designed to tap the powerful tides off Eastport | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Tide effects | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram.

Where ‘one job means so much’ | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Where ‘one job means so much’ | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram.

Maine governor sees improving economy

Maine governor sees improving economy

The MP3 and text versions of the address are not on the Maine.gov website, but here’s a link to that landing page. Give it a try later if you want to listen to the address or read the text.

I’ve been a very, very bad blogger

It is clear to me that I have been a very, very bad blogger the past couple of weeks.

In many ways I have completely failed. But in a few others I think I have excelled.

Well, “excelled” may be a bit much, so let us agree that I have not done as well at some things as I have others. And I vow to strive to do better at the things I failed to do well, while continuing to do the things that I might have done better than, well, the things I did not do so well. Well …

What I have not done well lately is write fresh, new content for this blog about Maine and Mainers from a perspective of someone “from away.”  It has not been because of so-called writer’s block or want of trying. It simply has been a matter of time and not seeming to have any to write new content.

Frankly, I am still getting over the holiday haze, but now am looking forward to what great and special things will happen in 2010. Top among those things is finding employment. I am hungry to get back to work.

If you have read this blog before – I am a “blogger,” but what are people who read blogs? – you will know that I have been out of work since March 2009. I was laid off after 22 years working in the newspaper industry. And you would have to be from the dark side of the moon not to know that the newspaper industry has been hit very hard the past couple of years – continued high costs of paper and other materials, continued high profit margins for stockholders, lower revenue due to lower advertising sales due to the housing crisis and the auto industry crisis and the national economy crisis.

Leaders in the newspaper industry failed to heed the warnings that came to them a decade or two ago that a new age in information dissemination was coming – the Age of the Internet – and they made little effort to adjust. And what little effort they made came much too late for tens of thousands of very talented people in journalism and for many newspapers which have now long ago shut down their presses. I blame newspaper owners and publishers the most, although everyone in the industry has a share of the blame.

Because of all that I have been looking not only for a newspaper job, but for employment in the nonprofit or government sectors. There is a chance that what they used to say is still true, that writing skills are appreciated in very nearly any field. I am not 100 percent convince that is true given the traditionally low salaries in newspapers and other media, the decreasing salaries in newspapers, other media and for freelancers, and the low wages for “writers” in industries in which writers are not traditionally thought to work. And the disintegration of language because of what passes as “allowed” writing in emails, texting, blogs and other electronic media belittles and besmirches what professional writers do. That is the way of the universe.

And I also have given thought to returning to college to earn a master’s degree in another field, perhaps pubic administration. I believe I would go with an emphasis in nonprofit management over government agency management, because for some time I have wanted to do something for the greater good and working for a nonprofit has the feel of doing something more directly good for people.

What I think I have done fairly well for the past couple of months is to: 1) aggregate news about Maine from various sources, usually from Maine newspaper websites; and 2) post stories and other information about the plight of the people in Haiti following the earthquake last month.

Of the former, I usually have posted a headline of a story of interest and maybe some comment along with a link back to the newspaper’s website. I sometimes use the share feature on newspaper websites and sometimes the effort requires a little more work than that, but I always link back to the newspaper so the newspaper is getting the Web visit and the full credit. I gain nothing from the exercise other than keeping idle hands busy.

Of the latter, the effort to help spread information on what happened, what is happening, and what people can do to help Haitians seems a very tiny effort comparatively speaking. I wish I could do more. It is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere and we have an obligation – not as Americans, not as members of one of the richest nations in the world, but as fellow human beings – to do what we can to help. Mainers have represented themselves well in the effort to help Haitians and it makes this Mainer “from away” proud to post those stories of Mainers’ efforts.

When I started this blog only a few short months ago, the intention was to write about and comment upon Maine and Mainers from the perspective of a person now “from away.” I had planned to comment each day.

Things have been hectic lately and sometimes it is a bit overwhelming to try to live up to my own intensions.

But I will strive to be more diligent about updating my blog.

Come back to Letters From Away every so often, won’t you.