Tag Archives: LinkedIn

Coffeehouse observation No. 176

I’m sitting outside Exotic Java with a Red Eye – coffee with a double shot of espresso, not the medical condition – checking email, LinkedIn and Facebook, and enjoying the clear blue sky and gentle breeze. Except for the exhaust from the passing traffic, it’s not a bad place to be.

Go to Coffeehouse Observer for more coffeehouse observations.

Bookmark and Share

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.

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.

Letters From Away moves to a new home, while keeping the old

Letters From Away, my blog about what happens in Maine and to Mainers, has a new home. But I’m not nearly ready to get rid of the old home. I like it too much.

I plan to keep Letters From Away on WordPress.com, but now I’m going to have a (nearly) identical version on Blogger, too. It’s called the same thing – Letters From Away – but has a slightly different URL. It is http://lettersfromaway.blogspot.com/. There is a link on the WordPress.com version to the Blogger version and a link from the Blogger version to the WordPress.com version.

Why?

Well, I started the original version – the WordPress.com version – because I wanted to keep writing during my unemployment, reach out with information about my (limited) online portfolio and my LinkedIn profile, and keep idle hands from being so idle.

Frankly, it has been a bit more time-consuming than I first expected and I’m not getting the number of visits I would like, but I do realize blogging is a bit new for me and that it takes time to generate a following. And I rarely have a chance to promote Letters From Away – or another blog I write, Coffeehouse Observer – and when I do promote it, it usually is to my Facebook friends. But I’m hoping things will pick up.

And I think this is something that I can keep up once I have a new job.

And it should be something I can do should I return to Maine. The “from away” part in the title of the blogs refers to a Mainer phrase to mean anything or any person that is from outside of Maine. It is a phrase usually spoken by a Mainer with a bit disgust. Well, quite a bit of disgust.

So, if I do return to Maine, I can simply change the name of the blogs to Back From Away and just keep on going. Or I can create new blogs and link back to the older blogs to give readers context.

To make a short answer longer, the “why” in adding the Blogger version is to spread out a bit more, to give my writing, portfolio and hunger to get back to work a wider audience.

I hope you visit either version of Letters From Away. They are on slightly different templates and the Blogger version has a news feed feature for news from Maine and the rest of New England. For that reason, I may limit the links to news stories from Maine newspapers on the Blogger version. I’ll figure out all that later.

Well, enjoy! Or not. It’s your choice.

And as always, please feel free to contact me via the blogs or email me at keith.l.michaud@gmail.com to report bad links, copyediting errors or whatever. Thanks!

UGH! It’s been 10 months since being laid off!

Soon I’ll have to take off my socks to count the months I’ve been unemployed

Today marks 10 months since I was laid off from a newspaper job in Northern California.

Yes, 10 months! Ugh!

If this keeps up much longer, I’ll have to strip off my shoes and socks in order to keep track of how long I’ve been without work.

Frankly, I never thought I would be without a paycheck and benefits for this long, let alone for nearly a year. I grew up in a very blue-collar community surrounded by hardworking, blue-color family and friends with hardworking, blue-collar values.

I like those values. They are good values. And I have worked all my life to live up to those values.

But even those values were not enough to keep me working. I was laid off on March 5, 2009.

I have ranted on this before.

I also have written about the things for which I remain thankful.

But it is demoralizing to think that I could be without work for a year.

I believe I will find a job soon enough. I have 22 years of experiences in newspapers that can be used in other industries. My portfolio isn’t flashy and only provides a few samples of a very broad and extensive body of work, but it could be far more shabby.

Or I could decide to go back to school, although I am not sure what I would study. Frankly, I’m really not sure what I want to be when I grow up.

If I had my choice, I suppose, I’d be writing a book. But I really am not sure what I’d write about.

I did spend quite a bit of time covering crime and I suppose I could dive into pulp fiction. Or not.

If I had a crystal ball, I would be able to read that I will either find a job in newspapers or with a news agency, or I will find a writing job of some kind with a government or nonprofit agency. I suppose my preference would be to work for a nonprofit agency.

Ever since being laid off, I’ve had some time to evaluate and re-evaluate – again and again – what I want to do in my next job. It would be good, I think, to work for an agency that does good. I regularly search the websites Idealist.org, Opportunity Knocks, Change.org and other nonprofit and green job websites.

And even if I do not get a job working for a nonprofit agency, I hope to do volunteer work once I get a job.

I know, I know, I know, I should be filling some of my free time NOW with volunteer work to have an answer for interviewers who ask: “So, what have you been doing since you were laid off?” But from the very beginning when I was first laid off, there were several very clear things in my mind:

1) It was not my fault that I was laid off. It was all about an economy in flux.

2) I was not alone in my unemployment. There are 15 million to 16 million Americans out of work – 15 million to 16 million!

3) I felt that looking for a job was a job. Looking for work is my work. I search about a dozen journalism-based job websites each day; I search Craigslist each day for writing and editing jobs, nonprofit jobs, government jobs, public relations jobs and more for California, Nevada, Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, and Rhode Island, and sometimes for Oregon, Washington state, Arizona and New Mexico; I search job websites for universities, public relations associations, federal government jobs and more; I search several nonprofit job websites; I search several green industry job websites; view various email job alerts and job newsletters; I have a LinkedIn profile and have used Facebook to reconnect to former colleagues; and my resume and profile are posted on several job sites. I put in the hours.

And I know a few things.

I know this: Things will be better for me in 2010 than they were in 2009. I’m not sure they could get much worse.

I know this: I am somewhat demoralized and sapped of energy from this protracted job search. I really could use something good happening to me and something good soon happening to me.

I know this: I am stronger today than I was before this happened and I will be stronger tomorrow than I was today. This will not claim me.

OK, enough of all this. I have a job to find, because I have no intension of taking off my socks to count off the number of months I’ve been unemployed.