Tag Archives: unemployed

Coffeehouse observation No. 279 – Nearly forced to break out coffeehouse ninja skills

Overheard something yesterday that still has me a bit cranked up. Two mature – ah, heck, they were elderly – women were sitting at the next table and talked on and on about their China doll collections.

Yep, they had catalogs and everything. Even had a 16- to 20-inch doll with them and talked about going to a “doll show” on Saturday.

Then they started talking about world and national events, solving all the problems of the world from their seats there in the coffeehouse. Political unrest overseas? They figured it out. Political unrest in Wisconsin? They figured that out, too. Obnoxiously loud car outside the coffeehouse? They figured out a solution for that, too. Amazing.

But then their conversation shifted to the unemployed in this country and one of them uttered these world: “They should just retrain themselves and find a job. That’s what I think.”

Yeah, 13.9 million unemployed Americans – and that’s just the number of people who have not given up on seeking employment – are simply going to “reinvent” themselves into rodeo clowns or international spies or whatever. Simple as that.

It is not! I should know. I am five days short of being unemployed for two very long years. Those two women do not know what they are talking about.

I seriously considered breaking out my coffeehouse ninja skills to throat-punch those two women. But I restrained myself. I figured I would be wasting a perfectly good throat-punch.

Go to Coffeehouse Observer for more coffeehouse observations.

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My best hasn’t been good enough – yet

 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.

Yet.

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.

X marks the spot, but it has nothing to do with pirates

X marks the spot.

X marks the spot.

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.

A Sin and a Shame

[The behavior of which Mr. Herbert writes is a disgrace and very nearly the most un-American activity I can imagine, short of treason. — KM]

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/31/opinion/31herbert.html

Unemployment takes a toll | The Reporter

[The newspaper where I worked for more than 13 years  and where I served as the opinion page editor for several years was gracious enough to publish a commentary I wrote in the paper’s Sunday Op-Ed section. There is a typo at the beginning of the second sentence of the online version of the piece, which I’m guessing happened when they converted it for the website. Please ignore the X. Thanks. — KM]

Unemployment takes a toll – The Reporter, July 11, 2010.

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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.

Maine jet engine maker plans rehirings | Bangor Daily News

Maine jet engine maker plans rehirings – Bangor Daily News.

Unemployed must wait for benefits | Bangor Daily News

Unemployed must wait for benefits – Bangor Daily News.

Picture is worth a 1,000 words – or just under $200

I finally dove into digital photography.

Sort of.

I’ve been without a camera for a quite a while. Well, that’s not exactly true. I still have two 35-mm film cameras – a Canon single-lens reflex camera and a Pentax.

But who shots film anymore? Not many people.

And ever since I started the Letters From Away blog, I’ve wanted to include photos to illustrate some of the things I’ve written about.

I’ve been thinking about getting a camera for a while, but I’m still unemployed and funds being what they are, I have been putting it off.

Finally, I gave in and picked up a Canon PowerShot A1300 IS at Best Buy. I know, I know, it is a very basic camera. But it will do what I need it to do until I can get a job and can pad my bank accounts and buy a better camera.

The package I purchased for a bit under than $200 included the camera, wrist strap, battery, charger, cables to connect the camera to the computer and another to connect it to a TV, software, a 4G memory card, carrying bag, and Flexpod gripper tripod. I figured it was worth putting on a credit card in order to put more photos on Letters From Away.

So, expect more photos. Some will be good. Some will be, well, not so good.

Also, if any reader has a photo of Maine or Mainers or taken by Mainers and you’d like it to have a little play, please forward it to me and I’ll put it up on this blog. Don’t forget to give me your full name, your connection to Maine, and a bit of information so that I can write a cutline to go with it.

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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.

Grant to help unemployed Mainers pay insurance

Grant to help unemployed Mainers pay insurance