Tag Archives: work

More to be thankful for as time goes on

Brenda and me at a sandwich shop.

Brenda and me at a sandwich shop. (Photo by Keith Michaud)

I know it is a bit late for a “thankful” blog entry, after all, people now are more concerned with camping out at their favorite stores to find the best deals for holiday shopping than they are about contemplating thankfulness.

But I am thankful for a whole lot more than I have been in quite a while.

Actually, I’ve been pretty grateful and thankful for quite a while. Even during my more than two and a half years of unemployment I was hopeful and fairly optimistic that I would eventually find a job, and grateful and thankful for what I did have. Two and a half years is a very long time to be without work and to remain optimistic in that time took considerable effort. But I did not give up. I was able to overcome quite a bit. Two years ago I even wrote that I was thankful for many things, despite my situation.

This year I am thankful for those same things, but also so much more thankful for two things in particular.

One of those things is a new job. I’ve been working now for about three weeks as the editor of the Central Valley Business Journal. It’s working out well, I think. My bosses appreciate my expertise and seem genuinely pleased that I am there. It is not my “dream job,” but does that sort of thing really exist anymore?

There is a chance that I would not have gone after or accepted that job if it was not for my girlfriend, Brenda. She is the one thing for which I most grateful this holiday season. I am very happy that she is in my life. We’ve been dating for a bit more than six months now. In that time she has been consistently encouraging and supportive and far more confident than I that I would find a job eventually. She was very caring in her encouragement. I am not sure I would still be in California if it were not for Brenda. We make each other laugh and it is very easy to be with her.

She is intelligent, bright, pretty, cute, funny, and able to laugh at herself.

She is a former teacher currently working as an aide on buses transporting developmentally disable adults while she earns her master’s degree in education. She longs to be back in the classroom and I hope that happens for her sooner than later.

She and a co-worker go to thrift stores to buy lightly worn jackets to give to people in need who cross their path. She made me tear up with pride when she told me that she could not give me the leftover roast and vegetables she had promised me because on the way to my apartment she spotted a homeless teen in need and gave him the food instead.

She is supporting her very bright, intelligent 18-year-old daughter while she earns her GED. Her son is a police officer and I know Brenda worries about him and his future. She is a caring daughter to her parents, one of whom is in the early stages of fast-acting dementia.

She has so much going on in her life, but she is able to find room in her heart for me. For that I am very thankful.

All rights reserved by Keith Michaud ©

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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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Cianbro contract to bring more than 100 new jobs to Brewer | Bangor Daily News

Cianbro contract to bring more than 100 new jobs to Brewer | Bangor Daily News.

Labor Day a holiday for nearly 15 million unemployed Americans?

Labor Day is set aside to honor the working men and women who built this country with their brains, their brawn, their ingenuity, and the sweat from their brow.

It is a time to recognize those workers and their accomplishments, grand and not so grand.

But I really don’t know how to feel about Labor Day.

The past few Labor Days have been different for me and many more Americans. There are 14.9 million Americans who are not working, who are not laborers. For the past 18 months I have been among the unemployed. Is Labor Day a holiday for those of us who have no work at which to labor?

Sadly and unfortunately, this day is not for them. The only thing a long weekend does for one of those 14.9 Americans is take away one more day for searching for a job.

I have written about my own personal struggle to find work since I was laid off 18 months ago – the frustration of few jobs and even fewer interviews, innumerable rejections, the agonizing struggle simply to pay the bills, the demoralization.

Those who know me have been kind and supportive. The reaction from others has been mixed. Some are going through the same struggles and have voiced support. Others take on a tone that much of my struggles are of my own doing.

I take comfort in the former because from the beginning of this journey I knew that I was not alone and that being laid off was not my fault. I ignore – mostly – the latter because they don’t know me and don’t know what I’ve done.

Like most American children of the time, there were chores at home and a first “job” mowing lawns. It wasn’t a big operation, mind you, just me and a lawnmower. No need for business cards.

A few years later – I must have been 16 or 17 at the time – I was hired to work at a local sawmill pulling green chain. Pulling green chain means pulling and sorting green lumber of all dimension and length as it is sent out of a sawmill on a chain conveyor system. Mind you, pulling green chain comes before the lumber has been dried in a kiln. The lumber contains a very high water content and is several times heavier than it will be once it has been dry kilned. It is hard work, trust me.

I was a carpenter’s assistant the summer before heading off to college. Once there, I sold athletic shoes part time and went to school full time.

The following year, I took on two more part-time jobs. I was working three part-time jobs and going to classes full time.

Later, after I had transferred to school in California, I worked part time busing tables for a time and at a fast-food restaurant. I also was a member of a firefighting crew for three summers rising from crew member/sawyer-swamper to crew leader by my third season. I also received a stipend for working as the editor of the campus newspaper.

In other words, I’m used to working.

There was about a month after graduation before I found my first professional journalism job – editor of a small weekly on California’s North Coast. For the next two decades I worked hard to do the best job possible and continued to advance my career.

Granted, it was a career in the newspaper business.

Unfortunately, newspaper executives failed to see soon enough the Internet for what it could be – a portal to vast profits and ever-expanding readership.

But that’s for another rant.

I continue to be hard working – from the beginning I made finding a job my job – and in the past 18 months have sent out hundreds of resume packages and filled out countless online applications. No one who has launched anonymous criticism of my past published commentary would have done more or done it better.

The problem, of course, is that my hard work is not being compensated. I am not receiving currency for my efforts. I am not receiving the satisfaction of a job well done and much appreciated.

I really don’t know how to feel about Labor Day.

But I know I will continue moving forward. Each day, another step forward; each day, a chance for a brighter future.

And by next Labor Day, I will be working again and looking forward to a three-day weekend to rest from the week’s labors. Next year Labor Day will be a holiday for me.

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Future jobs will belong to the highly skilled | Bangor Daily News

Future jobs will belong to the highly skilled | Bangor Daily News.

Maine unemployment rate drops in April | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram

Maine unemployment rate drops in April | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram.

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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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.

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.