My purpose in undertaking this blog was to outline the real life stories of somebody who finds themselves unexpectedly, and undeservedly, without gainful employment. That translates directly into not being able to participate in society fully due to lack of cash. It was never intended as a pity party, as I fully realize that there are literally thousands of folks just like me. As I have discovered, not being alone in this mess, is a small comfort, but a comfort nonetheless. That being said, I am totally and completely fed up with comments (not necessarily from my blogs here, but my musings elsewhere as well) that I am somehow playing the role of victim, perpetuating my own misery. I have been inundated with "fool-proof" advice, some kindly and much, decidedly not, as if there is a magic formula to restore my life to relative normal. The time has come for a clearing of the air. The gloves need to come off, and those fortunate enough to have weathered the current economic crisis with minimal impact to their daily existence need to stop feeling superior. "There, but for the Grace of God, go I." (Feel free to fill in Buddha, Allah, the Fickle Finger of Fate, or whatever your mindset is.) I have striven to be outside of politics, although the present political mess is a direct causative factor in my present situation. Stating that the vast entity of government has done me no service in exchange for my tax dollars over many years of working and owning real estate does not make me unfeeling, uncaring, or immune to the problems of those less fortunate. It is just that, a statement of fact as I have experienced it. All of the various "help" programs that my taxes have supported, and continue to support, seem to apply to everyone except me. Is that frustrating? Damn Straight!
Item #1 I am simply not trying.....
Since becoming unemployed, I have devoted more hours to job search, for no pay, than I invested in a job that paid wages, overtime and benefits on a daily and weekly basis. I have spent money and time commuting to job fairs, cattle calls, and interviews without financial return. I have cold canvassed businesses, only to be told that I can only apply online. Showing a resume is somewhat the same as waving garlic in front of a vampire. I have attempted to "network", letting folks know that I am in the market for a job opportunity, and about the only thing that I seem to have garnered is that people don't particularly want to talk to me at all. In some cases, it must make folks feel uncomfortable, as they don't really have anything to say or contribute. It is always hard to stand by and watch somebody else go through difficulty, especially if you have no solution to offer. On another tact, most folks feel so vulnerable in their own work life, they hesitate to extend themselves from the precarious branch they are perched on and clinging to mightily. Whatever the reasoning, which has on occasion included those who believe that it is simply the fault of the person who is unemployed....we are somehow getting what we deserve, the judgemental aspect of this attitude grinds my grits.
Four months of unemployment have resulted in a record log in excess of 750 actual job applications completed, resume posted on multiple job search engines, over 400 cover letters generated, assorted "Thank You" communications for the interviews received. At least 50% of the applications completed have required completion of online computer testing, both for skills and personality profiles, taking anywhere from ten minutes to two hours for completion. There are times when I am up until well past midnight completing these assessments in advance of scheduled interviews, and outside my usual job search routine. And a folder filled with rejections that came before any sort of interview, assessment, just "we selected somebody more appropriate to our needs". Quite frankly, this is baffling, when the job applied for asks for a GED and 2 years work experience, and I have college degree and over 24 years experience. I dress for success when going to an interview, remember all my best manners, follow up with a thank you note, and reassure them that I really do want to work with their company, and I am really serious about the job offered.
Item #2 I have over inflated expectations, and I have to get a grip that this is a bad economy.
I have applied for the jobs that "Americans won't do". I have applied for entry level jobs. I have applied for jobs that pay less than I earned 15 years ago. I have applied for jobs that aren't directly in the field of my most recent work experience. I, in essence, have indicated that I am willing to go back and start all over again, trying to work my way back up the ladder of opportunity.
The fact of the poor economy isn't lost on me....that is why I am unemployed. I have done all the adjusting, all the downsizing, all the belt tightening. I have listened to people who are young enough to be my kids lecturing me about work ethic, reliability, punctuality, courtesy.....interviews have become like trips to the time out chair-except I haven't yet done anything wrong. In fact, nobody appears to be willing to even give me a chance to do anything, right or wrong. The one job that I have been offered, and which I am taking, involves restaurant service work, pays $4.55 per hour, is only part time, provides no benefits, and requires me to supply all my own uniform needs.....Does that sound like somebody who is unrealistic, lazy, or unwilling to work? Restaurant service is probably one of the most physically and emotionally demanding occupations for the least return. You must deliver food and beverage, with a smile, while dealing with people from all walks, some of whom are not extremely pleasant or cooperative. You are required to clean up ungodly messes, and they aren't even your kids'. You take the blame for mistakes of the kitchen staff, when food is not as expected. You are often treated as being of lesser mental capability due to the fact that you are the server and they are the ones being served. If you had a brain, you wouldn't be earning your living by dealing with their attitudes and issues. Let's see....we can sum up my current expectations as being hopeful to get up to minimum wage when you factor in tips....as this is not an establishment that offers liquor, and caters to a largely family friendly audience, I am not expecting huge tips. So, please tell me how I am being unrealistic?
Item #3 I cannot blame my situation on the government or government policies......
Gee, when you are told repeatedly in interviews that employers have no intention of hiring full time employees and being required to deal with the joys of the new health care law......why can't I blame government policy for making it impossible for me to get work of a full time nature. As I lost my job, and also lost my health care benefits as a result, why can't I blame government when the new healthcare programs are supposed to take care of situations like this......just not until 2014..which incidentally, is over a year away. My taxes have already increased to pay for this great panacea-tax money that I will not have unless I get a job to pay them. If I were to sell my home, as of January 1, I will be taxed by the Federal government on that sale even though I cannot hope to see any benefit for another year beyond that. I am being taxed for using the retirement money, which was responsibly put away so that I wouldn't be a "burden to society" in my old age, and I will pay penalties for having to use that money early in absence of any income-kind of seems like double taxation to me, and once again, in support of humanitarian programs that I never seem to qualify for. Plus, I will be berated for not planning ahead for my retirement, when and if that retirement ever is possible. An America who is not working cannot be faulted for not purchasing "energy efficient" or "green" technologies....heck, we are lucky to purchase groceries and gas for the car. And I will also be berated for not seeing to my physical health, eating healthy.
I urge all of you who are working...the ones who just pop into the nearest Jewel or Dominicks to get the weekly grocery list, and don't spend a lot of time looking too closely at anything not on your list, take a look at the cost of healthy choices versus the cost of not-so-healthy options. Do you realize that you pay more for skim milk than whole milk in many stores. Beef is still cheaper than fish, in most instances. Poultry has become more expensive to the point that a package of chicken legs can cost in excess of $1.50 per pound (and actually the nutritionists only want us eating the white meat with no skin which comes in at $2 per pound or more on sale). Fresh fruit and fresh vegetables are often priced by the individual piece of fruit, and per pound prices are well above $1.50. If you have to feed a family, and you budget is tight, you aren't buying the fish and fresh veggies for every meal, as you simply could not afford to do so. Interestingly enough, you can buy sugar, salt, and fat laden frozen dinners for under $1.50 apiece anywhere you go. Canned foods, loaded with salt, sugar, and preservatives are cheaper too. Even the standard "college days" menu of tuna, mac and cheese, Ramen noodles has escalated in price where the can of tuna which used to be about 50-60 cents is now a smaller can and costs a $1. The mac and cheese used to be available in the store brand or generic aisles for 25-40 cents per package, and now even store brands are double that. But a government that crows about obesity in America has no sense of the increases in grocery prices....it is just all our fault. Exercise, of which there are many wonderful opportunities sponsored by the park district, which my property tax dollars pay for, is not available to me without an additional "in district" fee. I can't even use facilities any longer without a membership card and an "in district fee". But I can't blame my local government for taking my tax money to create facilities and programs that I cannot afford to use. The bad economy means that my state, and my county, and my community can all plead poverty and increase my taxes through property, income, and sales taxes, but I don't have any guarantee of raises in income....in fact, I have not guarantee of income at all.....the notion that we have to pay taxes on unemployment benefits which represent only a tiny fraction of what we earned in a job....well, I just can't blame government for any of that. To all of you who claim that I have no beef with my supposedly representative government (of the people, by the people, for the for the people), please take a turn being in my moccasins, walk the proverbial mile, and see how you feel towards your political saviors-the whole stinking lot of them. The ones who are more concerned with insuring their continued existence in government than delivering anything to the people who elected them. Let me know if you still cannot blame government when your savings are gone, you income is nil, collectors are burning down your phone, and you can't avoid answering the calls, because it might (just might) be an interview for a job that will end the nightmare.....let me know how that goes for you.
#4 Truths, as I have experienced them...directly, up close and personal
Ageism is alive and well, and even sanctioned in our nation. After a certain age, we are considered completely disposable without rights, privileges, feelings, nor any entitlements. We had our chance, and now we are too move over for the younger ones to have immediately, what we may have worked decades to achieve. Please note how Social Security and Medicare are the first programs threatened by any politician who decides that he needs to convince us of greater need to raid our pockets through taxes. Also please note the continued references to the ageing baby boomer population and the huge burden on society for the future, with no mention of the contribution that this largest generation made to the wealth enjoyed by this nation. Oh, and let us reflect on the fact that those complaining would not be here if baby boomers had not decided to create families.
Government plays shell games at all levels, hoping we aren't sharp enough to see through the carnival ruse. Statistic fly ad nauseum to sway our moods and opinions. Very little substance and truth is actually conveyed, just sufficient to make a valid case-or so it appears. The upshot is that they always need more from us, and we always need less. We are supposed to suck it up, while they literally suck us dry. Unfair only applies to the particular groups whom government is wooing at the present to garner sufficient voter support. If you are not one of these groups, you can go suck a lemon. And by design, the groups are many and varied, designed to keep the voting public from ever again coalescing to a common goal or purpose, aspiring to a common national identity...We are now forever going to be assorted minority groupings, age groupings, religious groupings, even men and women - continually encouraged to be at odds with everyone not part of our group, continually told that we are being cheated by others.
Hard work, loyalty, dependability count for nothing. In fact, I am thinking that perhaps we have pretty well dispensed with all virtues, which is probably why nobody can seem to get along. Actual experience, education and ability are not as important as the employer being able to fill his employee basket with the 'right eggs', those which fit the requirements to generate the greatest tax benefit with the least salary outlay. Thank you EOE! And from my limited perspective, all this assessment testing is actually completely and totally counterproductive to affirmative action and EOE, as it requires every person considered for interview to be of the exact same mindset, values set, thought processes. This is probably the greatest and most insidious form of discrimination and employers are universally embracing it, because it is so 21st century, so progressive, sooooooo.....technology. At the same time that people are screaming that the ACT and SAT are limiting the access to higher education, and as such are unfair, because they do not encompass cultural bias, we allow the exact same testing to occur with relation to earning your living. Plus, they don't have to deal with rejecting any candidate personally as the test results often pop up at the end of your exertions anyway. With our myriad of communication options, the workplace is actually less interactive with armies of people who have no people skills and therefore have no ability to judge the merits of another person. Job searching isn't much different than lottery tickets.....buy enough and eventually you will win something. Problem is that the cost is usually higher than the prize.
I have vented my spleen, had my say....rain on my parade if you must, if it makes you feel better or superior. Really no skin off my back, as I have already been humbled beyond belief. Don't think that there is a single comment that I haven't heard in the last four months, but you are welcome to try. I may be down, but I am not out.
Filed under: The Job Search