Coming up on six months of insanity. Six months of endless research on search engines. Six months of filling out endless online forms. Six months of writing resume versions, cover letters, thank you notes. Six months of driving to Bufu and back for interviews, second interviews. Six months of spending more hours per week looking for work than I spent working full time......and after all that, I receive notification of what amounts to an IRS audit in the world of work and unemployment. The willing and helpful "counselors" at the Illinois Department of Unemployment Security want me to attend an emergency unemployment benefit seminar. To that end, I need to fill out a questionnaire, and submit my job search history to date, thereby demonstrating how diligently I have been pursuing this seeking employment objective. One small problem........in a world that no longer deals in paper applications, I am expected to fill out paper forms indicating all the places that I have contacted in my job search. Yes, indeed, I have the records. They are all neatly categorized in computer folders...entitled: Confirmation of Application Receipt, Responses to Application, Phone Interviews, Online Assessments Completed, In-person Interviews, Second Interviews, and the ever popular Rejections (which I entitled FOAD, translating to F____ Off and Die). And recently, since the outcome of the national elections, I had to add a new folder for Positions Cancelled. Anyway, assembling all this information into paper and pencil documents was depressing indeed. I have literally submitted more than 650 applications, received 107 rejections, had 77 phone interviews, 45 first interviews and about a dozen second interviews. The cancellation folder includes about 30 positions that were advertised that the company decided not to fill.
I present myself on the designated day, at the designated time, armed with my volumes of paper.....and the process begins with an informational talk. Interestingly enough, looking about the conference room, I noted that there wasn't a single one of us "job seekers" under the age of 40. We were re-educated on how to use the job service web site (most of the postings on that site are much older than what is customarily on the traditional search engines like Career Builder and Monster.) Despite my resume being loaded on there since June, I have never received a single contact relating to any opening on that site. And, on a couple of occasions, when I noted potential matches for my experience and education, I found the information to be erroneous. I went to one address seeking a customer service oriented position, only to discover that the facility was a warehouse and had no HR people on premises to even leave resume with. In another case, when I arrived at the facility, I was told that they did not accept applications on a "cold canvass" basis and that I had to have some sort of voucher from job service to even have my resume considered. Anyway, six months after the fact, they alert us to the fact that if we don't update our resume every 30 days, then it is no longer viable...would have been nice to know that back in June. But exactly what am I supposed to be updating? If I haven't had work, I haven't anything to add to the resume. The next part was to try to get us to participate in a resume writing seminar based upon the WIN resume software, which I already have loaded into my computer at home. They once again tell us about the programs available for us to get free education and training. I started that process back in June, and never heard anything more about it...I just presumed that they had run out of funding.
The pressing question of the day was: "What can we do to help you get employed?" The universal response was: "How's about doing something about ageism?" Look around the room, and notice that none of us are 20 somethings. Look around the room and notice that most of us are extremely well educated, highly skilled, highly experienced, and yet, not employed. Why can't somebody do something about the questions embedded in online applications that will pinpoint the age of any applicant fairly closely, and the fact that failure to answer those questions will result in the application being considered incomplete. Either you won't be able to submit it at all, but be continuously looped back to those telling age related questions, or you will receive a follow-up email that tells you your application is incomplete and you cannot be considered for the position with an incomplete application....And for those applications that allow you to select "declined" as a response to these questions, well, we all know where that is going, don't we?! If you can't be cooperative in filling out their application then that means you are a rebel and a non-conformist, one who challenges the rightful authority of management, a trouble maker, and therefore, not a good fit for the company's needs.
I also demanded an answer to why I suddenly was being asked, as part of the application, from which federal and state public assistance programs I did, or did not, receive benefits. There was some flustered looks and downcast eyes, followed by the attempt to divert the question to another person, "who knows more about this EOE stuff". Followed by a canned response that this was just statistical information required by the Federal Government to make sure that EOE was being followed. My contention was that the information could be gathered at the interview stage, or even the offer of employment stage. Why is it necessary to be part of the original application if it is not to be considered in favor of, or against, a potential candidate? And as there are government programs out there to encourage employers to hire, is this questioning tied into some sort of special bonus to employers who select candidates from these categories? If so, and I am not a participant in any funded assistance, doesn't that effectively mean that I am bumped even further down the list for consideration, because I do not provide the employer with added perks to justify the salary and benefits that they might provide by hiring me? These appeared to be questions that nobody wanted to answer, nor did they want any of the other job seekers to hear. I was loaded down with a goodly amount of "helpful" informational fliers and hurried on my way with sincere wishes for my successful job search......Oh, yeah, and a happy holiday season, too.
While I was there, I also asked other questions, which apparently weren't any more welcome than my first endeavors at understanding this convoluted system. Is it OK for me to pay for my own continuing education, if the government provided subsidy has run out, so that I can add some skills that might make me more attractive based upon the information gathered in failed interviews and rejection letters? Well, not exactly, because if I am taking classes, and they aren't part of a "state approved" program, and I haven't been placed in those classes by the state agency, then the time I spend in school is also time that I am unavailable to work, and therefore a violation of the unemployment benefits policy. Couldn't I take the classes online? Or evenings? Weekends? In other words, couldn't I fulfill my education at times other than the traditional work week.....? It appears that is a resounding "No" as well, because the premise is that I must be available for the whims of employers 24/7. The reality of having dependent children and the need for caring for them could be construed as interfering with my work search. However, if I am placed by the state into a state approved program, then I am exempted from the requirement to actively search for work during the hours I am participating in education. In fact, for the period of the education, I would be exempted from having to job search at all.... This doesn't make sense at all....If the state decides that I need to be educated and then decides what I need to be educated in (also paying for that education), I get my unemployment benefits as a free add on without any work related search required. However, if I am frustrated at continuing rejection letters, decide to expend my own money and time for classes to correct the shortfall, I am then guilty of violating the implied contract of receiving unemployment benefits and jeopardize my status as a recipient. Does this situation seem backwards to anyone else out there?????
Then I asked about commission only, independent contractor types of work. These are the only types of things that I seem to get regular solicitations for or positive responses from. So if I am allowed to set my own schedule, and make an honest effort to earn my own money, does that disallow the unemployment benefit? As most people are well aware, you aren't always successful at earning anything in a commission only environment-particularly at first, when you are still learning how everything works. I was told that participating in a commission only sort of employment would nullify my benefits, even if I didn't earn anything, because it would mean that I wasn't available for other job seeking and interviews. By that definition, trying to work and still not receiving any wage or salary for that effort, I could become ineligible for the only income that I have at the present.....Once again, is this a little backwards? Wouldn't you want folks out there trying to be productive and earn their own way? Now, one of the questions asked every time that you have to re-certify for your unemployment each week is "Did you refuse any offer of employment?" Obviously, beggars are not allowed to be choosers and to refuse employment would be grounds to cease your unemployment benefits, but does this exclusion also apply to offers of commission only, no benefits employment? It seems that we have created a paradox, an oxy-moron even. To put it bluntly...."Damned if you do and damned if you don't" Anyway, the more I learn about this system, the more confusing and crazy it becomes, the more surreal.
The most humorous suggestion that came out of this entire gauntlet, when it was discovered that "yes, I do have a college degree", was that I consider applying to work for the State of Illinois as they are always "posting new job openings". A state that cannot budget, nor pay its bills, and I want that as my job security for the future????? Seems to me that I remember that the last one hired is the first one fired when push comes to shove. Listening to the news about mounting financial crisis, both in the state of Illinois as well as the federal government, I am not thinking a career. in what used to be referred to as Civil Service, is necessarily the way to go right now....after all, I would have to be employed for a certain period of time again, before being eligible to receive unemployment benefit again. Given the state of the economy as a whole, I guess I am not willing to try to draw for the inside straight flush.
Filed under: The Job Search