Tag Archives: job

No job? Then no job!

I haven’t been working for a couple of years. Well, technically I have been working, but not for a salary. I’ve been writing, and while I haven’t been earning a salary, trust me, it’s work. I make some money as a freelance marketer. I have a couple of clients for whom I write white papers, web content, press releases and the like. I also manage events and other marketing projects. I want to keep my skills sharp in case this writing thing doesn’t work out.

Even though I’m not looking for a job-job, once in a while I’ll hear of an interesting opportunity. If that coincides with a day that hasn’t been productive, or a fleeting depression for some other reason, I might submit a resume. I’m committed enough to producing a saleable novel that I don’t invest much emotion in these forays, and I’m not terribly disappointed when their lack of interest matches my own. That being said, I had an experience recently that made my blood boil.

An in-house recruiter for a software company that does mid- to front-office financial services solutions found my profile on LinkedIn. He wrote that the company was looking for a Director of Marketing and would I be interested? I pondered that question for a bit and decided that there was no harm in talking to them.

Shortly after I replied, I got another email from the recruiter saying he had studied my on-line profile further and realized that I was not currently working. He said, and I’m quoting here, “One of our criteria’s [sic] that we have to adhere to is any person we are considering for employment needs to be currently employed.” I had encountered my first real live Catch-22. I was stunned. Not so much that the company had an internal policy, but that they would say it out loud.

I contacted a lawyer friend of mine and asked if it was legal to tell a prospective candidate that they couldn’t be considered if they were unemployed. She assured me that the unemployed were not a protected class and it was legal, albeit stupid. Hot on the heels of my own experience, Adrian Walker, a columnist at The Boston Globe, wrote a piece called Jobless need not apply. He wrote that, “The problem isn’t limited to Massachusetts. … some states, such as New Jersey, have passed or are considering laws that would ban employers from refusing to consider unemployed applicants.”

I know I asked if it was legal, but really, is this something we need a law for? Do these companies not read the papers? There are people who need jobs out there! The people who have jobs, well, they have jobs! How about we get a job for everyone who wants to go back to work, and then worry about the folks who are looking for a different job?

Maybe then companies can hire people based on their applicable skills, instead of their current job status. Perhaps the company that contacted me could hire a recruiter with better communication skills; someone smart enough to reject me in a less inflammatory fashion. I would have said, “I’m sorry, but we are looking for someone with more financial services experience.” If he’d written that, I wouldn’t have batted an eye. But then I wouldn’t have had a blog post for this week.

Inasmuch as I’ve discovered that not having a job may preclude getting a job, this writing thing better work out.

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The soothing effect of money

A few days ago marked one year since I was shown the door at my last ‘real’ job. At the time, I went through the traditional stages of grief; anger, disgust, disdain, and fury, with a brief stop at homicidal mania. It didn’t take me long to get past all that, however, and settle into my new life as an aspiring novelist. I wasn’t particularly lonely, my days didn’t drag. I was productive and had results to show for my efforts. I probably even lowered my blood pressure. What I did miss, was having an income.

It’s been well over thirty years since I went a year without a ‘real’ job. I had my first office job the summer I was thirteen. The man who hired me could not remember how old I was and occasionally suggested I take his car to run an errand. I’d remind him that I was only thirteen and he’d look at me for a minute like we’d just met, and then shake his head and say, “Right, right,” and wave his hand, indicating no matter, he’d handle that chore himself.

I liked making money. With money came unbelievable freedom. If I wanted something my parents weren’t willing to spring for, no problem, I bought it myself. If I wanted something they wouldn’t approve of, they didn’t need to know about it. But it turned out that I wasn’t a terribly acquisitive teenager. The things most girls spent money on, clothes and makeup, didn’t interest me at all, so my bank account grew and grew.

As an adult, I took great pride in being financially self-sufficient. Single, I bought my first house right before I turned thirty, proving that ‘a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.’ And when I met and married my husband, I insisted we keep our money separate until a few years in when a lawyer told us that, at that point in the marriage, there was no more mine vs. his. If we broke up, the state would look at our assets as one big pot to be split. I gave in and our money began mingling. Even so, I was acutely aware of my contributions to the family coffers, and the financial freedom I continued to cherish.

So here I am, ‘working’ at home, and not earning money. I hope that won’t be a permanent state of affairs. With a little luck, I’ll sell my book and look back on this year as the year I worked on spec. And if I can do it once, maybe I can do it twice, and then I’ll be contributing financially again.

Meanwhile, I’m the only one in the family having a problem with this situation. My wildly supportive husband is perfectly content to be the sole wage earner, as long as I’m happily pursuing my new career. So I’ll try to stay upbeat. After all, I have enjoyed this past year. But I now know that even if money can’t buy happiness, it sure can stave off anxiety.

Networking is not a dirty word

[This post was written before the start of our ill-fated vacation so my readers wouldn’t miss a week while I was away. More on that another time.]

Last week I said I’d write a bit more about networking, so as promised (or threatened, depending on your perspective) that’s where I’ll start. Lots of people find the thought of networking distasteful, but that just indicates that they don’t really understand how it works. Whenever I hear someone say, “I can’t network; I’m not good at it,” I point out that they network every day.

In computer parlance, a network is a collection of computers that can communicate with each other. If we apply that to people, your network comprises the people you communicate with, co-workers, classmates, family, friends, even the cashiers you see every week at Trader Joe’s.

If your letter carrier sees you sitting on your front lawn and says, “Beautiful day. Hey, I love your earrings,” and you reply, “Thanks my friend’s sister made them,” you’re networking. You may not have your letter carrier over for drinks but she might just remember your earrings and ask you for the name of the designer someday. It’s true you don’t benefit directly from that interaction but networking is about all of those little interactions that connect us to others. Somewhere in your network, someone else is having a casual conversation that will benefit you.

When it’s time to look for a job, you need to use the network you already have to expand it further. Now when your letter carrier comes by and says, “Beautiful day,” you can reply, “Yes, but I’d rather not have the time to enjoy it. Know anyone who needs a crack marketing director?” I guarantee the letter carrier will take the time to express her sympathy (because after all, it’s a beautiful day and she’s in no rush, she’s a letter carrier) giving you the opening to say, “ACME Software looks like a great company? Do you by any chance know anyone who works there?”

If you don’t know where you might like to work, or even if you want to go back to doing what you were doing, you might consider hiring a life/career coach. Even before I was laid off, I knew that I needed someone to help me figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up; someone who was not a therapist. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of therapy (and we can talk about that some other time) but this was less a case of “how did my family of origin influence my behavior” than “how do I change my situation?”

I started seeing (well, I never actually saw her, we talked on the phone) Rosie Reardon. She has a website, if you want to learn more about her but I’ll share a little here for those of you who are interested. Working with Rosie was a bit like having my own personal self-help book; her advice was accessible and actionable. She helped me realize how much I was, or could be, in control, so I wouldn’t feel as if I was at the mercy of the powers that be. I learned a lot from Rosie and graduated from our sessions with a degree of self-confidence and drive that had been in scant supply. I’ll miss my conversations with Rosie, but I decided it was time to free her up for one of you.

First you cry

A classmate from elementary school (you’ve got to love Facebook) just pinged me to say that he’d been laid off, and knowing that I had gone through that recently as well, wondered if I had any advice for him. I decided to use this week’s post to answer him.

Sadly, as a high tech marketing person, I have become something of an expert at being laid off. As a matter of fact, I’ve been laid off twice by the same company, and let me tell you, I don’t care how much they beg, I am never going back there. You know what they say, ‘fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, what the hell was I thinking?’

The first thing to do after you’ve been laid off is to have a good cry. If you’d rather yell and scream, that’s okay too. The point here is that it hurts to be let go, even if you saw it coming. It hurts like being dumped, or having your best friend move away, or losing a pet. It’s one of those gaping wounds that no one can see, but that doesn’t make it hurt any less. Give yourself as much time as you need to mourn your loss, but not so much that you have to switch to the next season’s wardrobe.

When you’re ready to start looking you need to get your resume in order. It’s an onerous project and no one likes to do it, but you’ve got to. As much as possible, recast everything you’ve done in quantifiable terms. Take credit for anything you had a hand in; everyone else does. For instance, if the development team you managed built a product that earned the company $10 million – claim it as your success. This sort of self-aggrandizement may not come easily to you, particularly if you’re not a sales or marketing person, but believe me, you’ve got to do it.

The next step is to network. The step after that is to network. And yes, you guessed it, the step after that is to network some more. The upside to being out of work these days is that there’s social networking. Look how it’s working for my friend from sixth grade! LinkedIn.com is the place to be if you want to connect with the business world. LinkedIn has monetized the game, Six Degrees of Separation. From there you can see who you know who knows someone at the company you’re interested in. And the only way you’re going to break into that company is to have someone introduce you. You can answer ads on Monster and HotJobs but if that’s your strategy for finding a job, you’re going nowhere fast. By all means, look at what’s available on the job boards, but then go to LinkedIn and try to find a connection that can carry your resume to the hiring manager.

I’m going to make this my first two-part blog post. Next week I’ll talk more about how to network, and also share my thoughts on hiring a life coach. I’ll leave you with this thought, we live in a time when there is no stigma attached to losing your job; it happens to the best of us. And there’s an army of sympathetic folks waiting to help. All you have to do is ask.

The smell of despair

To collect unemployment benefits you have to agree to look for work every week, report any income you make in a week you collect, and attend a two-hour seminar on how to find a job. You might be able to fudge the first two but there’s no wiggling out of the third.

The address for the seminar closest to my home was a mall in Cambridge. Who knew there was anything other than retail there? But lo and behold, between Jack’s Smoke Shop and PetSmart, there was a doorway with a sign above it for the Career Source.

The door opened into a long corridor that reeked of stale smoke, the smell of despair. At the end was an elevator. I waited for what seemed like forever for the door to close for the short ride to the third floor. When I reached the office I struggled in vain to figure out where I was supposed to go until someone flapped her hand in the vague direction of the room. By the time I took my seat in the classroom I was more than a little irritable. Then we met our presenter.

This man, I’ll call him Peter, introduced himself as someone who could relate to our situation. He’d been let go from his job as a European History teacher at a parochial school several years before and that had led him to his current job preparing us to go out and find gainful employment. He was a soft-spoken, articulate man. He led us through a handful of predictably content-free PowerPoint slides with such sincerity and care that I found myself paying attention in spite of my resentment. And all the other attendees were too.

The class was filled with all manner of folk, our own little microcosm of society. There were women with manicured nails and guys with dirt under their nails. There were people with dyed hair, gray hair and no hair. There was a man with an earring in each ear and a woman with multiple earrings in one ear. There were watch caps and baseball caps and wool hats. There were band-aids and tattoos and canes. There were native English speakers, people who spoke English as a second language, and people whose Boston accents were so thick they sounded to me as if they came from a foreign country.

Sitting with these people was a humbling experience. For many of them what Peter was saying was going to make a huge difference in their lives. He was arming them with valuable information about how to approach a job search. He was explaining the free services and resources that were available to them through the Career Source. He was giving them hope.

I went in feeling put upon and annoyed that I had to sacrifice my time to be there. But I left grateful that such a place exists, knowing that for lots of people that compulsory seminar is as valuable as the unemployment payments themselves.