Brave New World…The World of Work

Last night I was sitting around sipping on adult refreshments and wasting time on twitter as I am prone to do when I am too brain dead to do anything else. I was chatting or shall we say tweeting with a real life friend who had made a comment about job applicants being careless in how they present themselves via their resumes and cover letters. I made a comment that turned into a slight discussion with someone else who thought that perhaps employers in this job market are the ones being unfair, I won’t bore you with the whole discussion but I will say it provided me with some food for thought.

It’s no secret that in this current economy if you are looking for a job, you might be looking a while. The reality being that there simply are not enough jobs for all who desire them, hell does anyone even know how many people are actually out of work? After all the weekly figures that are released are based on folks who apply for unemployment compensation, when there are plenty of folks including my spouse who as an independent contractor don’t pay into that system thus when they lose a job they aren’t counted. Then there are folks like yours truly who is technically underemployed since I would love a full time job with things like health insurance, a retirement account and all those goodies. Instead I have a position that is technically part time which everyone including my higher ups know is full time, I just don’t get paid a full time wage.

So it’s probably no surprise that folks are just losing hope, I mean how many fucking resumes do you send out before you start thinking…this is bullshit! Truthfully you just start functioning on auto-pilot when you send shit out because you know the odds of scoring an interview are probably about as good as hitting all the numbers in Powerball. My own brother has been grappling with this as he gets ready to celebrate two years without a job; my brother is an architect with a master’s degree who is now currently working on his second masters as a way to try to keep his resume fresh. Hell, I spent 18 months unemployed in 2007-2008 at the beginning of this financial shit storm, so I know firsthand how hard it is out there!

That said, I say to anyone looking for a job, I am a big believer in when life hands you lemons, you turn that shit into lemonade. In the past year I have been on the hiring end which is a vastly different place than being on the looking end. Last year I hired three people for the small non-profit that I run (when I say small, I mean small, our operating budget is well under $100,000 yet last year we served 300 kids!) and right now out of the original three I hired only one is still with me. Nope, the other two did not leave for greener pastures but instead were terminated but the one who stuck it out well, he took a chance on me and worked his ass off for not much over minimum wage and in return his effort was rewarded by me making a decision that means I won’t see a raise or bonus anytime soon because I decided he was worth keeping so I increased his pay substantially.

Of all the applicants I have met in this past year he was the only one who took the position seriously and despite the fact the salary was laughable he treated as if it were a well-paying job. Hell, he actually showed up to the interview in a shirt and tie! In many ways he reminds me of my younger self where often times my lack of a degree held me back so I knew I had to bust my ass to prove myself.

Oh, I know many will say but why do I have to do that? You don’t, but in this economy if you don’t find a way to make yourself stand out you decrease the likelihood you will find a job even more. Yes, it may be an employer’s market to some degree but that does not mean we should be passive, over the years I have discovered you never know who someone else knows. I also know that working in a small state like Maine, especially in a field like mine, everyone knows everyone. So today’s grunt might be tomorrow’s boss.

There is no escaping the fact that wages are stagnant…how I know this! Yet my Granny always used to tell me some money beats no money. Now if you have some savings and time left on unemployment, you often can afford to be choosy, I know I was initially. But with the average time it takes to find a job creeping up on a year now, many folks can’t afford to be choosy. Sadly the social safety net once you have exhausted unemployment benefits and used up your savings is pretty much a stop to get a food stamp card and if you are lucky maybe you can access TANF benefits which are also getting pretty difficult to get depending on the state you live in. I don’t know about you but while it’s nice to eat, staying housed is also cool.

When I took my job back in 2008, I was skittish about it but having exhausted my unemployment benefits and making a bit of cash with a few grant writing clients I knew I needed some stable money. So despite the fact the salary was laughable I took the job and have been able to grow with it, my salary while still modest for what I do, is no longer quite laughable and more importantly I have been able to grow my professional network. So while I lament my lack of bennies, I also know why they don’t exist at the same time I have been able to get my name out there which has had some benefits.

The reality is we as a nation, are in uncharted waters these days and to survive I think we are all going to have to start thinking outside the box.

Somebody is watching you, me and everyone else!

I am zooming past the blog today, as I type this the thermostat in my abode is currently reading at a toasty 84 degrees Fahrenheit and it’s right next to an open window. I suspect it’s a tad warmer here in this alcove of an office that I have. Needless to say this post will be real short.

So are you looking for job, maybe you want a career change or you have been looking for a while, you have kept your credit pristine despite this economic downturn, you have impeccable references, good skills, top education…so why aren’t you getting any calls? Well maybe it’s because on Friday night you like to kick back with a lovely Merlot and participate in the Wine Party that happens on Twitter? Or you were up a hunting lodge with some buddies and posed in front of that snazzy gun cabinet and your buddies uploaded them to Facebook and tagged you in the photos.

I know…. sounds pretty silly, after all why would or should a potential employer ever learn these things about you, after all you aren’t telling them about your personal life. Well according to this piece in today’s New York Times, some employers are adding a social media check when making hiring decisions. That’s right a social media check! So getting good workers is no longer enough, they want to know all there is to know about you and more. Crazy times and as Rockwell sang years ago “Somebody is watching Me

Dreaming a dream and trying to live it

I think at times one of the hardest things I struggle with as an adult is realizing that sometimes our dreams and our reality simply don’t match up. I envy people who are able to live the life of their dreams but I have always accepted that my path has been a tad different. When you have a child at 19 which while legally an adult is still pretty young, it means you quickly give up dreamland and start to live in that place where only reality pays the bills and keeps you and your child fed and clothed.

Even when I moved out of survival mode and went back to school, I relied on logic as a form of course correction and chose a career path that was a combination of practicality and what I was good at and wouldn’t drive me mad. All the while ignoring what I really wanted to do because well, I had started to grow rather fond of eating, staying clothed and keeping a roof over my head. So despite knowing that I felt little passion for my path, I made the conscious choice to be the best that I could be.

I have a confession; I am tired of not really living my dream. Oh, I have been flitting around talking about making career changes but to be honest they were rooted once again in practicality. Taking skill sets I am good at, that mesh well with my background but passion? Love? Nope. Not even there, the truth is I love life coaches, I have worked with some amazing ones, but I really don’t feel it in my bones. I know this deep in my soul and frankly I am tired of doing what I am good at because I fear failure.

I have known what I loved for over a decade but it’s so impractical, I laugh at myself. Back when I was an undergrad, I took a storytelling class and fell in love. Stories are fun, historical and often reveal deep truths about life; I love storytellers in all shapes and sizes. But the storyteller who most inspires me is the late Studs Terkel. Growing up in Chicago and listening to public radio, it was impossible not to know who Studs was; later having read several of his books including my beloved Working, I knew I wanted to be like Studs. Funny thing is there really is no way to be like Studs because there can only be one Studs.

Several years ago, I started kicking the idea around of how does one gain the skills to tell stories in this modern world, that was when I figured I would start this blog and well tell my own stories about my own life. I also found this fabulous program that is conveniently located in my own state, mere minutes from me. However after amassing over $100,000 in student loan debts for a BA I feel was worth every dime and a Masters degree I wish I could give back, the reality is I can’t afford to go back to school. Especially a program where I would have to pay out of pocket, after all as we all know my pockets are currently on empty. I have toyed with the idea of getting an MFA in writing but the truth is I am not sure I am really a writer; I like to tell stories which in many ways is different that simply being a writer though they can also be one and the same depending on the person.

So today in an act of silliness I am putting it out in the universe that I really want to go to Salt Institute, my credit is hosed so I can’t take out any loans to make it happen, but damn it I really want this. Life is short and while being practical has served me well in recent years; it is time to dream a little. If nothing else I find when I set my mind to something, it often happens, so I am putting this out and maybe just maybe the universe will help me make this happen.

I look at my kids and tell them to follow their dreams, but maybe I need to lead by example.