The photograph at the top of this page tells a story, not the story that watches are intended to tell (the actual time). What this article covers may come across as familiar to those who read my work, it is the skeleton of an October 2015 blog with updates of the past 14 months. Like these watches, despite the passing of time, things look much the same. Though I am writing on my lap-top, I choose to be in the confines of my basement where I have crafted new versions of my resume’ and wordsmithed cover letters for what is now 48 months. Being here feels more like a job and I don’t want to forget what having a full-time job feels like. Each of these watches has the capacity to work, they simply are not working right now. While the watch is certainly more useful when it is working, it is not actually anymore valuable. There is a lessen in that. While I realize my value is not based on my employment status, I have a burning desire to put my skills to good use. I am hoping 2017 to be re-energized with a new battery!
Though some may envy what appears to be “free time” I have to admit that until experiencing it, I had no idea that a job search would be more exhausting than any work I had previously done, including the physical labor of landscaping one summer during college or juggling three jobs early in my marriage. I think that’s because even if you work a twelve hour shift, when you come home you know that you are no longer working. In contrast, when you get up from your computer when unemployed, your mind still knows that your job is to find work and you therefore are not off the clock; not when driving, not while lying in bed, not even when socializing at a party.
Despite beginning to look for my next position immediately upon receiving the news that my job of nearly twenty years was being eliminated, I am still occasionally asked “have you started to look yet?”. The length of my underemployment (I have had some limited work helping out businesses owned by those I know) has others asking “So where are you working now?”. So this is my opportunity to share that I am still in the hunt. I feel fortunate that I am currently enjoying a part-time gig selling poinsettias, wreaths and Christmas trees at a local garden center. I am thankful for the human interaction and chance to spread some holiday cheer. The only issue with working part-time while job hunting is that it poses some distraction from the daily cycle of the search.
I have had the unique experience of having six unemployment counselors (technically only four, as twice I have come back to the same person, one ironically after being laid off because of the promising unemployment numbers) all confident in my ability to find work. Each time I meet with one they look at my resume, tell me that my experience and skills are valuable and that I should have no problem finding work. I have taken many interesting classes, attended multiple speakers and learned to navigate various forms of social media. Just yesterday I took the CareerCode test which tells me I am “Social/Enterprising” which they further define as “The Connector”, I will have a follow-up class next week. This sounds much like my Holland Code which identified me as a SEA, I took that test at some point over the last three years ago. These are the sorts of inventories I used to administer to those I supervised. While I value and enjoy this sort of exercise, there is not much new insight to what my skills and preferences are. All of the instructors have been very positive and encouraging, telling me that employment should not elude me. Yet here I am still looking at jobs with various communities, nonprofits, institutions and organizations. The one insight that my friends working in HR have confirmed to me is that I am not imagining that my age and ethnicity are not allowing employers to check off certain boxes in my favor. I submitted an application to AARP last month, thinking they might see the value in an enthusiastic and experienced employee. I have not heard back from them.
The Workforce center has undergone dramatic changes during my time job-seeking as well. When I first sought out assistance at the Hennepin South location, it took up the main floor of the building that housed it. Later, a wall was put up that divided the space and it took up just half of the floor. My assumption was budget cuts. More recently the wall has been removed and the space reconfigured allowing for a large lecture space, smaller classroom spaces and computer stations in what once was a hallway. I’m unclear now if it’s a good sign when unemployment services have budget cuts, indicating fewer people need the resources or a bad sign. The once flexible use of the computers has been limited and printing can only be completed at certain times. These issues don’t impact me nearly as much as I imagine they do the young parents who are looking for work and wish to complete these tasks at their convenience, not on some arbitrary timeline that is set by the Workforce Center. It is most annoying when there are four people working, only one client in the place, all computers are available but it’s “not time” to work on resumes.
I have had some interviews, which I enjoyed for the interaction and valued for their potential opportunity. I’ve looked at positions that were the right job in the wrong location, others which I had the experience for but lacked an advanced degree and still more where I had the desire but not the software training. Still others looked like a fit for my experience but were not a good fit for my temperament. I am of an age where I know that it would be foolish to take on something over my head or that I don’t have a passion for. As an ENFP on the MBT Inventory I am aware of not only my strengths but also the detailed minutia that does not suit me in some opportunities. I seek variety, human interaction, an opportunity to guide collaboration and work that allows me to help others achieve at their optimum capacity.
When I was first out of work a person at the Unemployment Office suggested a class to me that would start in six weeks. My immediate response was “I don’t have six weeks to be out of work.” clearly a naive comment, from someone who had little knowledge or experience regarding the employment landscape. Similar to my friends who have endured illness/injury, the challenges of aging parents or struggles raising children, none of us choose our battles in life and as Winston Churchill so eloquently put it “If you’re going through Hell, keep going.”. While unemployment for over four years (two while both children were in college) has been incredibly challenging, I am realistic enough to know what is and is not a crisis. Someday I may reflect on this time with more fondness than I am currently feeling while in the midst of it. My beagle Millie is the only family member hoping I don’t find another job. She thinks I work for her now. The benefits are great but there is no paycheck.
My business cards define me as a “Creative Problem Solver”, a moniker I arrived at after discussing the roles I have played in professional capacities and volunteer positions over the years. A motivated group of unemployed students in a “branding class” in 2013 suggested that it best described my varied skill set. When I say a group of unemployed people is “motivated” that is because of those I have encountered on this unintended journey who were not. Last year I encountered a man in his late forties who arrived at an unemployment session dressed more appropriately for a Jimmy Buffet concert; shorts, flip-flops, a crumpled straw hat and even though I was seated on the other side of the room, I believe there was a slight fragrance of coconut wafting across the room from him. In the fickle job-market it is quite possible that he is working now, while I continue to search. That doesn’t mean it’s quitting time, though it is 5 0’clock somewhere!
I need a job with variety in the daily responsibilities. I am creative and would be wasted in a mundane repetitive setting. I have worked for twenty years in property management but it is not the leasing or administrative tasks that I did, it was the designing of a program, the planning of activities, the marketing of the facilities and serving as a liaison to the surrounding community. I worked in student housing for twenty five years and love identifying strengths in people, building teams and developing leaders. I like making things work effectively, whether through developing policy to make expectations clear or sitting down with parties to collaborate on solutions to issues.
I have volunteered since I was a child and thrive working in a helping role with groups and organizations. Most recently I am back at my former high school, sitting on the Foundation board, helping with a year-long 75th anniversary celebration and serving as the chairperson for the newly formed Distinguished Alumni committee. My profile from yesterday’s class came with this quote “I am a part of all that I have met.” -Alfred Tennyson That pretty much sums me up!
I appreciate all that have passed along leads and suggestions over the past few years and I continue to welcome ideas and feedback. I wish I wanted to be a Realtor, or to sell insurance, work in banking or even sell cars, because there have been opportunities in those areas but I simply know those aren’t my callings. I am thankful for those who have told me they believe I could do talk radio, be a stand-up comic or write a book but I need a paycheck sooner than later. I am confident there is something out there for me and I will share with everyone once I have found what that is. Meanwhile I welcome any leads you may have. May 2017 bring health and prosperity to your home.