You’re Hired!

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Author’s Note: This article was first published in January, 2011, when I became convinced that what I had for the previous 6 months was indeed a job. I’m still there, happy, productive and grateful. I repost it today in honor of the improving  job numbers from this past Friday.

I didn’t hear those wonderful words when I finally left the ranks of the over-qualified, under-employed and over-the-hill corps. What I experienced was a more gradual invite.

“Call me in the morning, I may have a project for you,” or “Next week I’ll have a few hours putting together a bid. If we get the job, then I’ll have more hours for sure.” Those occasional hours became pretty consistent part-time work which then evolved into full time employment.

I probably would not have discovered the immense gratitude I feel for my current job, had it not been for the twenty-seven month trek through the unemployment desert. I consider myself a good, reliable, very qualified candidate but in all of that time I had one — as in a single — interview. As weeks turned to months without an income, I had to let go of the life insurance, the leased car, the dinners out, the health insurance. The payments to the utility company, the credit cards and the mortgage company became less and less frequent. Basic necessities were sometimes paid for because of the generosity of friends and family. There were consequences to my inability to pay our own way that threatened my sanity, shredded my credit rating and obliterated my self-esteem.

Two things saved my ass during the darkest of days: First, the ability to live in the moment, or a day at a time — a neat little trick I learned in AA — and my four year-old sons’ smile. It was never easy and at times I felt quite desperate and disheartened but when I looked around and saw the devastation that the economic crisis had brought to so many, I refused to complain. I found it petty and self-absorbed.

The persistent, optimistic side of me was convinced that better days were on the queue. Good friends were reminding me of this whenever I forgot.

A decent job is important because it allows me to provide for my family’s — and my own — needs; it lets me live up to my responsibilities and fulfill my obligations; it allows me to work with others and to be creatively engaged with society. More than anything, it connects me with the rest of humanity by reminding me of what traits I share with God. Genesis speaks of a working, creative deity that worked for six full days before taking a break. I believe, now more that ever, that we should all have the opportunity to follow God’s good example.

If you have a job, congratulations! If you’re looking for one, may you hear the words at the top of this post real soon. In the meantime, do not despair. Better days are on the queue. Ask your friends to remind you of this.

Searching for Work. Emulating Job.

Job SearchI have been unemployed — and actively seeking employment — for about 17 months. I took some time for retraining in the middle of this work drought, and the certification I earned has increased my job prospects.

I’ve had a few interviews and a couple of good leads since I was upgraded. But nothing has materialized.

I remember hearing Jimmy Stewart telling Johnny Carson something about himself that I found incredible, given Mr. Stewart’s long and illustrious film career. He told Carson that in between movies, he would panic and loose heart, fearing that he would never work again. That the last film he had completed would be indeed that, his last film. Of course, the call from the agent would come in and the feeling would dissipate. Until the current project was done. Then the cycle would begin anew.

I fall into the Jimmy Stewart Syndrome at least once a day. When I realize what’s going on in my head, I take a deep breadth and try to return to the present moment, looking for peace and safety. I then look at my To-Do List and I take the next right action towards improving my financial situation.

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“A Woman Most Curious of Natural Things”

Fossil. Mixed Media. Copyright (c) 2009 Sarah Heller. All Rights Reserved. Photo by David Fischer
Fossil. Mixed Media. Copyright © 2009 Sarah Heller. All Rights Reserved. Photo by David Fischer

I’ve never met Sarah Heller. Until a few weeks ago, I hadn’t even heard of her.

A blogger I often read — and sometimes link to — mentioned her name and recommended her website. I visited and became a fan of her artwork. I later discovered that there was a 6th degree of separation-thing going on between us. A past employer of hers is the cousin of a cousin of mine out in a LA. We also share a love for bluegrass music.

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A Report from the Front Line

I am getting ready to go out again in search of employment. This is part of my new strategy since my previous seven strategies produced zero results. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. After a couple of interviews, I was told that I was under consideration. Since the consideration has not turned into a job offer, I’ve decided to take a more proactive approach.

I joined the unemployed corps voluntarily in April of 2008. I closed a business that had turned into a not-for-profit entity without my consent. At the time I made the calculation that, given my experience, background and educational level, it would take me four to six weeks to find a meaningful and rewarding position with a reputable organization. The data that I used on my calculation was drastically altered in early summer when all economic indicators — contrary to what then candidate McCain said at the time — showed an economy booking a trip to the Southern Hemisphere. By fall the economy had gone south, taking with it most of the optimism of the average American including those in charge of hiring. My chances of getting a job went from pretty good to dismal in a matter of weeks. It didn’t help that my field (architecture/construction) were one of the hardest hit.

As the economic outlook worsened, I did what a good number of my countrymen and countrywomen had chosen to do: I signed up for a certification course to sharpen my skills and improve my hireability (just made that word up!). The tuition was covered by the state. A very socialist idea, by the way. The government is very interested in getting me back to work. They also prefer productive, tax-contributing members of society. We agree on that.

I condensed my resume to one page as was recommended by an employment guru — at this stage I am willing to follow directions, no matter how silly they seem to me — and I printed a bunch. I stuck them in a file and off I went to knock on doors and shake hands. I’m hoping to run into a business-owner that believes the economy is returning from its southern vacation.

While I’m out, I will buy a lottery ticket for the Mega-Millions drawing. At times the odds of winning the drawing have seemed comparable to the odds of getting hired. All I need is a dollar and a one-page resume. One of them will pay off soon.

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Not Worse Than 10%

According to Nate, my numbers guru from the election of ’08:

In spite of last week’s better-than-expected jobs report, many intelligent observers seem convinced that the unemployment rate, which fell nominally to 9.4 percent last month, will nevertheless almost certainly hit 10 percent or higher before the situation really rights itself. Here’s the New Republic’s Noam Schieber making the case. Here’s the White House. Here’s Intrade, where you can make about 2:1 on your money if the unemployment rate is below 10 percent in December.

Although it’s foolish to try to predict economic indicators, I think these observers are probably wrong: the recession likely does not have enough gas left to get us to 10 percent unemployment.

He’s been so spot on before, it’s easy to agree.

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