Onward with the unemployment… my one-year anniversary

Happy anniversary to me!

Happy anniversary to me!

Here I am riding another bus, trying do some work and trying not to get motion sickness. Working on the computer while traveling is a much better idea in theory than in practice. The bus ride gives me a solid block of time to concentrate and tick things off my list, or dive into a bigger project. But the bus is filled with other people, some eating, some sleeping, some playing games on iPhones. Headphones and a nose plug block out most of it. Still the space is tight for laptop use and worse, I’m prone to motion sickness.

I started barfing in and out of cars at about six years old. Bumps, quick stops, turns… they all made me sick. Things improved once my parents learned not to put me in the far back seat of the station wagon facing backwards. But trips on hilly roads often still included me losing the contents of my stomach in someone’s bushes – flash fertilizing for random vegetation. I’ve grown out of it a little, but I still avoid reading and sitting backwards in cars, particularly blue 1980 Caprice Classics with AM radios and vinyl seats. Oddly enough, I can read on the subway. Maybe the actual cause of my motion sickness is the bumpiness combined with what my peripheral vision picks up out the window. Remove the random visual stimulus, and the sickness goes away. That’s my theory anyway. I’ll get NIH to look into it.

The bus is a half hour out of New York and all’s well… for the most part. My stomach is mostly calm. The New Jersey Turnpike is flat, straight and moving swiftly. The sky is gray; a little rain is falling. New Jersey is filled with construction and power lines, though greener than expected. The older lady sleeping next to me hasn’t yet co-opted my shoulder. The older guy in front of me stopped trying to cough up the residue of a hundred thousand cigarettes. The Bolt Bus, which I’m riding for the first time, is comfortable enough. The wireless internet doesn’t really work, but the electrical outlet does. So I’m blogging via Microsoft Word. Next week maybe I’ll blog using a 1970s Selectric typewriter or possibly a chisel and stone tablet. And I’ll use smoke signals for tweets. Look east at first light every third day for 140-character updates on my cats and the weather.

It’s a good time to reflect, as soon as I put on some music. Okay, now it’s a good time to reflect. (And sorry for lying; 20 seconds ago in fact was not a good time to reflect.) I just passed the one-year mark of unemployment recently. And this is my 202nd post, the second bicentennial plus two or 1978 – the year I began barfing in earnest. My unemployment insurance will run out by the end of the year. The work landscape is still bleak, as the country is enjoying a jobless recovery. I’m planning a huge party without food, drink, entertainment or people to celebrate it. I’d invite you, but you can’t come, and it won’t be any fun anyway.

I continue to network and send out resumes. Most of my job inquiries are ignored, though people are still receptive to networking requests. They want to help, and are willing to offer their time, expertise and contacts. They just don’t know of any openings. Networking may be the best way to find a job. But it hasn’t worked for me yet.

I haven’t had any in-person interviews in awhile either, which is disconcerting. Screening, pre-interview phone calls come in with some frequency. I research the companies, prepare things to say and present my case with intelligence and grace. All this rarely gets me even a “no thanks” email. Last week I received an email for a screening interview. It stated I would be called between 2:00 and 3:00 the following day. I wasn’t asked about the time, I was told. Not having a choice, I made myself available for that hour, except for a 30-second bathroom break. That’s when the call came in. I returned it and left a message, but haven’t heard anything since.

Maybe my resume is to blame for the overall lack of employer interest, because I’m a real charmer in person. Where I worked and went to school is already determined, though my skill set grows every day. Maybe I could present all my experience more convincingly, in a way that better quantifies my successes. And maybe more concrete measurable numbers would give my descriptions that needed boost. I struggle with this issue during every layoff. The opportunity to have my resume redone professionally for free recently presented itself. And the third draft is looking promising. We’ll see what happens when it’s finished and out in the world.

I started applying for temporary seasonal positions to stave off the end of my unemployment insurance. These jobs pay about the same amount for 40 hours of work as my weekly checks. And working for a couple months now, while seasonal work is available, would push the end of my unemployment to the end of February. So I applied for a couple of positions at a department store you’ve definitely heard of. The whole experience deserves its own post. And now I can write it, because they rejected me. They actually sent me an email saying as much. I was overqualified for the position. I was probably overqualified to run the department. Being overqualified is a legitimate reason for rejection. Companies know that employee is looking to leave, and they’ll be faced with hiring someone else sooner than later. But this was a temporary position, with an end date. And I still didn’t get it. Few things are as depressing as not getting a job you don’t want and are overqualified for.

Nor did I get the pundit position, which was my ticket to fame and stardom. The Washington Post did send me a very nice rejection letter, complete with a link to pursue further opportunities. The link, like me, didn’t work. Pundit is probably not the right position for me. In retrospect, my submission was probably a tad tame and inoffensive. I didn’t call anybody a whore or a communist or a Nazi. And my opinions were reasonable and clearheaded. I guess I really do have a lot to learn about the punditry business. If only I’d barfed up something more bilious, maybe I’d be typing this article from my newspaper desk and not a seat on a bus. Alas, it was not to be.

On the bright side, the job search and the blog go on.

[Note: I wrote this post a couple weeks ago. Technical issues and general busyness have kept me from posting it until today. Sorry for being a terrible person.]

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  1. AnyaWeber wrote:

    Hang in there, Norm! I just had my six-month anniversary myself. Sending good vibes for some interviews and no nausea!

    Wednesday, November 11, 2009 at 5:38 pm | Permalink
  2. Kelby2012 wrote:

    Your blog is so on point with things that are going on with my unemployment as well.

    “Few things are as depressing as not getting a job you don’t want and are overqualified for.”

    Nothing burns me up more than to have someone say to me “why can’t you get a job at Walmart.” Unless I totally create a new work history “something I am considering,” I am not going to get hired. Plus, the money would be less than I am getting from unemployment.
    I am coming up on my six month anniversary.

    Thursday, November 12, 2009 at 8:25 am | Permalink
  3. tapo wrote:

    like the blog a lot, nice to see how you are dealing with unemplyment on the other side of the atlantic

    check out http://www.irelandadifferentperspective.blogspot.com

    Tuesday, November 17, 2009 at 12:00 pm | Permalink
  4. Bob Gibson wrote:

    The worst part is that you are just one of many in the same position…in fact there are millions of Americans who won’t get jobs unless the administration takes decisive action…thats funny that the WP sent you a letter recommending where else to look. I’ve been reading the Roosevelt Institute’s blog on navigating the jobs crisis series, and it has a number of good articles that point a way out of this mess! Its at http://www.newdeal20.org/?cat=942


    Thursday, November 19, 2009 at 3:54 pm | Permalink
  5. Joanne wrote:

    I believe we were both rejected for “seasonal positions” by the same “department store you’ve definitely heard of.” Except they never sent me the rejection email. I had to call them to get the news.

    Sunday, November 22, 2009 at 12:15 pm | Permalink
  6. Hello Norm,

    Keep your chin up – it’s not you. Wanted to mention, I did get a job recently, see my blogpost “I got the job, and how I got the job” http://anitatsalinas.wordpress.com/. I realize that everyone’s situation is entirely unique, and may not apply to you at all. Still, might be a nugget or two in there…? I’m rooting for you! Anita

    Monday, November 23, 2009 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

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