Friday, July 31, 2009
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Monday, July 27, 2009
Today's headline is from my grandmother, who exclaimed this whenever the gods seemed to be against her.
Last week while driving to a doctor's appointment, I slowed to a stop sign and heard a serious thunk and scraping sound. My grandmother's adage came to mind, along with a few expletives.
We'd just spent more money on belts than I cared to put into our jalopy; not long before that, the brakes needed attention. Now it's the exhaust system. All of this during the incomeless Lull.
Yes, indeedy. If it's not one thing, it's six.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Monday, July 20, 2009
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Friday, July 17, 2009
Thursday, July 16, 2009
One troubling aspect of being unemployed is doubt.
You begin to question not only your accomplishments of the past, but also your potential for the future. Past successes seem like illusions, future successes are unimaginable, and there you are in between.
It's hard to live in the moment when the moment is exactly where you don't want to be.
I have a friend whose antidote to this—her punishment, really—is to apply for yet another job, any job. It helps her push past the doubt and reground herself. I admire her for this. It's brilliant, really. I just haven't been able to do it.
I had an attack of doubt yesterday about maintaining Lull. The first wave hit as I was reading a former colleague's blog. His writing is precise, witty, and energetic. He's a writer by trade and by passion. Also by biology: Both his parents were writers. I started comparing our writing styles and soon all the joy I'd felt about creating Lull had disappeared.
Then the second wave of doubt hit. On Penelope Trunk's Brazen Careerist blog, she offers advice for first-time bloggers. Apparently, I've already made two grave errors with my blog: 1) Not covering ground that's within my expertise, and 2) Writing under a pseudonym. This made me feel like the kid in the corner donning a dunce cap.
Trunk's reasoning for her advice is sound. And for the record, I'd already considered the same points long before I started Lull. Yet I chose a different path. Why?
(Read the answer in "Confessions of a Beta Blogger, Part 2.")
Monday, July 13, 2009
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Friday, July 10, 2009
If you're a no-collar (or as the Feds say, displaced) worker like me, you're in good company. And 14+ million is likely a conservative number. For me, being part of such a large group takes some of the edge off (and the shame and embarrassment) of being unemployed. Of knowing that someone chose me to be unemployed.
But that's only one element of our new lot in life. There are other "edges" to file down: paying bills, purchasing necessities, and remaining courageous while pursuing a job, to name a few.
I'm lucky in a way. My husband and I already lived within our means when he lost his job in 2006 because of an injury, at which time we drastically reduced our expenses. In case you're new to this reduction-in-force/reduction-in-living game, here's a short list of the changes we made:
• No more bottled spring water
• No more dog toys or accessories
• No more just-because-I'm-thinking-of-you gifts for one another or other impulse purchases
• No restaurants
• No trips
• Buy clothes and books from thrift stores instead of boutiques and department stores
• Ride a bike on errands rather than driving a car
Because my employer never paid me market value, my unemployment check doesn't feel much different. And with the government helping out with our healthcare costs, we only had to tweak our already-slim budget. Now I buy groceries according to what's on sale, I eat leftovers from meals I didn't like in the first place until they're gone, I use a razor until it's nearly dull before switching to a new one, I let my hair grow rather than going to the salon.
But I've failed to do the most important thing in the midst of all these changes: Live. Once you cut out all the fun in your life that cost money, it's easy to trap yourself into having no fun at all. To become reclusive. To hit a point of stasis.
It's not so much what you do, though, as how you think. I was reminded of this the other day while reading Steve Crescenzo's eulogy for his father.
It's a lesson in making every day the BEST it can be under the circumstances. It's a lesson in living large by eating well, playing hard, and spending time with who matters to us. It's a lesson we must never forget, regardless of our circumstances.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
For the record, I share their taste but not their build. Yet I've usually been able to make their clothes work for me.
Today this particular dress feels a bit snug across the back. It doesn't look bad, but last Spring I was so thin I had to cinch it with a belt to keep it from dragging the ground.
I blame The Lull.
It's not that I'm not doing anything while being unemployed. It's just that there's more food at hand while I'm doing it.
Plus my dog dawdles. I know how lame that sounds, but I used to walk her 4 miles a day; now we're lucky to go a couple of square blocks. The phrase putting on the dog has shed a new meaning on me: My new girth is a manifestation of my dog's age creep. But I don't hold it against her.
I suppose there are other "no-collar" folks out there who already had a healthful nutrition and exercise regimen in place and aren't fazed by The Lull. I'm just not part of that crowd.
Hrrmph. More new habits to develop, more change to embrace. Can't wait until I'm the New Me . . .
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Here's an odd thing about being unemployed: time. I used to have to keep track of it, allocating minutes to whichever project I picked up. I was constantly juggling, too; rarely had the pleasure of seeing one project through to completion before starting another one. Deadlines were stacked one on top of another and there was no downtime. Minding the clock was such a habit that now I have to stop myself sometimes from writing down how long I spent reading the N.Y. Times, how many minutes it took to get a glass of water, how many hours went by as I looked online for job opportunities. I actually have more time now that I don't have to monitor it.
During a lull, time can fritter away. During a lull, it's wise to develop new habits.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Sunday, July 5, 2009
Saturday, July 4, 2009
Curveballs have been on my mind lately. Not because it's baseball season, but because people so often engage curveballs to describe the unplanned in life. Lately it feels like nothing but curveballs have been lobbed at me.
Now I'm not a glass-half-full kind of gal. I don't believe I have to catch the curveball to have it change my life. It can do that just as well when it slips through my fingers or lands far from my grasp. I can look at it as a positive change or a negative cross to bear. Or I can just look at it.
What kind of curveballs have come my way? Oh, the usual stuff: medical emergencies, job loss, reversal of fortune. I won't bore you with the litany.
I've learned to keep my mouth shut when I'm tempted to ask "How much worse could it get?" I've learned to count my blessings.
This is not to say that I'm comfortable with curveballs. On the contrary, they knock me off-balance and make me fret.
On the other hand, I feel a new kind of serenity about my future. I don't say "This isn't fair!" or "Why me?" I neither dwell on my misfortunes nor fantasize about getting a big break. I'm working on living in the moment.
Qué será, será.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Hunting for a job is a daunting task for me. I'm squeamish about self-promotion and absolutely refuse to "fudge" about any skills I have or wish I had. I don't submit my résumé to you unless I'm certain I can succeed at the position you are advertising.
And that's where things get iffy.
The Job Board
My hunt takes place exclusively online. I visit a number of aggregate sites that pull in ads from a variety of job boards, so I'm familiar with a variety of formats. Some are inadequate for an HR specialist to properly list an opening; few allow for creativity in the description. The immediate workaround is a link to the more desirable listing on the advertising organization's Web site. Beyond this, I would encourage job boards to survey their users—both employers and prospective employees—to continue to improve the sites.
But job boards are the least of my problems with job-hunting.
The first obstacle to my quest is the person (or committee) who wrote the ad. Kudos to the folks who understand the difference between "preferred," "desired," and "required"—and actually include this language in their job ads. And kudos to the folks who can put one word in front of another and have them make sense. But a pox on the rest of you.
I've seen ads for positions that carried the title I'm qualified for, but described tasks in such jargon-laden language that I had no idea what I would be expected to do. I've also seen ads that didn't use jargon but still failed to make sense. I know that job-seekers apply to your ads in spite of these shortcomings. But don't take that as evidence that your ads work. It's merely evidence that some people are desperate enough for work that they'll take a stab at any opening, appropriate or not.
I'm not interested in working with people who can't put a sentence together. Nor am I keen on working in an organization that depends on jargon to communicate. The sad truth is that in many cases, these bad ads don't reflect the culture or nature of the organization or department. They merely reflect the writing skills of the person (or committee) who put the ad together. Which means that you are likely screening out many qualified candidates who could have been a great fit for the position (me, for instance!).
The second obstacle to my quest for employment is the application procedure. I realize that automating this part of the hiring process is a boon for HR departments and a nice revenue stream for suppliers of the software. But when was the last time you asked job-seekers for feedback on your application procedure?
I understand that asking 20 essay questions weeds out the tire-kickers. Here's what I don't understand:
• Multiple-choice questions that don't provide a space for additional comments. I find that in many cases, my answer is not among the list. I could randomly select an answer, but that would be a lie. And at the end of every application I've seen so far, I'm not supposed to press "Submit" unless I verify that everything is true. I could leave the question blank, but then I couldn't even move on to the next screen because the software requires an answer to every question. So please leave a space in which I may provide an explanation.
• No way to "Save" my responses. Some programs allow this, others don't. Think about this for a moment. During the course of the one or two hours it can take to complete an application, any number of things can go wrong—a power outage, an Internet disconnection or timeout, an interruption or personal emergency, a mistakenly pressed button or key. Without a Save feature, all the work prior to these calamities is lost. I realize this has no direct impact on you, but it does show your lack of regard for the job-seeker.
• No overview. Most of the software is structured so that every question has to be answered on one screen before being allowed to continue to the next screen. How many screens are there? How long will this take? I know I can put in bogus answers just to go from screen to screen and then edit every answer afterwards. But what a waste of precious time! Why not present a screen that shows the entire application? Then I can work on the questions offline and submit thoughtful, informed answers later.
I could go on. But I'm wondering how enlightened some HR people are. Here are a few Web sites and blogs to enrich your career: