An article in today’s ‘The Wall Street Journal, More than one in six men ages 25 to 54, prime working years, don’t have jobs.‘, was both depressing and enlightening. Being acutely aware of current unemployment trends, and having sat through a consultation with an employment coach prior to reading the article, (who shared with me that her husband was in a similar situation as myself), I got to thinking (a dubious habit, if this blog is any indication).
Based on the prevailing wisdom, I’m supposed to: try harder, network better, seek out alternate opportunities, develop my ‘elevator’ spiel. In other words, be the dancing bear. The bear that can do anything, while skating on ice, drinking a martini. Dancing bears have gotten a lot of cute attention over the years; the people that owned and controlled them, less so. The choices presented to the individual are one or the other, be leashed or hold the leash. Why not a third way? Labor and capitol isn’t a zero-sum game. It’s supposed to be a mutually profitable endeavor for both parties. Notice I used the term ‘both’. No unions, no lawyers, no litigants, no courts, and certainly no government.
(But Ed! That’s un-American! And so distant from your title, you must be working on next month’s blog post.) Not guilty on the first charge, Alford for the latter.
Diagramming my Adventures in Unemployment (dammit, somebody else is using that blog title 8-): the Layoff, the Payoff, Begging to Uncle Sugar, the Search, the Reality of the Bills, the Money in the Mattress, Begging to Uncle Sugar redux, the Search Continues, the Interviews, the Dead Air. More chapters to follow.
For openers, I was not caught unawares of the impending Layoff. I had been saying to my colleagues, two years prior, that there would be a restructuring. As the entrails became clearer to senior management, those lesser mortals searched for opportunities. I had moved into two temp positions while concurrently supporting contract proposals. All to no avail. While saddened, I was not depressed. I had seen these maneuvers in the federal realm in the past, and knew that while annoying, they were not everlasting.
The Payoff came shortly after. A decent severance check is always appreciated, more so with an accompanying payment for medical insurance for two extra months. Two months! It was almost a free vacation. Surely I would find a suitable position that employed my unique talents and would pay an approximation of the standard wage.
Technically, the Begging and the Search coincide, as it is a requirement for those collecting unemployment to demonstrate they are actively searching for work. Paperwork in hand (or more correctly, on line), the forms were processed and the search begun. I fully expected the search to take some time, as there is a process to separate the wheat from the chaff. I am not a godsend player by any means, but neither am I a piece of gum to be scraped off of the corporate shoe.
The Reality of the Bills was also an expected situation. Fortunately, my family has a solid concept of fiscal responsibility. While not spendthrift, we do know the value of a penny. By economizing on certain things, we splurge on others. We did away with some highbrow activities the kids were involved in. Performed a casual inventory of items that could be (and did get) put up for sale. And still manage to make donations to church and local charities.
All good things come to an end and the vacation, now into its fourth month, saw the bankroll depletion imminent. Time to consider the Money in the Mattress. This was not the logically planned safeguard that all money managers tell their customers to have. It’s not what I wanted my spouse to implement many years ago. (Her response: Money is meant to be spent. You don’t know when you’re going to kick the bucket. And when you do, you’ll be dead and the money will just get taken by the government.) This comment was made based on twenty-five years continuous employment and a multitude of examples from past and present colleagues. The common alternative to foreclosure, etc., would be to tap into the retirement plan. And accept the twenty percent tax charged. Logical from a honest, hard-working American of an earlier generation; absolutely wrong from a welfare state applicant.
The next iteration of Begging to Uncle Sam went as follows: complete many files showing net assets, liabilities, etc., submit, ‘oh, we can’t help you because you have too much money in the bank’, reply – ‘we didn’t want to default on our bills’, second reply – ‘when you run out of money again you can re-apply’. Presently awaiting the coming of the Second Insolvency.
Like sands through the hourglass of time, the Search Continues. When last reviewed, our intrepid adventurer had a few resumes under consideration and two interviews completed. No offers. At present, coming up on the one-year anniversary of sequestered employment, we have a different set of resume considerations, five interviews in total, one tentative offer (at the mercy of government inaction), and over two hundred declined applications – half of which are due to ‘position being cancelled’. Please note that of those cancelled positions, some were replies from job advertisements that were brand new. A job seeker derives hope from this?
Granted, the Interviews, occurred over the course of the adventure. Of the five, there’s the one offer, the position closest to home that I wanted, the position that I could have done – but didn’t really like the employer, and two others that would have been a downgrade of status and income. After this prolonged displacement, if you are offered a lesser position, you really have to suck it up and except it. Hide your feelings well, because it’ll show. And don’t give off the vibe that you’ll bolt as soon as the economy gets better. You know you will, your new employer knows it too. Its part of the pathetic game being played.
The Dead Air is probably the worst situation. Auto-replies from HR bots, phone messages going unanswered, even your personal network contacts are drying up. Actually, I misspeak. There is a level below the Dead Air. It’s when people call you for links to positions. There’s always a level of empathy for anyone else in the same boat as you. But if you’re already adrift in a lifeboat, the last thing you want is another body to cut into your survival rations.
To try and answer my own question, Yes, it is ultimately up to me to acquire employment. Have I been trying? Yes, Dammit! Why have I not been successful? If I knew that, I would be able to change the parameters of the situation (in my favor). And would spend even less time on this blog (no, not really – it’s the last refuge of sanity I have left.)