Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Dance of the Unemployed

8:00 AM: Eyes open. How is it possible to awaken at the same time every day with no alarm? Maybe, because I get enough sleep. Who says there are no perks to life on the dole?

8:30 AM: Turn on TV. Turn off TV. Weather and traffic—not useful. Scrub face and teeth, dress in sweats. Tug a brush through really, really long hair that I cannot afford to have cut. Ready to commute.

8:31 AM: Commute downstairs. No traffic. Sip store-brand diet cola (brand cola is too pricey). Now, energized, ready to set the world on fire, I crank up the computer.

Today's the day to find my dream job!

8:40 AM: Great news! My Google Reader has delivered 53 job posts that fit my search criteria. Busy day ahead. I'm pretty sure several of these jobs are going to be just what I'm seeking.

Job Post One: Vice President - Human Resources. Anchorage, Alaska. Right job, wrong location.

Job Post Two: Chief Human Resources Officer. Los Angeles, California. Salary 20% below my previous job—in a city with a 74% higher cost of living than where I now live.

Job Post Three: Vice President - Human Resources. Washington, DC. "Local candidates only," it says.

Job Post Four: Chief Human Resources Officer. Birmingham, Alabama. Close to home. Good salary. But, wait, it says "Candidates without manufacturing experience will not be considered." Oops, not me.

Job Post Five: Vice President - Human Resources. Atlanta, Georgia. Finally! "Company seeks candidate with no previous executive experience."

Wait, did I read that right? "We seek a former Director ready to move up. Experienced VPs will not be considered."

Um, what? So, they want inexperienced candidates?

Translation: "We don't have enough money to pay someone with a clue." I guess that means that those with 19 years of experience starve in the streets, right?

Job Posts 6-53: Much the same.

10: 30 AM: A new e-mail message:

Thank you for submitting your résumé for our HR Business Partner position. We have finalized our candidate pool. We moved forward with the candidates that we did select, based on specific requirements from the client.
Enjoy your day!

Well, Susan, I might would have enjoyed my day a whole lot better without this e-mail.

I review the position Susan filled without me: mid-level HR position in Atlanta. I had tried to be open-minded about the job, not limiting myself only to management or executive positions even though that's my background. But, I have been turned down for every mid- or lower-level position for which I have applied.

"Overqualified" is the familiar refrain.

Translation: "We cannot afford you,"


"We don't think you will stay after the economy recovers."

At least Ol' Suze had the good graces not to say that.

11 AM: My mom calls.

"No, Mom, no good job postings today—and I got a turndown from that Atlanta one I told you about last week."

11:30 AM: E-mail from my friend, Kate. She's been terrific about checking in for updates.

"No, I haven't found a job yet."

Feeling close to putting my head through a wall, I stop for lunch. Turn on the TV. While I chew, I reflect glumly that I'd really rather watch TVLand all day. Or take a nap. But as I clean up my lunch dishes, guilt heads off TV or sleep.

I return to my office. I must toil at this task to feel worthy to receive that precious dole check.

Noon: My father calls.

"No, Dad, no job today. Not even any good leads today. Yes, I checked all the job boards. Yes, I saw that one. They want union experience. I don't have that. It's a no-go."

12:30 PM: I need a jazzier market plan. All the experts say professional networking unlocks the "hidden job market"—jobs that never get posted. I compile a list of top-notch contacts.

I hate calling people to ask for favors. In my career, I've always been the one giving, not the one receiving. This is new for me and it makes me uncomfortable.

My career coach some times quotes from Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. I'm not afraid, I just hate it. But I'll do it.

Back to my network list: At the top: Nina Smith, HR executive with lots of connections—this is my Grade A Prime contact; Tim Darren, head honcho with a prestigious executive search firm; Adam McNair from the outplacement firm; Jane. . .

Wait. A new e-mail. It's Nina. Great coincidence; she contacted me. Perfect excuse to network. Nina knows everybody who is anybody in HR in Atlanta.

Hope all is well. Since I last saw you, my position at Express Medical Equipment was made redundant when Ace Medical took over. My last day was four weeks ago. I am writing in hopes that you can provide advice or referrals. You know everybody in the local HR community so I'm confident you can help me! I am seeking a local HR executive opportunity. Would love to meet for coffee to discuss this further.

Uh-oh. Not good news. Nina out of work?

My network is now unemployed? How do I network if my network is also on the dole?

I squash the rising panic. I'll set-up that coffee meeting with Nina and then return to my networking plan. I will finish my list. I will make my calls. I will remain calm.

I can do this.

Tim offers to be a reference. Adam knows of nothing. Jane . . .

5 PM: After telling yet one more concerned friend "No, I haven't found a job yet" I review the day's results.

(1) I have two coffee appointments. How does a person who doesn't even drink coffee get two coffee appointments in one week?

(2) I have two résumé critique offers.

(3) Two others expressed regret that they "didn't know anyone." (How do you work in a career for twenty years and not know anyone?) And, one executive search consultant bemoaned the fact that his business was so slow.

7 PM: I work and rework my résumé until dinner. After I eat: TV. Maybe some mindless entertainment will help me unwind; it's about the only leisure activity still available on my limited dole budget.

8 PM: Dancing with the Stars is on. I used to dress up and attend charity galas. Not this year. Now, the only evening festivities I attend are vicariously through the DWTS cast. The only “dance” I do is in my job search. I pull a cat into my fleece-clad lap and snuggle into the sofa to watch.

Yet, my job search woes flit through my mind like Edyta Sliwinska
quick stepping across the dance floor.

For the rest of this evening, I will not think about the job search, I tell myself, as I blissfully lose myself in visions of sequins, spray tans, foxtrots and Argentine tangos.

Photo courtesy of Petr Novák, Wikipedia


Joseph said...

Ever think about creating informational products for the web as a side business to get some cash flow? You are an excellent writer and with your knowledge and experience, you could put something out there that would be of help to people.

Take a look at Yanik Silver's book "Moonlighting on the Internet." I would be happy to let you borrow my copy since you are "on the dole."

BTW, are at all interested in applying for a Benefits Manager position in NY? My company has a spot open there.

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