Posts Tagged ‘job loss’

Video Friday: There is no scapegoat for change

April 21st, 2011

Everyone needs a laugh on Friday. And in honor of some visitors to my home, I decided to post this video for Video Friday:


All I Want for Christmas is a Job

December 20th, 2010

All I want for Christmas is job – seems like an easy enough wish, right?  Unfortunately, I was greeted this morning by the news that unemployment in NC was up to 9.7% in November.  The forecast for the unemployed, in particular the long-term unemployed, is about as cold  as the winter weather. Christmas Tree w/ business card

Last week’s article in the New York Times“Unemployed and Likely to Stay That Way” – heralds in the new age of unemployment.  Whether we like it or not, whether it is fair or not, being unemployed means you are less likely to get an interview, let alone a job.

When CNN ran a story earlier this year – “Unemployed Need Not Apply” – there was a swift backlash against of the companies in the report for their discrimination towards those out of work.  But in hindsight, I have to admire them for at least being up front that they weren’t looking at applicants who were out of work (even though closer scrutiny by the press made Latro Consulting and Sony Erricson cease running the comment in their advertising).

The grim fact is that HR departments and recruiters, whether they are telling you or not, are using unemployment status to filter out candidates for the positions they have open.  What is worse, the press is arguing that companies are justified in using such practices.

Here’s the harsh reality of unemployment today:

You aren’t going to get the interview – unless you can network your way in to the hiring manager and get them to talk to you, you aren’t going to get the interview.  Companies today are informing their staff that they aren’t to interview the unemployed.

No amount of training or retraining is going to get you the job, let alone the interview – the belief that unemployed workers are not current on their skills is often used as justification why not to interview a candidate.  However, even if you go back to school to get current training, or retrain for a new career, because you don’t have applicable experience – and that is experience where you are earning a wage, not volunteering, not unpaid work – you are going to be screened out of the interview process.

Don’t get sucked into paying for schooling that will leave you in debt and still without a job.  Do your research and look at the placement figures before going back to school.  There is a flood of people with advance degrees in the job market today, many of whom  have to “dumb down” their resume to get a recruiter to look at them.

Companies don’t care about transferable skills – for many workers who are laid off, they are told to make an inventory of transferable skills that carry from one job to another, from one career path to another.  Companies don’t care – they are not going to spend the time to train you for the job they want to fill.  They want people with the exact match of skills and experience to fill the few openings they have – and in this market they can find them.

You aren’t going to get paid anywhere near what you made before – I think this might be the hardest medicine to swallow, especially for older workers.  Early on in my search I asked what was a realistic cut in pay to take when pursuing a job in this market.  The professionals I asked hemmed and hawed and no one gave me a straight answer (I should have taken that as a sign).  It is very rare that you will get the same rate of pay and benefits you had previously.

So amongst this doom and gloom, in this week of hope, is there any bright light?

Not really, but I have some advice.

Take a job – any job. Do your best to get the best job you can, but get out there and work – you are far more likely to get an interview if you are already working.  A recent blog entry identified 10 companies that pay benefits to part time workers – at least there’s a place to start. You may be underemployed, but it’s one less nail in the coffin and one less excuse not to interview you.

Hang out your shingle. If you have a profession where you can set yourself up as a consultant, do so.  All that uncompensated work you do as an unpaid intern/volunteer/good egg?  Put that under your umbrella of being an independent consultant.  And start charging for your time – others need to learn and see your value.

Lie -  well, okay, maybe don’t lie. But approach the process of pursing a job like being cross-examined on Law & Order.  Give only the minimum amount of information necessary.  Don’t provide the opportunity to lead to questioning that might put you in a poor light.  Your judge and jury – your potential employers – need to see you as a reliable witness, uh, candidate.

Take charge of your career and stop allowing people blame you for being unemployed.  I think the most frustrating thing I hear over and over again is that there must be something wrong with the people who are unemployed otherwise they wouldn’t be unemployed.  That’s a crock.  There are good people and there are bad people in every situation, but when there are 5 times as many qualified people for every job the blame shouldn’t be on the people who are seeking to work.

The most damaging thing I read and hear reported is that it is inevitable that people who are unemployed today will never return to work.  The Press continue to perpetuate this idea as acceptable.  It isn’t.

A lot has been made of the recent deal between the White House and Republicans.  There are people in both the Democratic and Republican camps that grumble for different reasons.  But the underlying issue of the unemployment problem is something both sides can agree upon – there aren’t enough jobs and jobs are not being created at a fast enough pace to offset the number of people seeking employment.

Regardless of which side of the fence you are on – Democrat or Republican, recruiter or candidate – I’m here to tell you that not interviewing someone because they are out of work is bad business.  In fact, not hiring someone who is unemployed is bad for the economy.

Now I’m not a renowned economist, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that if the only people being hired are people are already employed the unemployment numbers aren’t going to decrease.  And, if there is any true hope for recovery, people who are unemployed are going to have to go back to work or they will continue to be a drain on the federal budget and the economy will continue to stagnate.

If just one brave soul were actually to hire someone who was unemployed – and I think I’ve been clear there are plenty of smart, qualified people eager to work out there – then we all would reap the benefits.

By employing the unemployed you reduce the number of people collecting unemployment benefits – that makes sense, right?  But more than that, and especially for the long-term unemployed, there is associated reduction of burden on federal and state programs such as Medicaid, food stamps and welfare.  There is a reduction of people defaulting on loans, having homes go into foreclosure, and the associated spiraling effects on financial markets and institutions.  Cashing out 401ks and IRAs drains investments in stocks and bonds and tightens the funds available to make improvements to city, state and federal infrastructure and spur new business growth – all of which means there is less happening to create new jobs.

When the unemployed become employed once again, they become part of the economy.  They are paying taxes; they are buying goods.  They start consuming things from basics like clothing and gas and cars to cable tv and phone service.  They go to the doctor more regularly and take preventative care measures to make themselves more healthy. They are putting money back in their 401ks and saving for retirement.  All those things people give up when they don’t have a job and disposable income.  Well, Americans like their creature comforts, and they want them back.

All I want for Christmas is job?  All I really want for Christmas is for people who are unemployed to be treated like people who are employed.  Wouldn’t that be nice?


Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish

October 29th, 2010

Do you see your unemployment as an opportunity?

For most of us who are unemployed, one of the most difficult parts of our journey is what got us here.

We are unemployed, laid off, displaced, in transition (and who thought that one up anyway?) — we are unwanted.

It may have come in a phone call, an email, an interoffice memo, or a face to face meeting.  We were informed that we were no longer needed to perform the job that paid our bills, help put our kids through college, funded our family vacations, covered our medical expenses, made possible our planned retirement, and in many ways fulfilled our lives, nourished our minds, satisfied our souls.

So much of our identity is wrapped up in what now is our past job title or set of responsibilities — and in many ways I think that this is even more so for men who head families and may be the primary breadwinner.

Now that when we find ourselves out of a job we may not feel that we have an identity any longer.  We seem to float around in some odd state of limbo.

We spend a lot of time worrying — and rightly so — about finding the next job and returning to work.  Unfortunately, we don’t take the opportunity to celebrate the fact that not having a job is an opportunity to explore avenues previously closed off due to the obligations of a job.

Did you know that Steve Jobs was fired from Apple? In this video, Steve Jobs speaks about several things, but in particular, how his being fired from Apple offered him an opportunity to reinvent, change and grow.

I attended the CED‘s Start Something celebration last night at the American Tobacco Campus and toured the new American Underground.  The whole purpose of what is being done at American Underground is to create an environment that nurtures new ideas and innovation.

Jobs’ advice to the graduating class at Stanford doesn’t have to be only for the young eager students graduating from college. Each of us on our journey to the next point in our career can take his advice and move forward.

Perhaps your unemployment will allow you to be like Steve Jobs.

Perhaps we all should Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish.

What is this time in your life going to allow you to create, innovate, explore? What have you done foolish lately?


On Death and Dying – Tripping Along the Five Stages of Grief

June 1st, 2010

It’s been said losing your job is akin to a death in the family. Well, if that’s true, I hit the trifecta in 2009.  My father passed away in April, I lost my job in July, and my mother died in November.  Is it any wonder I was happy to see 2009 go?

It may appear odd to start a blog with the subject of death – after all, wouldn’t it be more fitting way to end a blog?  But if losing your job is like a death, then we start there.  And the end?  Well, the end of course is when our heroic blogger attains the holy grail (i.e. the job) and, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, reigns victorious in the new land of the perfect workplace.  I’m sure the holy grail is out there, I just haven’t attained it… yet

My name is Joanna Wolfe and I am one of the many IT professionals out of work in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area of North Carolina known as “the Triangle”.

For 20 years the Triangle has been awarded accolades like the “best place to live” or “best place to work”; it was once rumored to have highest concentration of Ph.D.s per capita.  Unfortunately, its current achievement is for one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, only recently dipping below ten percent.

But I digress… back to death, dying, and rebirth.

I learned a lot about grief this past year.  After my parents died, I found myself tearing up at the most inopportune times.  My grief was overwhelming.  I was convinced that something must be wrong – I was still feeling heart-wrenching pain six – eight – ten months later.  After all, when I was working bereavement leave was only three days.  I should be over it by now.  Shouldn’t I?

Not necessarily.  It takes time to heal.  It doesn’t happen in a three day period; and getting over being laid off took more than three days as well.

If losing one’s job is like a death in the family, then we all need to go through our stages of grief – you know the ones:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

Yeah, those ones.

If losing a job is like losing a member of the family, should any of us be surprised we are still feeling pain six – eight – ten months into being unemployed?  Can I see a show of hands?

Go ahead… raise your hand… you know who you are.


Okay, well, I’ll be the first to wave mine.  I’ve been there.

When I was laid off I was convinced that I’d have no trouble getting another job.  After all, I had applicable experience, certifications, skills and knowledge – all current.  Surely, I would have my next position before my severance period ended.  Never mind I hadn’t written a resume in three years.  Never mind unemployment was over ten percent or I’d never submitted an online application.

I was certain that an HR manager would take one look at my resume, and recognize my stellar talents.  They would find me perfect for any number magnificent career opportunities they were looking to fill – all with great benefits, and making $10k more than my last job.  Yes, they’d be on the phone with me before the close of business!

Talk about Denial.

Of course, this was before I found out that many companies don’t look even look at resumes.  Instead, they merely scan their database for key words relating to the job requisition.  Only then are resumes reviewed to see if they fit the open position.

Well, a healthy dose of reality makes Denial pass fairly quickly, allowing us to usher in the next stage – Anger.

Why me? It’s not fair!

Like I’m the only one going through this?  Please!  There are an estimated 14,000 IT people looking for work in the Triangle.  I’m not unique.

Okay, you manage to get past the anger or perhaps not.  A lot of folks that I’ve encountered seem to be stalled at this step.  And why not?  It’s easy to be mad.  What’s happened is a blow to your ego, your confidence, your identity.  Why not have a little “me” time and lash out?  Well, it probably is cathartic to vent, but at some point you have to let it go.

Letting go of your Anger isn’t easy, but you have to move on.  So you start to make some stupid Bargains in your mind – I’ll fill out more applications, go to the gym more often, clean the house, go through that pile of papers… If I can keep my promises, then good Karma will surely come my way.

But who are you Bargaining with? It’s not like the Human Resource staff are there with clipboards ticking off each completed task; the hiring manager doesn’t see you finally cleaning out the garage.

Bargaining doesn’t get you anywhere and you devolve down to probably your lowest low.  You sleep more, exercise less, apply for jobs that you know you won’t get, and yeah, you don’t get them.  You convince yourself you’ll never get hired… and about this time, you get a letter from the ESC telling you your unemployment is running out.  Can it get any worse?  Yeah, probably.

Well, if it isn’t working, guess what?  The only thing to do is change.  And like the proverbial saying,  ‘the only person who can change you, is you’.

My favorite light bulb joke is the one about “How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?” The answer? “One, but he really has to want to change.” It’s time to cut bait, get off the pot, change the light bulb.  The only way to move on is to Accept the hand you’ve been dealt and play it.

Like losing my parents, grief over my job didn’t go away overnight.  But I got there, and you will too.

Now it’s your turn… where are you in your grieving process?  Have you reached Acceptance yet? And if not, what are you doing to move yourself along in the process?