Thursday, May 28, 2009

Life's downs and ups

My long absence from this blog has mostly been driven by the circumstances of my life. My days have been looking pretty much the same for the past few months, and I just haven't felt like there was anything to say:

1. I get up at 8AM. There's nothing that pressing to do so I don't need to be up earlier, but if I sleep much later I feel like a complete loser. Plus on Mondays, it's important to call the temp agency to let them know you're looking for work.
2. I do some wake-up surfing for news and other info while watching a bit of cable TV. There's a constant cycle of Gilmore Girls on ABC Family at 10AM on weekdays, FYI, or if you prefer they repeat at 4PM. Of course, until just now they've been stopping at the end of the sixth season so I could never find out how it ends. Curse you, ABC Family!
3. On the days she works, I usually take Beth to work at 11 so I can use her car during the day. That kills an hour.
4. From approximately noon until 4PM everyday and sometimes stretching into the evening, I'm scouring job sites, Crain's, the FT and WSJ, LinkedIn, Vault and various company websites to figure out who might be hiring for what. I attempt to identify trends in business, look to see who I might know who can help me get a name or phone number at a potential employer, or am making phone calls and sending emails to contacts I've been lucky enough to find. I'm writing cover letters, tweaking my resume to fit a job description, submitting applications and following up on them, you name it.
5. When the oppressive frustration of constantly hearing people tell me I'm wonderful but they have an external hiring freeze on indefinitely, I have to get out of the house. Plus, by this time Cali is usually boring holes into me with her soulful pouty eyes...this means we both get a break by taking a walk. We have a standard 3.3 mile route through the neighborhood, and we're averaging an 18 minute mile as our leisurely pace.
6. Now it's time for a little MSNBC and dinner.
7. Two or three times a week, I go to yoga which means that there's a 50% chance any given day that I've discovered a new muscle that's crying like a newborn when I sit/stand/move.
8. I fill evenings with television, more internet time or a good book.
9. And when Beth is working, we (Cali and I) leave mid-way through Letterman to go pick her up. My mother would be furious to know that I sit in the car and read by streetlights at midnight while I wait for Beth to escape the ER.
10. I've also added some volunteer work here and there, but not nearly as much as I should with this amount of time on my hand.
11. Social occasions are few and far between, not for lack of invitations but mostly because I worry about every penny I spend.

See? Not that much to blog about. And while I certainly could be using my spare time more productively to be researching new things and writing and trying out things I've always wanted to, my routine seems to have taken over and I haven't been as productive with this as I could be, either.

The good news is that things are finally picking up on the job front. I have a temp job as of tomorrow AM...a good sign for the employment market since there haven't really BEEN temp jobs since the new year. I've got several promising conversations going with potential long-term employers, and while I am not in an offer-pending scenario yet, I am getting good responses to my resume and there are indications that by the end of the summer I will be. I really do think that my gap year is coming to an end, and I will kind of miss it when it does.

I will say I've learned a LOT about being unemployed, and since many of you have not actually faced this in your mature adult lives I'm going to give you some hints for interacting with your unemployed friends and loved ones.

1. It is depressing and self-esteem deflating not to work. Even your most confident friends will be having self doubt and some unnatural sadness when they have been without work for awhile. (Unless, of course, their lack of work is by choice. Those people are REALLY happy.) So keep in mind they may be more sensitive than usual.

2. It's still okay to sit and bitch about your job. To a point.

3. Even if you've been unemployed before, you have no idea how bad it is out there right now. The rules have changed, and things people used to do to get a job just don't work. And while your caring advice is well meant, your unemployed friend may not always see it that way.

Imagine you're installing a flat screen television with a blue-ray and surround sound theater system that hooks to a cable DVR box that connects to every tv in your house so you can watch recorded American Idol shows in the bedroom or the kitchen or the office. And even though you have done everything the diagram says and checked it three or four times, you just can't get the picture to pull up on the television. Now, imagine that your spouse comes home and, seeing you frustrated and at wit's end, asks you if you remembered to turn the tv on.

That's kind of how it feels when employed people who've never dealt with this negative-growth job market tell you what you should be doing to get a job. Even if they're right, you still want to slam a brick through their head. It's probably best to let your unemployed friend tell you what they're doing and where their frustrations are before you tell them your sage pearls of job-seeking wisdom. This also shows that you have enough respect for them that you assume they are doing a good job in their search, which is better than reinforcing the idea that they suck (see no. 1) and that you are some benevolent savior condescending to help them.

4. Unemployed people need to not spend money, but they also need to get out of the house and have a normal life with social plans and a bit of fun. Obviously it's their responsibility to manage this, but it helps if when planning things you suggest low-cost or free activities so they don't have to point out their lack of income every time you get together. And while it's nice of you to offer to pay for a splurge if you have the income and want to do it, a) you certainly do not have to do this, and b) if you do it too often it's a little humiliating for the receiver because it makes them feel like a leech. This is not to say that I don't appreciate each and every drink, dinner or movie that someone has covered for me in the last 8 months...my friends rock, because most of them seem to know instinctively where the line is...in fact, some of these $5 movies and $10 curries are the best gifts I've ever gotten because they've made me feel normal in a time of abnormality.

Oh. And if you're splitting a check and you notice your unemployed friend skipped appetizers and cocktails and dessert, then they are on a budget and you'll get huge thoughtfulness points by being the one to say, "Hey, we had way more than XXX so he/she should owe a little less than the rest of us." It may be they'll say not to worry about it and you can revert to the normal check division, or they may secretly thank God for you and your kindness.

5. Networking for jobs is a pain in the ass and, frankly, it's exhausting. If you know someone who is unemployed, one of the nicest things you can do for them is to think about who you know that might be able to help them and to volunteer their contact details if they'd like to speak with them. As per no. 3, though, offering the contact if they want it is not the same thing as telling them they have to call the person.

This all probably seems like common sense to most of you, but you'd be amazed at the number of people who have no clue. In fact, I'm sure I didn't back before I was unemployed...I've never not had a job when I wanted one, and I can be really self-focused even if I don't mean to be - I guarantee you I have inadvertently steamrolled people and made them feel like crap. Man, I wish I could undo that. But at least I know now.

So now it's onward and upward. I don't think I've seen this Gilmore Girls episode and I've got yoga in a little over an hour. It's the last day of my routine, after all. I need to make the most of it.

7 comments:

Some Guy said...

I can remember being in your shoes and completely agree with each of your "hints". Best of luck in your search!

ShelbyB said...

Onward and upward indeed, with God speed my love!

Sonja said...

Oh man, you nailed it. We're on day 4 of no cable. Okay, we have the reception package which means we can watch all the city council meetings and Somali-interest programming we want.

Little Sister said...

Mindy: I just absolutely love you. You are always spot-on with your advice and you present it with great humor. Tell Bethany and Cali hey from me...chat soon?

michaelg said...

Have you read the book "What Color is Your Parachute 2009?"


(Hiding under my desk to dodge bullets.)

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