Back to work

It’s been a busy month and a half.

Since the beginning of September I have taken two road trips. The first to Indiana to visit my brother and his family — daughter Addy came along on that one. The second was over Labor Day weekend to visit my relatives in West Virginia, a solo trip. Then I moved out of my apartment and back in with my folks. And, I collected my final unemployment check, not because my stipend had run out but because I started a new job. I was on unemployment for only 8 weeks. Don’t think I don’t know how lucky I am, especially when you consider all the people who have been out of work for months and and years, especially here in Michigan. I got lucky, I know it.

Speaking of my job, it is pretty cool. I’m not going to name the place, though. It’s an office job with all the Dilbert-esque accouterments that that entails, like cubes and copy machines and daily meetings, but the people are really cool. I like it there. Hey, we get free slushies (made from Faygo) and popcorn daily. Coffee too. This week’s slushy flavors are Lemonade and Rock n Rye. Last week it was Grape and Red Pop.

Recently JenX67 posted on her blog an entry that is, in part, about Generation X in the work place. My office is full of GenXers. I’d say mostly GenXers, from what I can gather. But there are plenty of Gen Yers/Millennials as well. In fact, my immediate supervisor is one. He’s maybe 24 or 25 years old. I heard someone ask him where he went to high school and he said Fitzgerald, graduated in 2006. I stood up at my cube and, speaking over the half-wall, said, “Hey. I went there.”

“What?” he said. “You taught there?”

I said, “No. I graduated from Fitz…twenty years before you did.” I graduated in 1986. He laughed.

My supervisor is very cool, very hip. And very good at his job. I like him a lot. I was asked by someone if it bothered me to be “taking orders” from someone so much younger than myself. But you know, it doesn’t. I could really care less. I’m there to work and to learn and he has plenty to teach, so my ears are wide open. You know, I think I’d rather have this young guy than some aging Babyboomer. At least with my boss I don’t have to listen to droning nostalgia about the 60s or The Beatles or anything like that. My boss digs JZ.

In my immediate area there a few other  GenXers. And few a Gen Yers as well.

The other day 0ur supervisor, in response to something someone else said, replied, “Awesome blossom.” He said he didn’t know why he said it.

I asked him if he was referring to the 80s TV show “Blossom.” The other GenXer’s near me just laughed and said that could not possibly be the case, he, our boss, was way too young. I’m pretty sure he didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. Although strangely enough he was singing that Sade “Smooth Operator” today. So….

Maybe this is an opportunity to blog about GenX in the workplace. Gen Y too for that matter. We’ll see. I’ll be working long hours soon, 10 to 12 hours a day some day. This new schedule means I don’t see my daughter as much. She stays with her mom more, not an ideal situation or one that I want but one has to do what one has to do. Addy and I will just have to make the time we do have together count.

Maybe it’s because the 10th anniversary  of 911 that I’m feeling such angst this morning.  I know I’m missing my daughter, Addy, this morning, whom I was with on that morning. At the time I was working from home so that I could tend to her. I remember that I was so caught up in watching on TV what was  going on that I smeared apricot baby food on her face. Of course, I’ve told this story many times, as so many others have told their stories of where they were on that morning. But Addy called me yesterday (she’s with her mom this weekend) to ask me about it again, wanting to know what kind of food I got all over her face and did she cry or laugh. I told her I couldn’t really remember, although I was pretty sure she didn’t cry. She was just a happy baby eating her breakfast.

I suppose that some of my angst is because of the move. I’m moving back in with my folks, which I’m kind of torn about. Of course, it is not the ideal situation. I mean, I’m 43 and should have my own place. And, right now I could probably continue to rent my apartment. I could probably just afford it, for a few months anyway. But I currently don’t have any serious debt and want to avoid that. I have a bit of saving but the last thing I want to do is eat that up. That, I hope, will go for a house some day, a place for me and Addy, where she can have her own room, her own space. Also, I think that my parents could use my help. My mom needs help taking care of my father, whose health is failing. And they need help with the upkeep of the house. Perhaps that will sound like a rationalization to some. Oh well…. But considering the state of the economy, especially the job-market, it seems a necessary move.

I’m also stressing about my job situation. I don’t have one, and of course I’d like to have one. I’m waiting to hear about a job this week. I’m also torn about that. I want a job but this one will mean long hours, 50-60 per week. I’m not afraid to work long hours but I’ll see my daughter a lot less because of that. I’ll be seeing her less in any case, because living with my parents won’t allow me to have her as much as I do now. But I don’t see how I can NOT take a job offer in this economy. How many people find a new job a month after they lose their job? Not that many would be my guess. I hear stories all the time about people being out of work for 6 months, a year, two even three years. Yikes! And then of course I’m afraid that they’ll contact me and decide to pass for whatever reason. Then I’ll be back to the drawing board, starting over. Sigh.

But I suppose that I should really count myself lucky. Yes, I lost my job but I have quality work experience and a good education to prop me up. And I have a place to go, someplace I can stay that will allow me save money for mine and my daughter’s future while affording me the opportunity to help my parents. And while 911 scared the crap out of me badly, I lost no family or friends. Things could be worse. Of course, I worry that just saying that could somehow jinx me. Knock on wood.

It was cloudy this morning, and it appeared that it had rained last night, the ground wet, puddles in the parking lot of my apartment complex, but the sun seems to be coming out. Maybe I’ll go for a walk.

Watching The Waltons and being annoyed

I’ve been watching The Waltons a lot lately. I have fond memories of watching this show as a kid with my family. It always reminded me of West Virginia, where both of my parents are from, and where I spent many a summer as a kid. But recently I watched and episode that kind of annoyed me. I believe it is entitled “John’s Crossroads” or something like that. It’s the one where John, the father, has to take a job away from home with the county or state road commission, working in an office. He has to actually leave Walton’s mountain to go to work. Heaven forbid! Much of the drama is centered around John and Olivia, the mother, being separated and how hard it is on them blah blah blah.

But of course the job was only temporary and eventually John comes back to work in the mill, only a stones throw away from his beloved wife and family. How quaint. Ack! One can’t help but wonder how John and Olivia’s marriage and family life would have fared had John had to leave home to work all his life, as most people today do.  In fact, now it is often the case that both parents have to work away from the home.

I guess in the grand scheme of things it’s unimportant, it just annoyed me  for some reason. Probably, now that I am unemployed, I have too much time on my hands, too much time to think.

The New Job Searching Reality

When I was a kid I had jobs that included mowing lawns, cleaning gutters and window wells, and delivering news papers, plus assorted odd jobs such as painting and pulling weeds or whatever. I came by those job via word of mouth, mostly.

When I was a teenager I just went from place to place asking if they were hiring and if they were they gave me an application.That was pretty much the deal for a long time, although when I was in college, attending Macomb Community College, they had a job placement office that had binders with job posting and you went through the different binders until you found something.

The last time I job searched was a little more than seven years ago. I created a resume and mailed them out along with a cover letter on really nice paper. I did find most of the jobs that I applied for via the internet, on Monster.com and careerbuilders.com. Now there are so many online job boards. I did find a few via the newspaper classifieds. Although the job I ended up getting, the one before my most recent job, was via family. Well, via my ex-wife’s family. My job at the library I found by visiting their web site.

Now, you have to submit your resume and cover letter via the internet, uploading your documents from your computer to databases. Although a more effective way to submit is to get a hold of someone’s email address and email your materials directly to them. That requires a contact usually, or some creative investigating, figuring out the email pattern and identifying a person and trying to create their email address. It can be a crap shoot.

Something else that’s different about the job search process I discovered  yesterday. It has to do with response time. When you mailed in a resume and cover letter you knew it would be awhile before you heard back. It was similar even with email, although the response time was  usually shortened. Now, with databases, the response time can be almost immediate. I applied for a job via a company’s web site yesterday and perhaps an hour or so later I got a call from a recruiter. And I had a phone interview right on the spot. It was a little jarring. I wasn’t really prepared for an interview. In my defense, the recruiter guy wasn’t all that prepared either. He asked me why I was attracted to the job, which was difficult for me to answer, but it was also difficult for him to “tell me more about the job” when I asked.  Perhaps because of that he cut me a little slack. I hope so anyway.

In any case, it was a response, which is always good. Yesterday was a good job-search day. I applied for 5 different jobs, got a call and phone interview with the possibility of call back later this week. Today: not so good. Was unable to find a single job to apply for. Sigh.

New Jobless Rate

It’s back above 400,000 according this Associated Press article, and I was one of them. Sorry. My bad.

However:  “…the four-week average, a more reliable gauge of the job market, fell to the lowest level since mid-April.”  So I suppose that is something.

According to the article the number of unemployed needs to fall below 375,000 to signal that the economy is improving. Why that number precisely? I have not a clue. I suppose it’s as good as any…

Still:

The report on weekly unemployment applications does provide some positive signs for hiring in August. Applications are lower than they were in mid-July, when they totaled 422,000.

And:

Employers added 117,000 net jobs in July, roughly double the totals from each of the previous two months. The unemployment rate ticked down to 9.1 percent.

Talk about nickle and diming the numbers. I mean, seriously, are we supposed to get excited about a .1 percent drop in the unemployment rate, especially when it doesn’t really represent the real number of unemployed, since I’m pretty sure that it does not count people whose unemployment benefits have run out and those who have simply given up looking for work because they believe that there are not jobs out there for them as well as the undermployed? At all. Come on.

In that spirit the article also reports:

Other recent data show the economy gradually improved in July, after growing at annual rate of just 0.8 percent in the first six months of the year.

Consumers spent more on retail goods in July than in any month since March. And factory output rose in July by the most since the Japan crisis, a sign that supply chain disruptions caused by the March 11 earthquake could be fading.

Mildly encouraging at best. Or maybe I’m guilty of being cynical, not optimistic enough.  Amazing how much of our economy seems to run on optimism. Hope.

Example:

In an effort to boost growth, the Federal Reserve last week said it will keep its benchmark short-term interest rate at nearly zero until mid-2013. Previously, the central bank had never given a clear time frame. It hopes the certainty of low rates will encourage consumers and businesses to borrow and spend more.

Despite hope and optimism:

…July’s job gains are barely enough to keep up with population growth. At least double that many new jobs are needed to significantly reduce unemployment. And a consumer sentiment survey taken earlier this month showed confidence in the economy fell to the lowest level in 31 years, raising concerns that Americans could pull back on spending.

Worries about U.S. economic weakness and the ongoing European debt crisis caused the stock markets to plunge in recent weeks. While stock indexes have recovered some lost ground, the Dow Jones industrial average is more than 1,200 points lower than it was on July 22.

And:

The Fed’s assessment of the economy last week was gloomier than it had been in June. The Fed said it “anticipates that the unemployment rate will decline only gradually.”

As the man said, “Hope in one hand, shit in the other. See which one fills up first.”

Had an interesting chat online yesterday, with a woman I went to high school with who is also single and divorced, and has a couple of kids. It was about the difficulties of dating when you’re divorced and have kids, and, in our cases, unemployed. Of course, this used to be the domain of Boomers, once upon a time, but Generation X has hit that stage.

I told her that I wasn’t really considering dating seriously at this point, given my current circumstances. I mean, I’m 43, divorced with a ten-year-old daughter, unemployed, and if I don’t manage to snare a job soon, like before the end of August, I’ll likely be moving back in with my parents. Doesn’t really make me much of catch now does it. I mean, seriously, with a profile like that how much interest do you think I’m really going to generate on e-harmony or match.com or someplace like that. She told me that I was a nice guy (debatable, depending on who you ask) and good looking (thanks ;-)) and the the right woman would look passed these things. Perhaps, but I just think it’s probably best if I get my financial house in order and get my career, such as it is, on track first.

I can’t help thinking of another woman that I spoke to recently, who, after her divorce, got involved with a guy who was unemployed. He ended up moving in with her. They broke up. He still lives there and is still unemployed. All because she is too nice to boot him out. Of course, the woman I was chatting with online said that she would never allow a man to live with her unless they were going to be married. She realized that might sound rigid, and snobbish, but she said it was mainly because of her kids. She didn’t even allow men to spend the night unless her kids weren’t going to be there. It made sense to me. I figured I’d have to be dating someone for at least awhile before I even introduced them to my daughter.

Also, I had to admit that I myself probably wouldn’t want to get very serious with a woman if she wasn’t at least working. I understand that plenty of people have financial woes these days, but I wouldn’t want to be taking on someone else’s serious financial burdens. I’ve even thought that if I ever were to consider marriage again I’d want a prenup to protect my daughter’s inheritance, such as it is likely to be. The more I think about it the more tangled and complicated it seems to get. Makes me want to just say forget the whole thing. I’m staying single for the rest of my life. Of course, that was my original intention and look what happened.

Hell, it’s hard enough to just get your schedule to sink up with another divorced person with kids, so that you can actually spend some time alone.

 

 

Pinched

Driving home from my parents’ place this evening, where I had dinner with my folks, I was listening to the NPR show On Point, and the focus was the economy, specifically the jobs situation, the poor jobs situation. They’re talking about how the country, in the wake of this recession, is becoming divided into the affluent, the wealthy, and everyone else, i.e. the middle class is disappearing, which has been said to be the engine of our economy.

The guest “expert” is Don Peck,the author of  “Pinched: How the Great Recession Has Narrowed Our Futures and What We Can Do About It.” And I got to tell you that guy does not sound very optimistic.

I heard quoted that the average time of unemployment time span is 9 months. Nine freaking months! I can’t imagine still being unemployed come next may. And yet I’ve heard of people being out of work for up to three years. What do you do with yourself when you’re unemployed for three years.

Something else they’re talking about is how there are certain segment of American society that are not touched by the recession, people who don’t see the jobs problem. Now, I’ve only been unemployed for a week but I’ve been job-searching for months, ever since I learned that jobs would be cut at the library where I worked, because I strongly suspected that I might be one of the unfortunates to get the ax, and I can tell you that it is not good out there, jobs-wise. I don’t care what anyone says. I reviewed perhaps 100 j0bs and found only three to apply for. I mean, unless I want to work for $8.50 and hour, which would be a step down from unemployment. But who knows? I may be begging for a job lock that in a few months.

And yet there are people who believe things are not that bad, that they are improving. Someone said to me that they felt things are getting better because their company was looking to hire 7 people or something like that and couldn’t find people to fill those positions. That may well be, but it is not representative of what is going in the greater economy. The situation is not good, and I seriously doubt that it’s going to get much better anytime soon. It is going to be years and years before we recover, it we ever really recover entirely.

Of course, statistically I am supposed to be in a good position, since I have an education, an advanced degree even. But consider that my degrees are in English, creative writing. I’m not sure that these seem very practical or impressive to employers, if they even look at my resume amongst the hundreds, if not thousands, that are submitted for any given position.

Finally, they say that people get more conservative financially in times like these, and I agree. I question and pain over every nickle that I spend. I cut wherever I can. I go without. I just don’t buy stuff. And I’m not about to until things start improving.

Example: my lease is up at the end of September. I have to give thirty days notice to the rental office if I’m going to stay or move out. So that basically gives me two weeks to nab a job that will allow me to stay in my apartment. But I doubt that is going to happen, so my plan is to move back in with my parents. Now, I could probably afford to stay in my apartment while on unemployment. I could probably scrape by. But I’d probably run through what meager savings I have in addition to burning up the unemployment, which is substantially less than I was making at  my job, which was not that much. It may not be ideal, moving back in with my parents, but my goal is to not go into debt, and perhaps even preserve some money, what little I have.

I’m sorry, I’m just not very optimistic. Others may be, but I’m not. It’s a new reality, and it’s not good.