What I Got for Christmas

The Tuesday before Christmas I had three interviews. Three interviews, in DC, all on the same day. I ended up running all over town and was even late to my second interview because the first one ran long. I was slightly sweaty and exhausted by the time I got to my third interview. I didn’t get a chance to eat lunch until they were all finished, in the late afternoon. I managed to gobble a granola bar as I ran a mile to one of the interview locations.

All the interviews went well, but each job was interviewing several people. They all told me not to expect to hear anything for a few weeks, after the new year for sure. So I was not expecting to get a call that Friday (the day before the Christmas holiday). The HR lady from the third interview was offering me the position. I accepted the position the next business day. I will start in February.

The timing is pretty great. I fell into the gap where unemployment had not been extended, so I only qualified for 6 months of benefits. I’ve been out of work since August, so my benefits will end very soon. With the new year, my COBRA payments have increased from $744 a month to about $900. I’m very glad to be able to switch over to employer-subsidized health insurance soon!

I am very lucky to have awesome friends who live less than a mile from my new office. They are graciously allowing me to stay with them for my first week. I won’t have to worry about commuting in to DC, which is pretty horrendous and can take anywhere from an hour to three! After my first week I will be taking a commuter bus to work. It will be really nice to not have to drive myself, and I will receive a transit subsidy as part of my job benefits package. The catch? The bus leaves this area at 5 am! I am already trying to start waking up early because that is going to be a difficult adjustment.

Advertisements

Short Sale Approved

I found out recently that the bank (and the government agency that also backed the loan) approved my short sale request. From the time of the approval I had approximately one month to go to closing. I need to have everything OUT and do a basic clean on the property before closing. When I go to closing, I turn everything over (and sign a bunch of forms) and from that point on the house is no longer mine.

Two weekends ago, my mom came down and we spent a whole day packing. Last Saturday a friend (bless her!) came by for a few hours and teased me about how much kitchen stuff I had. Mom was over both days this weekend and we made a good dent.

It seems like I’ve been packing for a long time, because I started giving away the easy stuff over a month ago. My spare bed and TV got donated to a church sale. The sheets for that bed were given to a homeless shelter. I’ve given a few loads of clothing and smaller items to Goodwill. I’ve taken two trips to the consignment shop and a few random bags went to friends. Mom took a bunch of non-perishable food, cleaning supplies and toiletries home with her today to start using.

Movers are going to handle the furniture and some of the boxes. Mom is paying for this and approximately $100 a month for a small storage unit (fingers crossed that it fits my furniture).

My current challenge/frustration is trying to offload the random smaller furniture that isn’t worth storing. I have three smaller Ikea shelving units, a solid wood nightstand, and a push mower. It’s all on Craigslist and getting no bites. I get really ticked off by the attitude of people here who think something used (in great condition) needs to cost about $1 or free. I don’t think $20-$30 for this stuff is excessive. I’d rather donate it to a charity for FREE than sell something like that for less than $10, ya know?


Interview Tips for Kids Today

Please allow me to go into full cranky old lady mode. I made a last minute decision to visit a job fair for a local retailer opening a new store in my area. I didn’t hear about the event until Friday, when I was already on my way to Fairfax to celebrate a friend’s 30th birthday. The job fair would be on Saturday and Sunday. I crashed at my parents’ house Friday night and woke up groggy and feeling puffy. Not hungover, just the effects of staying out too late (for me, old lady) and driving too much the day before. I rushed down to my place to shower, put on makeup, re-write my cover letter, print my resume, and remove my chartreuse nail polish. I almost wore a suit, because I’ve been conditioned that interview=suit. I wore black dress pants and a sleeveless top with a high neckline. It was a good call.

The interviews were being held in a rented office space in a run down part of town. I arrived just before 12, because I was told that would be the least busy time. There were two waiting areas full of chairs, full of people. Even though there were multiple managers doing interviews, at least 30 people were waiting. I tried not to panic visibly, took my application and sat down to get to work.

People of all ages were waiting for interviews, but the majority were high school aged kids (more girls than guys). There was a decent showing of older ladies, likely retirees who wanted some additional income. I did not see any middle aged or older men.

Here’s where I was really glad I was not wearing a suit. There were a lot of people wearing flip flops, even with nicer outfits. There were a lot of guys in jeans and giant sneakers. There were some girls in dresses that looked like what you’d buy at a department store to wear to church on Easter – full skirt, big colorful flower pattern, tiny little bolero sweater.

One kid had to ask his mom how to spell virtually every word. Toward the end of the day, a family walked in looking like they came straight off a circus train. The father had a ZZ Top long grey beard and a bandana. This was paired with shorts and socks pulled up high. The mom was more understated in typical weekend redneck attire. The son stood between them in his t-shirt and jeans while the father asked the check-in lady questions. They left without applying. I think it was this group that finally ruffled the check-in lady, but she waited until they’d left before she allowed the alarm to show on her face.

If it were up to me, I would immediately tell those kids in jeans and sneakers to leave. I guess they can’t do that for discrimination reasons? Maybe no one cares because it is just retail? But if you are going to run a store where you want the employees to look put together and clean for customers, why would you even think twice if they can’t pull it together for a 15 minute interview?

Do kids not learn this stuff? It would make sense that they wouldn’t learn it in high school. Which class would even teach those skills? It’s not on any standardized test. It just seems like someone needs to explain some interview tips to teenagers.


Weighing Costs of COBRA

When I got laid off on August 3, I was told my health insurance would continue through the end of that month. I received COBRA paperwork in the mail and signed up right away. The COBRA bill came in soon after and I paid it online: $744.75 to continue my health and dental insurance for the month of September. This amount is roughly 75% of my after-tax unemployment insurance payments. I have a pre-existing condition (like 50% of the U.S. population) which means I have to have insurance coverage. Aside from the obvious reasons for having health insurance (that is, getting medical care and prescription medication), the pre-existing condition means I must not have a break in my insurance coverage, or future insurance policies (even those obtained through an employer) could subject me to the pre-existing condition exclusion. This means the insurance company would accept my premiums, but would not cover anything related to any pre-existing condition that was treated in the six months prior. They are allowed to do this for up to a full year. (citation)

This is the reason I am choosing to pay for COBRA to continue my health insurance coverage, even though it technically means I’ll be charging all my other expenses until I find a new job. I’m already giving up my house, but I will have to pay all the utilities, food, and any other necessities. I am willing to go into a relatively small amount of debt because the consequences of not having health coverage of my pre-existing condition for up to a year would be catastrophic to my health and increase my debt to astronomical costs. A single hospitalization could be tens of thousands of dollars. Even if I end up on COBRA for the max of 18 months, I would only pay $13,410. When stated that way it is basically a bargain. Even though it feels like I’m being asked to make a bargain with the devil.


Sellin’ Mah House

t-shirt "I live in a van down by the river"

My house went on the market mid-last week. The first day, one person came to view the property. We got a contract later that night and I met with my Realtor the next day to sign a bunch of papers. So my house is officially under contract! Within a few days (and more signatures) I had a back up offer secured as well.

Overall the process has been going really well. It’s been a pain to keep all of my stuff out of sight, make sure the bed is made, and vacuum up after the bunnies every morning. Even though I’m unemployed, I’m usually busy all day and have to be out of the house fairly early most days!

There’s been a bit of drama from a few people who probably just mean well. I’m really good about making a plan and acting on it, but I am not so great when it comes to not taking things personally and letting “stuff” get to me. There is also the question of where I will end living up when I leave this house. I have enough friends that I’m sure I could couch surf for a few solid months if I had to. I’m welcome at my parents house, but space is tight. I was driving around yesterday and spotted an old contractor van for sale. I definitely thought about it.


Unemployment in the Social Age

I’m absolutely exhausted this morning. My to-do list is a mile long and growing. I’m currently drinking a Red Bull, and laying face first on the couch with 10 tabs open in Firefox.

Things have actually been going really well. I haven’t won the lottery, gotten married for the insurance, or struck gold in my backyard. I have been completely overwhelmed (emotionally and literally) by support and help from friends and acquaintances.

It’s gotten me thinking that I am very lucky to have lost my job in 2012, with the Internet and social media as resources. My layoff happened on Friday at 5 pm. I posted my status on Facebook Friday night. I have 48 comments on that post along with a bunch of emails and private messages. I had to create a spreadsheet to track all the leads I’ve gotten.

I immediately updated my LinkedIn contacts and sent out a bunch of recommendation requests. In three days I’ve gotten a handful of great ones already.

Thanks to social media I’ve gotten several leads on freelance projects and odd jobs (such as helping a friend set up for a consignment sale). I found someone to buy an unused $100 J. Crew gift card within a couple hours. I posted some gently used Anthropologie items for sale on a group Facebook page. I’ve used the Internet to list a bunch of old books for sale on Amazon (making money and de-cluttering!) and sold back the textbook from my Summer class.

A friend alerted me to a happy hour for graphic designers in Richmond, and took time out of her busy week to meet me there and buy me a beer. Even though it was a small group, I got two leads (and a free beer) out of that event.

The Realtor who is helping me do a short sale on my house is someone I met through Twitter. My mom came with me to our first meeting and was amazed that I met someone smart, kind and non-murderous via the Internet!

Some friends that I’ve know for a long time (so long that it’s silly to mention that I originally met them through a message board for a sci-fi cartoon) have been perhaps the sweetest of all. Offering to pick me up at the airport about an hour away this fall so I don’t have to spend money on a rental car. One guy, living in a different country, offered to make me a portfolio website. Three others offered financial assistance to ensure I could get my medical care covered. And I’m misting up again. My mom has offered the same (of course) but no other family members have. But people, friends, from the Internet have offered. And that makes me very fortunate indeed.