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.


Seven years ago…

Eleven years ago I was in my off-campus apartment in Harrisonburg, VA, getting ready for an early class. I always had early classes and I always watched the news while I got ready. I saw all the footage of the terrorist attacks live. There was no news about classes being cancelled, so I went. I’m pretty sure it was a theater class; I was going to minor in theater or costume design. We all just sat around, talking about what was going on.

Seven years ago today I was in the hospital, preparing to go in to emergency surgery with the understanding that I only had an hour to live. I’d already had a long history of seeing doctors out of town, but I was working in Northern Virginia and it didn’t make sense to drive all the way to Richmond for appointments. I found a local doctor that I liked a lot and I thought I was very lucky. Then I got sick. So sick that, while waiting in an exam room, a nurse told me I needed to keep quiet because I was scaring other patients. I tried to explain I was in so much pain, rationalizing that she wouldn’t tell a woman in labor to quiet down. The nurse nastily told me if I was in “that much pain” I should go to the ER.

I eventually saw the doctor and he had me admitted directly to the hospital, where I stayed for eleven days. Even seven years ago, eleven days was a long time to stay in the hospital. I didn’t really even have a diagnosis. They were fairly sure it was some reproductive issue, cancer probably. They could feel a mass when they did pelvic exams, which they did at every opportunity, it seemed.

I was relieved that it was cancer. Cancer was easier to explain, more socially acceptable, and had more support. Cancer also had an end point. After a certain number of years, you either were declared cured, or you were dead. Crohn’s disease was the opposite of all that and even seven years ago, at age 24, I was very tired of living that life.

A doctor came in on the morning of September 11, 2005. It was not my doctor. This was Sunday, so I got the on call doctor. He told me my white cell count was too high. I forget the number, but it was almost impossibly high, especially with all the antibiotics and other drugs they’d had me on for eleven days. They thought the mass has exploded inside me. They were going to rush me into surgery.

No, I can’t have surgery here, I said. I needed to go to Richmond, to see my surgeon, the doctor who had performed all my other abdominal surgeries.

The on call doctor told me that I wouldn’t make it to Richmond in time.

Richmond is an hour away by car.

I had an hour to live.

The on call doctor left the room to get everything ready. My mom and I were alone in my room. I figured they would be back to take me to surgery soon. Mom immediately called my dad. Then she called the Catholic church we belonged to and asked them to send the pastor over. I called my best friend, but got her voice mail. I didn’t leave a message. I didn’t want to leave her that message.

Time passed. More than an hour. I wasn’t dead, but I also had not seen one hospital employee in that time. When someone did show up, it was to put me on an ambulance for transport to Richmond. There was never any explanation. Mom was not allowed to ride in the ambulance with me, which I never understood. My parents drove down together. The ambulance got lost. Because I was strapped down, and facing backward, and on a ton of painkillers I could not navigate as well as I wanted. The time is fuzzy, but I know it took us over two hours, possibly even three. My parents were in my room by the time I got there. They, of course, were incredibly worried.

It was very late by the time I got to the hospital and the nurses got everything set up. They put me on the women’s specialty unit, which is where ladies go for hysterectomies and similar procedures. The unit was new, and set up to look like a hotel room. The nurses were amazing. The doctor came in and said I didn’t have reproductive cancer. At all. It was just my Crohn’s disease. He also told me I was on an incredibly high dose of painkillers and that he was going to correct that. I was really scared because I was still in a lot of pain, even on the high dose.

I did end up having surgery. I ended up having complications from that surgery. And I ended up spending three solid months in that second hospital and then at least one shorter trip back in the following month. It wasn’t easy. It’s still not easy. That wasn’t my first surgery and I don’t believe it will be my last.

However…

I’m still alive. Every bad thing that happens (as a natural pessimistic, it’s a long list) is still better than honestly believing I had an hour to live. Every sucky day is the opportunity to try again for a better day in the future. Things change, but I’m still alive. That hasn’t changed.

9/11 is a weird day for me. I’m normally very happy, because I’m grateful to be alive in a way that really hits home. It is weird to feel happy on a day that is so somber for our nation. It’s a day to remember those who were lost. For me it’s a reminder that I’m lucky to be alive.


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.


Unemployed

I was laid off this past Friday. That marked four years and three weeks since I had started at that particular job, if anyone is counting. After three years, I had finally earned a bump in vacation time. At my previous job, even though I worked the same position for for years, the ownership of our division changed hands, so it never counted toward the bump in vacation. I feel like I’m playing Chutes and Ladders.

Luckily, I already had plans that same night to have dinner with a friend and her family. The mom works for HR in a government agency and she offered to help me with their job website and offer tips for searching. I’m hoping to get hired on with the government because there is more stability, great benefits, and opportunities for training and advancement. Also, there are some options to eventually transfer to another part of the country, without having to give up the pension and other benefits.

I’m going to be applying to places in Richmond, Fredericksburg, and the DC area. They won’t all be government of course, but I think that’s where my heart is set at the moment. After working for small businesses for 10 years, I would definitely like to see what it’s like to work for a larger company. Who knows where I’ll end up though!

I posted on Facebook and Twitter and called a few people. The response has been really great. I’ve gotten a ton of people who offered to pass along my resume (as soon as I polish it up!) and a bunch of links to job openings. Thanks friends! One friend-couple even offered me financial help! I was so blown away, I was choking up. I feel so alone at times (like everyone) and it was wonderful to know that there are people who care that much.

I’m all about action, so here’s what I’ve done already:

  • Mom bought me a printer yesterday
  • I bought resume paper
  • Mom is staying with me this week so I’m not alone all day (she still works though)
  • I tripled my course load for the upcoming eight week semester. I’ll be doing three classes, instead of just one. If my request is approved, I will be taking two classes the following eight weeks.
  • Unsubscribe from all store emails and most shopping-related blogs.

Here’s my plan so far:

  • Go to unemployment office. Figure that whole thing out.
  • Determine how much I can make, before it affects unemployment benefits. Find part time job that will fill that gap.
  • Fix up resume. Some people have already reviewed it, but I have two others who offered to help as well. I need to get that to them early this week.
  • Plug my resume into USA Jobs. There’s a job that I’d really like and I only have another 10 days before it closes.
  • Clean up my home office area and unload all my boxes from work.
  • Beg someone to code me a simple website.
  • Get files off my work computer.
  • Get PDF samples of projects I’ve done.
  • Update portfolio.
  • Put as much stuff up for sale on Craigslist or eBay as possible.
  • Talk to realtor about doing a short sale on my house.
  • Attend a bunch of networking events and career fairs.
  • Speak to patient advocate about volunteering.
  • Set up a schedule so I don’t slack on job hunting, but also don’t get overwhelmed.
  • I know that sounds like a lot and is probably boring for you all to read. I’m sure I’ll have more details about different aspects as this progresses. I’m really bummed out now, and having a hard time not taking it personally. But I really do think that there will be a few silver linings out of this situation and I’m lucky that my parents and some friends live close enough to help me (and some others can help virtually)! Everyone send good vibes and job openings!


Wallis Fashion Review

Spot Print Belted Dress (Taupe and Black)

Taupe Spot Print Belted Dress | Also offered in black

I recently placed my first order with UK clothing website, Wallis. I ordered the Taupe Spot Print Belted Dress, shown in the pictures. I also picked up a black jersey dress for only $18, but that one was too small, because I ordered it in petite and didn’t account for the stupid fact that petite sizes are normally smaller in all measurements, not just shorter. I ordered both dresses in size 4 (which is a size 8 in UK size, but they display American sizes on their .com site). Obviously I would order a size up in petites next time. I am very happy with the way both dresses looked. The quality is not fantastic, but for the price, I think it is a reasonable quality. The dress is not lined, and the zipper is a little difficult. The belt it comes with is pretty low quality, but that is to be expected even with a higher-priced dress. Both dresses were machine washable, which is a huge thing for me.

Wallis offers free shipping with orders over $30. You do have to pay for the return shipping, though. The sell clothing, petites, shoes, accessories and even beachwear. Probably only 30 percent of the items for sale appeal to me. Some of their items look a little too trashy or crazy for me personally. The items arrived on individual hangers (marked with the UK sizes), sealed in protective plastic bags. The price for this dress has changes at least 3 times since I bought it, so definitely keep an eye out for sales. I think it was about $50 when I bought it and it is currently $63. I would recommend checking them out!