New Job Report

I started my new job one month weeks ago. A lot of things have totally changed.

I wake up at 4 am to ride a commuter bus to DC. I’m now required to take a lunch break. I’m no longer a graphic designer, although a lot of those skills are coming in handy fairly often. I go through a metal detector (and my bags go through an x-ray) every time I enter the building. I get to bank time worked over 8 hours and my boss actively encourages me to do this so I can take time off without actually using my official leave time.

My co-workers are mainly introverted and keep to themselves. There are approximately 15 people in my office, but our bureau takes up most of a 5 story building.

The building has a cafeteria and a modest-sized gym that is super cheap. You can order office supplies on the Intranet and go downstairs during certain hours to pick up your stuff. I have a cubicle after 10 years of open office working. There is a ton of training I can take online and in my building – mostly free.

In many ways, I’ve adjusted better than I expected. The biggest issue right now is learning my job, and getting used to the way the long commute messes up my weekday schedule. I’m hoping to start working out a few times a week, which should help with energy and overall healthiness. And I’m thrilled to report that I turned in my final MBA assignment last weekend, so I don’t have homework and class to juggle on top of work!

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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.


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!