Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Conclusions I've drawn from my short lesson in unemployment

1. I can't NOT work.
It drove me insane. I was barely unemployed three months, and I was bouncing off the walls. I was all flavors of depressed, filled with doubt, questioned my faith, and generally a basket case. I couldn't do this for two years. Literally. Had I gone a bit longer, there's no doubt in my mind that I would have had to take a part time job while I continued my job search. And honestly? Subway was the first place that came to mind.

2. Free time when you're unemployed and free time when you're employed are NOT THE SAME THING.
DO NOT THINK OF IT AS A VACATION! I thought I'd enjoy the downtime while I searched for a job. Instead, it was pretty evenly split between despairing, temporarily numbing my mind with video games, silently freaking out, discovering new ways to be secretly depressed, or pacing back and forth in the apartment.

3. My heart goes out to the Boomers looking for jobs right now.
Since writing that post, it has become increasingly obvious that the Booomers are getting dropped from positions, and put in the unfavorable position of competing against fresh, young college grads with mountains of debt who will jump at any job you throw at them that doesn't involve a paper hat. True, many Boomers in the tech industry failed to keep up their knowledge, or make themselves indispensable, or realize that there was an army of young'uns gunning for their job, but I still feel for them. I happen to know one was their second favorite for the job I was offered. Being familiar with the type, I knew that if he was my strongest competition, I was very likely to get the job. Which made me both sad and happy.

4. Keep things in perspective.
As hard as things got, I always felt better when I prayed for John and his wife. No matter how bad things get, you've still got to count your blessings.

5. Something ain't kosher in the unemployment line.
One of the things I noticed while on the hunt was the volume of jobs available, and the lack of applicants. Note I didn't say qualified applicants. If I didn't have enough qualifications for a job, I'd be pounding on doors, promising the world for minimum wage if they'd only give me a chance. Because that's exactly what I did to get my foot in the door of this field. But whenever I interviewed by phone, I found I was one of around 20 applicants. Either they mentioned they didn't have many interviews, or I was interview X out of Y, or they just mentioned that I was one of a few. Of course, that is not to say 1000 didn't submit their resume, and get a "thank you, but" e-mail. But I happen to think the positions for which I was applying were not that specialized, save a couple. Something just didn't add up. I've been told thousands apply to any job that becomes available, but I'm beginning to think they're only interested in applying. Smells like sandbagging.

6. The Ca EDD helps you *wink wink* *nudge nudge* stay unemployed.
The Employment Development Department randomly selected me for a review, so I went in to a local office for an interview. Not understanding most of the form, I left it blank so I could ask questions about filling it in rather than sign my name to something I didn't understand. When I got there, an EDD employee explained to me that Sacramento handles their own tracking of how unemployment is working, and how well EDD is doing its job of keeping leeches out of the system. (Obviously, the EDD employee worded it differently, but that's what I took from it after playing dumb and asking more questions about the process). I happened to be randomly selected by Sacramento for a review. Upon seeing my mostly empty and unsigned form, the EDD employee impressed upon me that I needed to fill out the form to a minimum level to prevent a follow up interview. She made it very clear that she was there to help me fill out the form. At this point I wondered what would happen if I hadn't looked for work at all.

Then, due to a bad childhood, the plight of the inner city, the lack of gay marriage, high fructose corn syrup, my oppressed Mexican heritage, and the Bush administration, I temporarily forgot all the places I had applied to, and accidentally told her I was waiting for a call back from a place that I was really sure was going to hire me, and hadn't looked for any work for weeks. (Had all those forces not been acting upon me, someone might think I was intentionally lying, and not the victim of a vast right wing conspiracy!) She told me this was wrong, and that I needed to fill out the form to continue receiving benefits. When I reiterated that I hadn't looked for work, she reiterated that she was there to help me, and asked me to think really hard to remember what job I must have applied for. She even offered to let me leave and come back once I remembered where I had applied. When I just happened to remember one of the places I had applied to, she took the lead, and told me what to write in each box to make sure I didn't get a follow up interview. Over the next few minutes, I slowly recalled the places I had applied to (places I really did apply to, but as far as she was concerned, was making up on the spot), and she helped me fill in the paperwork to the minimum level to prevent a follow up interview.

At no point did she advise me to lie, but at every opportunity she told me how to lie on the form, and reassured me that if I filled it in to a minimum level, I wouldn't have to worry about anyone checking on it. When I put the actual number of jobs I had applied to, she even implied I should go a little lower, but I reassured her it was OK (because I still didn't want to lie on an official form).

No wonder there are so many unemployed in California.

1 comment:

Groundhog said...

I agree. I recently did the same thing here in Texas. If unemployment didn't exist I would have busted my butt to find any kind of job at all. With unemployment I was not willing to look below what my benefits would bring in.

I'm a bit divided on exactly how I feel about it. On one hand I was glad it was there but on the other hand it reduces your motivation to work. I thought that insurance you buy yourself would be appropriate but then that's what a savings account is supposed to be for!