What a Wonderful Week!

Unlike last job hunt I have quietly hunted for my job. I have made some great connections on an offline the past few months. I have also quietly almost finished up my second semester of graduate school and am waiting for a six week break before I start a field placement at an unknown location (scary!).

Last week I had three follow-up job interviews. They all were great interviews. I would have been stoked to have accepted any of the three if they were offered to me.  I did all the reqesit Thank You letter follow-up. I e-mailed and sent letters in the mail within 24 hours (unless they said they would make decisions within 24 hours) and then waited.

Instead of going to the gym like I have been lately to clear my mind (mind = beyond blown) I drug my stay at home mother with my to a local strip mall to do some retail window shopping. It helped some, but that couldn’t last all weekend. So, Saturday and Sunday came and went as always.

Then, Monday came and went as well. No phone calls. I tweeted, I applied for 3 jobs, all courtesy of Craigslist. The quiet confidence of last week was slowly disappearing.  Poof! Phone call from a radio station. Radio station?! I’m not in the radio industry (I wish i was that bubbly and outgoing, though!) I had won a trip to Houston, hotel room, back stage passes and tickets to Bruno Mars concert two days later. Say what? You’re Amazing, radio!

So, Wednesday comes around. I woke up feeling like P. Diddy. Packed up, ready to go. Not even half way there (it’s a three and a half hour drive) and holy cow! I get a flat tire! Yes, a flat tire. Thank goodness my trustee sidekick, Amber, knows how to fix a flat because I never planned on having a flat (well…yes, never planned on it…). We’re working our magic when I swear a little angel in an old mazda truck pulls over and helps us fix our flat in 30 minutes. He was a little Grandpa who got his hands dirty for us and when I asked for his address to send him a thank you card he said no, please don’t. And he faded into the distance of I-10.

Now, more than halfway to Houston, new tire in position (a new full size spare nonetheless), I get a phone call from one of those 3 places I had mentioned.  The manager asked me if I was driving and I said, “Well, yes, but I won’t be at a stopping point for a while…” And then he sounded sad, I was like “Oh, no. I didn’t get the job.” Then he goes, “Well, let me cut to the chase then, we’d like to offer you the part time position.” Yahtzee! I knew something was going to happen.

So not to bore you with the rest of my personal diary…the hotel was pretty. Traffic in Houston still sucks. It made us late. We obviously got our picture taken with the beautiful Bruno Mars. The concert was wonderful. The drive back was uneventful-except for the drizzle in Lulling. And I have a part time job!

Dear Lower Unemployment Rate, We are not friends!

The February unemployment rate was the lowest reported number since 2008. That’s great news! Jobs have been created in a numbers of sectors. To those of you who have found jobs in those areas, congratulations! For those of you who are still looking, I would like to welcome you to our joint pity party.

While it is great news that the unemployment numbers are moving up and jobs are being created, it also means several things for those of us that are still looking for employment:

  • It may take longer for us to hear back from hiring managers

With up to 200 applicants for a posted position on the internet job boards, hiring managers are really have their work cut out for them.  While I have given them some heat in the past for not getting back to me when they have said they would, I do understand the volume associated with posting a position.  So, if you’re a job seeker, realize that your goal of finding a job now is not the same goal as the hiring manager who has a goal of finding the right candidate.

  • We may have to tweak our resumes and cover letters more

There is an art to matching keywords. If you find the art, please let me know. I haven’t figured it out   yet. If I had, I would share it. :)

 

 

 

  • We may have to go after temp to hire jobs

As much as I dislike the idea, many people champion this idea. It’s a way for companies to test out employees and positions.  It also keeps an employee busy while you look for the next full time position.

  • You may have to network more (offline and online)

Let everyone know you’re looking for a job. If you go out to eat with friends and you meet someone new and they ask you what you do, don’t be embarrassed, maybe they know someone who can help you! I’ve started saying that I am currently going to graduate school, but I am also looking for full-time employment. It kind of pads the shock that I am unemployed, but then the person also knows that I am looking.  If networking mixers scare you, try networking online. Start joining twitter chats like #jobhuntchat and #HFChat.  It takes the pain out of the face to face networking. Do not be afraid to connect to those people on other platforms like LinkedIn either. Those connections can turn into real connections and will take the fear out of the face to face meeting. Then, once you get that down you’ll be able to network like a pro in real life!

  • We may have to settle for jobs that are not in our sector or are below our level to wait out the recession (still!)

Continue searching for the next best thing, but also remember that the next door may not open         at the right time. Look for things that can lead you to that next door. Look for a CNA position that could lead to an RN position. Look for an Administrator position that could lead to development. Look for a teller position that could lead to loan officer.  It’s all in what you make it.

Even though I give all this advice it doesn’t mean that I’m still not bummed about the state of the economy. It’s holding everyone back. With only 3 interviews and a handful of auto-generated e-mails since this latest unemployment stint, there are some times when I continue to stumble and wonder what the next step is. For those of you that are unemployed know there is someone out there feeling the same thing. For those of you who know a friend or family member who is unemployed, give them a cookie or watch a really bad movie with them to cheer them up. And for those hiring managers and recruiters who come across applicants who are unemployed, please give them a chance. They’re good people.

Burying the Past

I might be in a bit of a slump. Saturday I put on a t-shirt to look presentable for my morning Human Behavior class. What my 4 classmates and my professor didn’t know was that I had sweatpants on throughout the class and I didn’t take them off the rest of the day. I was supposed to go to the gym Saturday too. I didn’t. Sunday wasn’t much different. Before the job loss I could count on Sunday to be very productive. Get up, go to the grocery store, do some laundry, go to the gym and go to bed. Get up and do the whole thing over again. Too bad the whole thing isn’t the same.

  Sure, cry me a river. I’m sad.  But I think I’ve found a symbolic resolution to this sadness. Much like a bad break-up I have decided to bury my past. Throughout my time with my previous organization I have amassed a few mementoes. I have three t-shirts, some papers and some training materials. The t-shirts I just haven’t had a chance to look at or throw out. The papers I pulled out in my harrumph to get out of the office and my training materials I brought home to write an organizational paper.

So, today, in this breezy sunny mild south Texas late winter day, I have decided to bury my previous employer to move on. I put on my black skirt, a black shirt and got a shovel. I went outside with the dogs following me. They were interested in my “stuff.” I had some scissors, a box to put the stuff in and nothing much else. I dug a rather large hole (the binder is a 3 inch binder), cut up the t-shirts and put them in the box with the papers.  I put all the stuff in the hole, covered it back up and said my good-byes.  I said good-bye to the mean people, the unnecessary drama, the lonely lunches, the unplanned and unexecuted fundraisers, and all the other things that just weren’t a good fit.

While I said my good-byes I also said a prayer. I said a prayer for a new beginning, a new start. Maybe the new beginning isn’t tomorrow or next week, but I asked for a new beginning.  I also asked for continued strength through this tough period because even though I know I said my good-byes, like the death of a loved one the loss of a job is not easy and I may be able to go to the grocery store and to the gym today, but maybe not tomorrow.

So I buried my past and I’m moving on to my future, whatever that may be. And I recommend that anyone who has gone through a bad job loss joins me in burying their past. It will only hold you back in the future.

What Did You Learn At Your Last Job?

Whether you’ve been laid off due to the economy, left your previous employer due to mutual differences, or are leaving your position to move on to a brighter future, all professional positions can be considered learning experiences. It may be hard to see past terminations and lay-offs due to downsizing. But! consider that the average American will change their career 3 to 5 times in a life time, leaving a job in the grand scheme of things should just be considered part of life. Think of the following few things after you leave:

Lots of people use a previous position to rule out their next step in a career.  Maybe the position will help you become more specialized in specific area. Or, even realize that one specific specialization is not the area for you.

Did you hate working on your own? Maybe you loved the specialization but you want to work on a team to support the cause.  Or did that team just clash with your views? Maybe a different company will help you realize your dream.

How about your boss? Was there something that just irked you about your boss? Did her make-up just drive you up the wall?  Or maybe it was something real, like no feedback on projects that just was not helpful. Well, during your next interviews take an extra look at your potential boss’s appearance or ask on one on one feedback.

Was there a way paperwork was completed that drove you crazy? Ask about administrative policies. Did your previous company take forever to reimburse travel expenses?

Ask! Find a company that meets your expectations! So many people say that you are interviewing the company as much they are interviewing you. If you don’t feel like the company is a good fit for you, you’ll just be back at square one. And that’s a bummer.

Professional development does not stop when you don’t have a job. When you walk out the door for the last time, ask yourself what you learned at your previous place of employment and how you can find a new employer which builds on what you learned while you were there.

The Right Answer Today: I Don’t Know.

We visited the topic of professional confidence a few months back.  The question is, though, what happens when that confidence all but disappears? The organization says, “I’m sorry even your coffee and cookies aren’t good enough for us so we’re going to need your keys and your cell phone. You’re no longer an employee here.”

Obviously the next step is to find someone to help you find your confidence again. Find that job description on Craigslist, Indeed.com, Idealist.org or whatever that perfect job search site is (or talk to your network about the perfect job) with skills you have and write a killer cover letter and resume. Problem is, it’s going to be a huge struggle. Right now I don’t even feel like I can write an appropriate cover letter without someone sending it back to me without corrections.  I might have made some changes personally, but professionally I feel as though I have taken several steps back. It sure feels like the rug has been ripped out from under my feet.

Other blog entries have spouted out some sort of advice, even if it’s been some cheesy “Keep your head up.” However, I don’t have anything for this. How do you deal with the loss of a job when an employer just basically ripped all your professional skills to pieces? I don’t know. Maybe that’s the answer for now, “I don’t know.”

Loss of Professional Confidence

It happens sometimes. We all make small mistakes. We may even may make big mistakes. It could be a typo that senior management noticed and reported to your manager or just stumbling through your first presentation with a company right out of college. They all usually end up in a little “chat” with a supervisor.

But, what happens when your boss decides that this one mistake is big enough to lose confidence in you? When your boss hands out roles for a new project and you get left behind or are left to be the “copy maker” or the “get the RSVP list” person when you’re usually the powerpoint maker or PR guru; how do you react? More importantly- how do you not take this personally and think of it professionally?

It’s a dicey situation. You may hear, “We remember when you stumbled through your very first presentation? So, yeah. We’re going to replace you. Sorry. You suck. You can provide that great coffee you make. Or bake some cookies for the center of the table if you’d like.” What they are usually trying to say is, “We value our customers and the service we provide. So, we’d like to provide you with more training to fix the problems last time so you can do better next time and blow us away like you do everywhere else.”

I’m sure that it’s hard to consider baking those cookies or making those copies when you know that you are capable of the great PR work or the awesome powerpoint presentation. Just remember that if you continue to do your job and continue to improve you’ll get more than one chance to do those great things that were taken away from you.

What’s the Price of Graduate School?

It’s always been a dream, to get my Masters in Social Work (or Counseling, or Public Administration…or…whatever felt right that day). Well, I was particularly feeling the dream in the middle of this summer. It was the middle of the summer, so most deadlines had past and most graduate students were relishing summer or work..or whatever it may. I searched a few schools for online M.S.W. programs and found out that there are only a few out there. There’s one in New England and believe it or not, a school I had a quick dream about as a senior in college for Cognitive Neuroscience was debuting a virtual Masters program in a few months.

That second school, USC, is a top ranked school. I mean, so top ranked that I seriously doubted my ability to get in. Sure, my resume is pretty social work-y at this point (aside from those 8 months as a telemarketer…shh no one has to know). But, I did get a few Cs in college and I was not about to chance taking the GRE to increase my chances when the school’s costs amount to what I can only dream of making in one year of working. So, just to see….I spent most of the 4th of July weekend and the weekend after exploring faculty and writing a stellar statement of purpose (or so I thought).

Anyway. After poking and prodding my my former professors and supervisors for recommendations, I got in! So very exciting!

And then it really hit me….what am i doing? I already have some ridiculous amount of debt (it’s above $30k) and here I am thinking of taking on even more. And for what? The 50th percentile of social workers make about $55,000 a year.

Am I being selfish? Just to have some more letters at the end of my name? Am I doing it just because all my other friends are either having babies or getting Masters? I just don’t know.

That all being said, it will take a while for a fin aid package to arrive, but still. I need opinions. Is the MSW worth it? And especially an MSW from USC? It’s a big deal! Ayudame!

Finding Your Professional Moment

When I started this blog I wrote a long and lengthy entry tracing my journey into the non-profit world. As I get deeper and deeper into this current job of Case Manager for children in the care of the state, I think I finally I can finally pinpoint the moment where everything changed. I probably would have found my way to this position, even without this moment, but it just makes even more meaningful with the moment.  I think for young people, Generation Y (and even Generation X at some times) discovering and pinpointing that moment that drives you to your professional calling is key to finding your place in the professional world.

My moment involved two boys; two brothers who I came to love and adore during my time with Project Transformation. Their mother dropped them off on the last day, and in Spanish said, “They won’t be here tomorrow.” I explained to her that it was the last day and that it would be alright. We continued on to enjoy the last day. We gave all the kids big hugs, we gave them books, parents gave us going away presents, and some of the interns cried. I was one that cried. I probably cried too much (I have a history of crying too much).

As the kids started to trail off in the bright 4 o’clock Dallas sun, the boys’ mother came up to the door with their little cousins.  I had developed a pretty good relationship with the mother, as I and just a handful of the church staff could speak Spanish. She waited for the kids to run off to play and then started to cry. She said, through her tears (of course all in Spanish) that her husband had been taken away by immigration and that she was afraid for the boys. He made enough money through construction and other side jobs to support the family. She, however, did not work. She was so scared that the few interns that were around me started to get concerned. I’d reached the end of my Spanish proficiency so I called the office staff that I knew to discuss what we could do for her.  This was a turning point for me, politically as well. Before this I was worried about the democrats’ new star, Barack Obama and his ideas. Today, even though we’ve hit some rough patches, thanks to this mother and her boys, I believe in many of his ideas and his goals. Every time I think that his ideas are a bit off I think of these boys. And that’s how I got through ACORN (even if I didn’t agree with some ideas) – thinking of those boys and their mother.

Now, for these amazing little boys. I cannot remember their exact ages. I think they were 9 and 11. Aside from the occasional bad behavior I saw little emotion from these two. They were very close to their mother. They would hug her when they saw her in the afternoon. It was cute. And apparently, they were also very close to their father. She had told them he went to Mexico for vacation, but these boys were smart cookies. They knew why he was gone. After the office staff went to speak to their mother I went to see the boys. I had already cried about leaving these particular siblings. And then, the oldest boy started to cry. I hugged him like there was no tomorrow. I knew there was nothing that I could do for him, except be there for him.  I hugged the younger brother too, but the older brother, being the oldest and getting emotional was so hard. He was a tough guy. And he cried. And I cried. I don’t know if anyone else cried, but I do remember crying as well.

I don’t know what happened. I don’t know if the boys moved, if their father was able to come home or if their mother was able to survive on her own. It still makes me a little sad to think about this. It clicked with me sometime this week that this was the moment, when those boys showed some sort of emotion about the loss of their father, that makes me want to fix the world and do everything I can. I was leaning towards this vocation before I this event, but after this event, it was a foregone conclusion that whether it be helping people who cannot speak for themselves, like the boys’ mother, or the boys themselves, that’s what I’m going to do. I encourage all of you, no matter your age, to find that one particular moment in your life that drives you to do your job, whether that job is social work or public relations…find that one moment and live in that moment. The thing is, when you lose that moment is the second you lose your drive and purpose.

A Voice for the Voiceless: Go Blue for Child Abuse Prevention Month on April 7!

National “Go Blue” Day is tomorrow, April 7, 2010. On the eve of this day which was created to honor those who have been lost due to child abuse and to encourage the prevention of child abuse, I was shocked to hear about one woman, Melissa Franco’s ability to leave her 4 children home alone at the care of a “neighbor.” One of these little ones was found wandering the dangerous streets Ms. Franco lives on.

What shocks me the most, though, is where these children live and that my previous job and my current job collided this evening when I heard about this. Ms. Franco lives in the oldest and one of the most dangerous public housing complexes in the city of San Antonio. Most native San Antonio residents know to avoid this area, Cassiano Homes, unless you have to be there or you happen to be buying drugs or police officer. I, as an ACORN employee, knocked on these doors encouraging these public housing residents to sign up for vocational training, daycare, register to vote and to prepare their taxes. When I heard Ms. Franco’s street name, my jaw dropped, not out of amazement or shock that it could or would happen here….but that I might have knocked on her door and that her children may have been alone, suffering from parental neglect and I couldn’t do anything, because I didn’t know.

Today, it is my job to make sure that these children, who are suffering from parental neglect, whether it is simply being left home alone, or the more visible physical abuse, are taken care of on a daily basis. I am here to help them feel wanted. I am here to make them feel loved and to know that there is someone there for them and that being left alone or abuse is not the way life should be.

So, tomorrow, April 7, 2010, “Go Blue” in honor of Melissa Franco’s children and all those other children who may have been behind that closed door I knocked on who have no voice. “Go Blue” because child abuse is preventable and that we can give a voice to the voiceless.

Info on Melissa Franco

Report suspected abuse or neglect to the Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 1-800-252-5400 or online at http://www.txabusehotline.org Last year 280 children in Texas died due to abuse or neglect at the hands of their parents or other caregivers, and a total of 68,326 children were confirmed victims of abuse or neglect. On any given day, approximately 16,000 Texas children are in foster care because they have been victims.

Blue Ribbon Against Child Abuse: A Poem

Blue Ribbon Against Child Abuse:

A Poem

 

My  ame is Sarah  
I  am but three, 
my eyes are swollen
I cannot  see.

I  must be stupid,
I must be bad,
what else  could have made
my daddy  so  mad?

I wish I were better,
I wish I  weren’t ugly,  
then  maybe my Mommy  
would  still want to hug me. 

I can’t speak at  all,
I can’t do a wrong
or else I’m locked  up
all the day long.

When I awake I’m  all alone  
the  house is dark  
my  folks aren’t home. 

When my Mommy does  come
I’ll try and be  nice,  
so  maybe I’ll get just  
one  whipping tonight. 

Don’t make a sound!
I  just heard a car
my daddy is back
from  Charlie’s Bar.

I hear him curse
my name  he calls
I press myself
against the  wall.

I  try and hide
from his evil eyes
I’m so  afraid now
I’m starting to cry.

He finds me weeping
he shouts ugly words,
he says its  my fault  
that  he suffers at work.  

He  slaps me and hits me
and yells at me more,
I  finally get free
and I run for the  door. He’s already locked it
and I start to bawl,
he  takes me and throws me
against the hard  wall.

 

Edited for content: if anyone would like the pretty graphic photos that this poem came with I’d be glad to forward them to you. Feel free to e-mail me.

For information on how you can help prevent Child Abuse and how to support April’s 2010 Child Abuse Prevention Month please click here.

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