Wednesday, September 9, 2009


So I could fill you in on all the "secrets" we learned today on resumes, cover letters, and interviews, but there was a kind of sideshow going on that was much more entertaining. Not that it would take much to be more entertaining than these sessions.

There's an older gentleman-in his fifties, maybe- that has made a big stink since the begining of PROS last Wednesday. I'll call him R. Yesterday R was the guy who, at 9:01, said, "This is bulls**t people! This lady's late. If we were one minute late we'd be out the door and lose our check!" With that the instructor walked in and he goes, "You're late!" and she said (trying to be sweet but not doing a very good job of covering her annoyance), "Oh, I just wanted to give everyone time to get in the door and get a seat." To be fair, parking around this place isn't exactly easy and there are a lot of people who take public transportation to get to there. Didn't hear much else from that guy yesterday. Today I heard a lot from him.

Well, R followed me in the door and sat between me and this girl in her mid-twenties-I'll call her M. Right away R starts ranting (and bragging, which go together so well): "This is bulls**t. I'm an engineer. If I weren't collecting the maximum [which is $800+, by the way] I wouldn't even be here. I do sales on the side and I make $260 an hour doing that. [Then how can he be collecting unemployment??] Here's my card! Email me when this is all over and I'll try to get you started in the business. Can you believe this lady was late yesterday? You know if any of us were late we'd be out the door. Blah, blah, blah...." And on and on pretty non-stop till some other people interupted him for their own complaints. I think he's been trying to start a mutiny, but most of us-myself included- just wanted to get through it and go home.

When class started R gets out a calculator. For an engineer he had a pretty lame calculator. It was one of those solar-powered jobbers with the giant keys and calculating percents as the most complicated function. He starts plugging away loudly and I'm thinking "What could he need to calculate now?" Believe me there was nothing in any way related to math or numbers about what the lady was presenting to us. The instructor even made a comment about how he must be a "numbers person." Possibly a hint to put the calculator away. He didn't take the hint.

During our little break it got better. R tells M & I that he was calculating how much money he can make selling solar panels. Then he shows M (I guess I'm not solar-panel-worthy) on his calculator how little "Bob and Rita" actually had to pay out-of-pocket on their $50,000 solar panels. Who are Bob and Rita? He talked about them like they were Brad & Angelina and everyone on earth should know them. R then engages M in a conversation about a bar she used to work at. Then he turns it into a conversation about his sugar mama. This guy claims while he was working as a golf instructor at a nearby course he met the CFO of a huge corporation and fell in love. Now I'm talking HUGE corporation---one we ALL know and whose products we probably use in some form every day. And he gets out her picture that he has slipped into the pocket of his solar panel binder. Man, this guy really has his story together. He said the two of them own a house in New Jersey and a house in Florida. Whatever. At one point I made eye contact with M and raised my eyebrows to acknowledge his craziness and she laughed.

When the session got into interviewing tips things got really entertaining. The instructor was saying men and women should always wear a suit, have shined closed-toe shoes, and no perfume or after-shave when R interrupted, "Excuse me, how many interviews have you been on?" She said, "Quite enough to know." and he goes, "The stuff you're telling these people isn't right. It's not how things are anymore." she said "Well, this is what employers have reported turns them off to a candidate." He said "I'm sorry this is not useful information. I'm a professional and I consider myself pretty successful and employers don't care about after-shave." And she says, "Well, I think they do." And he says "I guess we disagree." and she says "I guess we do." But you could tell she was pissed and didn't like being contradicted. Then she told us she was going to put on a video with some interviewing tips. As the video began she was coming around collecting some papers and she points to R and says, "Sir, may I see you for a moment." He goes "Oh no, here we go." And everyone in the room laughs. It was just like High School! She starts the video and disapears with R. They were both talking pretty loudly but she had the video so loud I couldn't even make out one word. She came back about 10 minutes later and R never came back! Apparently, all you have to do to get out of the class is disagree with the instructor!

I do have a point in telling this story: Treat adults like children and they will revert to childish behavior. This program is an insult. The state is using tax-payer money to justify having this huge "employment" department full of people who aren't really helping anyone find a job. Instead of being at the "One-Stop Career Center" the unemployed should be out getting jobs or getting hands-on training to find a better job. And stop handing me lists of jobs for $10 an hour!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


PROS is the mandatory carreer counseling I have to go to in order to get my check. It stands for "Project Re-employment Opportunity System." What does that mean? They made up the title so it would make a nice acronym. Who cares? Then just call it "Pros" if you want it to be "Pros." Why do the letters have to stand for something? Does anyone know what AT&T stands for? No, but we all know what AT&T does.

I'll give away all the secrets the instructor had for us today. Maybe someone can read this blog and say "I don't have to go to PROS! I read Christina's blog that filled me in on everything they teach." She gave us an "assignment." Oh god, really? I looked around the room and knew I would be one of the few who actually did it. Here it is:
Make a notebook to track your job-search progress. Here are the sections it should have:
  1. Skills-list all the skills you have acquired since your very first job. Uh, is counting items at the Ross fitting room a skill?
  2. Finances-list your financial obligations for one month, then figure out the hourly cost. This is the wage you should be looking for. ok, can't wait to see that.
  3. References-list 3 professional & 3 personal references. Here are some tips for references: call and check that the phone # works; ask the person's permission to use them as a reference; tell the person of your important job skills and how they fit into your career goals; elimnate & replace anyone who you may not be sure of how highly they will speak of you. Duh! I seriously had to find a babysitter to hear this?
  4. Schedule-make a work schedule for yourself and attach assignments for each day of the week. For example: Monday can be the day you go to the library and check the classifieds. Make copies of any jobs you see that pertain to your career goals. Um, some of us might actually GET the newspaper. Write your cover letter and update your resume. Should I include PROS under "education" or "certification?" Make sure you research any company you apply to. On Tuesday you can dress for an intervew and hit the streets with a stack of resumes in tow. Don't forget two black ink pens-preferably the erasable kind in case you make a mistake on your application. It's important to apply in-person at the begining of the week. Employers tend to think those applying at the end of the week are not really serious about getting hired. So go Monday or Tuesday. That's a new one! Wow, I learned something today! On your applications, make sure you write something on every line. If you can't answer it write "n/a." Leaving blanks will make the employer think you are uncooperative. On Wednesday you can research companies, job sites, products, mission statements and make sure to use that information in your cover letter. So are these the companies I'm going to bother next Tuesday? Thursdays are for making phone calls and refreshing your resume. Again, what am I going to add or update if I haven't had a new job since the resume I wrote on Monday? Fridays are for miscellaneous activities. Beach day.
  5. Newspaper-keep track of jobs you found in the newspaper. List the job#, requisition#, paste the ad to the page. List the date you applied and how.
  6. Internet-document the jobs you applied for online.
  7. Networking-this is considered how 80-85% of out-of-work people get jobs. List friends, family, and former collegues. Contact them and ask them to keep an "eye out" for jobs you might be qualified for. Cuz they have nothing better to do.

Ater this, the instructor went through some agonizing packets of information. The first was "Self-Management Skills" and the second "Job Search Techniques." They were both full of blanks to fill-in for self-discovery. Of course she didn't give us time to do these exercises during class. It would be our homework. Yes, homework! I'm a teacher and I love homework! The third packet was "Labor Market Information" and a miracle happened: she couldn't get the PowerPoint to work! So she sent us home early! But we're not off the hook: we have to go back tomorrow and see the presentation before we do the stuff scheduled for tomorrow.

Who can I text tomorrow during class? Everyone is working. Oh, I know! I can use my phone for some "networking."

Actively Seeking Employment

I had a "great" idea for a job: reading/editing math text books. I tried to find some textbook publishers in the area. Most of the publishers don't have offices in NJ. One has an office in Hightstown, NJ, but I'm not even sure where that is. Also, it looks like most of the publishers have merged with each other and there are really only three big names. Most of the posted-positions looked like top-management with lots of experience in publishing. Nothing I would be anywhere near qualified for.

Then I decided to look at cyber schools. NJ doesn't have any cyber schools, but PA has about 10. Only one had a math teacher opening and as far as I could tell the position requires going to the site in PA and teaching via distance learning. I was thinking of something where I could teach from home. I'm still going to look into getting my PA certificate before my Praxis scores are too old.

Then I went on wnjpin and searched for math-related jobs. Here are the five I got:

  1. An e-commerce analyst position that I already applied for before I realized it was i n Wayne, NJ (too far).

  2. Statistician for a pharmaceutical company. The position is located in Shanghai, CHINA! Now, I know I searched for jobs within 50 miles of my zip code. Last time I checked China was a little farthur away than 50 miles. Please!

  3. Instructional Systems Designer for the CG. I didn't even understand the job description!

  4. Part-time teacher to provide "services" to students on suspension. Ok, maybe...Salary: $28,500/year. NO!

  5. Part-time A+ instructor. Pretty sure you have to know what A+ is to teach it.

Then I updated my resume on Monster thinking maybe I can get somewhere on there.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

So this is what it's like to be unemployed

There are probably tons of "unemployment" blogs out there. I don't really care. I'm pretty much just writing this as an outlet for myself. I don't care if no one reads it. Who reads other people's blogs, anyway? I know I don't.

So UI expects you to be at their beck & call at all times. I was selected for a mandatory program called PROS that the state thinks will help you get a job. Which we were all informed means going back there Tuesday & Wednesday of next week. People were getting mad. "What about my kids?" Well, unemployment expects you have child care arrangements since "available to work" means you can start immediately. Who is going to pay for day care while they are out of work?? Seriously, what employer expects you to start today? They would at least let you have till Monday to prepare. "But I'm going away next week?" Too bad. The only way you can reschedule is if you have an interview. This is all just a ploy to keep you away from the money you paid into and are entiled to.

At the end of the meeting today we all got a list of the new "job" listings. Most of them are for a whopping $7.25/hour. Some are up to $15/hour. At $7.25 hour, if you worked 40 hours a week for 52 weeks (this would mean NEVER taking a day off) you would earn$15,080 in one year. Even at the $15/hour you would only net $31,200. Even teaching I was making $35++/hour.

I just wish I could go back to April 30th. Yeah, I hated the people I worked for/with and wished I could find something better, but it was a job and a paycheck. I had the routine down and was finally "prepared" for another year. It just sucks that this totally blindsided me and I have had so much trouble picking myself up. The whole situation just makes you feel like you're worthless and expendable. I haven't even had an interview since the first week in June.