Month: March 2012

From then to now, in a single blog post.

Once upon a time, this statue and I had something in common, minus the pigeon droppings. Both of us had somewhere to go every morning. Both of us had a job. For me, that ended on December 30th 2009. I worked in the Information Technology field for 20 years, 17 at my last job. I was a computer operator, then a programmer, later a system administrator and analyst. I have experience with SAP and the IBM Iseries midrange computers. I participated in six major IT projects, mostly migration ones, and one Y2K initiative. I also did double-duty handling user requests about their personal computers for three months until we finally hired a permanent network administrator to take over.

I won’t go into the events leading up to my current unemployment. That’s inappropriate to post on a blog and best discussed one-on-one in a job interview.  This story is not about my past employer: this is about me looking for work for over two years.

What I can tell you, honestly, was that I was not fired. I was not asked to leave. I was not escorted off the premises like Charlie Sheen’s “Bud Fox” was near the end of the movie, “Wall Street”.

I can tell you that the end of my employment was on the very best of terms, and it closed a chapter in my life to my satisfaction.

I can tell you I helped my former employer and co-workers with any issue that came up during the six months that followed, without asking for money.  I don’t believe in burning bridges and I’m a good person when it comes to helping others.

I can also tell you it did me a world of good. I lost a lot of weight (about 45 pounds), got back in touch with myself, and re-aligned my worldview and my priorities to something a normal person is supposed to have.

Nevertheless, I was unemployed, and needed to find work. The last time I looked for work was in the early 1990s. That was a different world then. There was no easy access to the Internet, no social media sites like Facebook or LinkedIn. There were a lot more job openings to choose from. All you needed to have was the newspaper classifieds, a few printed resumes, persistence, and your references. Your resume pretty much spoke for you as an employee. If you had an impressive work history and accomplished some amazing things during your career, you generally had no trouble finding a job even in the toughest of times.

Flash forward to 2009. There’s not as many job openings since the recession, but there’s a lot more unemployed people looking for work. In between searching the classifieds and going on interviews, I took some workshops at Career Foundation in Toronto to get some job search tips and pointers. I soon learned the way you look for work changed, and I’ll admit it’s not something I like. It’s not about your resume any more. I was told you had to sell yourself, market yourself, network. Though career coaching, I learned using action words in my resumes would catch the attention of the person in charge of hiring for the job opening. Your resume had to be a certain font size and style and no more than a certain number of pages or it was tossed in the recycle bin. All of this was part of the gospel we job-seekers had to follow in this New World Order, or remain unemployed.

Don’t get me wrong: those workshops were helpful, since it gave me an idea of what to expect. What it did not do was improve my chances of getting more interviews, let alone landing a job. Despite putting a lot of effort into the job search and networking with friends, family, and former-coworkers, I was getting nowhere fast.

But there is the Internet and it did offer new ways to look for employment. I registered on the following job search sites:

  • Torontojobshop
  • Workopolis
  • Manpower
  • Monster
  • Careerdoor
  • Careerbuilder
  • Thingamajob
  • Torontojobs
  • Drake

to apply for open positions offered by many companies. I also created a LinkedIn profile containing my work history, which helped me connect to other professionals. I also went to various social sites like Meetup (which turned out to be an absolute disaster) for networking through meeting groups devoted to job searching. Believe me, it’s no joke when people say, “a job search has to be treated like a real job”. I spent nearly the same number of hours looking for work each day as I did in my last job.

I also learned what the expression “jobless recovery” really meant. The economy is improving but companies are not hiring as often as they used to. Those still employed are being asked to do more work to cover for those positions that were downsized in 2008 and 2009. It felt like I was hitting a brick wall at every turn. Nothing was working, no matter what I tried.

Despite the frustration I felt, I was not raised to be a quitter. On September 6th 2011 I decided to “throw the playbook out”. What I learned over the last two years to do in my job search was pitched out the window. I widened my job search to include job openings outside the IT field. It did not matter what the position was — floor sweeping, customer service, vacuum cleaner salesman, accounting clerk, even scooping up dog droppings in a park (of which I was told I was overqualified for) — I used the contact information listed in the want ad to either make a phone call or send in my resume. After an interview at Rogers for an equipment testing position, a fellow job-seeker at a Lawrence Square Tim Horton’s showed me how to safely use Kijiji and Craigslist as part of my job search. It brought in many more interviews, and even came close to landing me some work. The only reason those interviews did not strike paydirt was because I was required to spend between $500 and $1000 on equipment, training and a license. I didn’t want to risk spending a lot of money on a job position I might have second thoughts about doing down the road.

I did spend money on updating my job skills, however. After many failed attempts to get funding from Second Career for some computer courses, I enrolled in a Visual Basic .NET 2010 computer course at George Brown College out of my own pocket. The course will be finished on May 26th, 2012.

Now we are coming to the end of my story. We live in the age of social media, so I decided to create my own online content. I recorded a few videos and placed them on my Google+ site. The videos explained my situation regarding my unemployment and why I would be a valuable asset for any company looking for new employees. While that hasn’t landed me a job yet, it did get the attention of many people offering words of sympathy, encouragement, and job search tips. This gave me the confidence to soldier on.

As for this blog, it is the latest addition to a job search web that spans across job search engines, social media sites, and message boards, a web two years in the making. But you’re probably asking at this point, “what is the blog all about?”.

For those who are looking for new employees, it shows what I’ve accomplished in my work history using links to my LinkedIn and Google+ pages, before I arrive at any interview. It also shows the effort taken to find work over the last two years. I am willing to do any kind of work, as long as I have the soft and hard skills required for the position. An interview will determine if that is the case, and I invite any hiring manager or employment recruiter reading this to contact me if there is a job opening I can send my resume to.

For myself, it’s a form of self-evaluation and positive reinforcement. One evening, I experienced an upsetting event on my way to a Meetup job search seminar held at Drake. There was an elderly man in a wheelchair just outside the Dundas subway station exit pleading for money so he can buy his medication. My heart was breaking at this sight, but it also made me ask myself if I was trying my very hardest to find a job, and if anything I’ve overlooked would lead me to the same fate that man is now in. It’s a doubt I’ve had for some time, but now that I’ve had a chance to write down and review the history of my job search in this blog post, I can finally answer, “Yes, I really tried, and then some”.

Getting back to that statue at the beginning of the post, the blog is an example of not being stuck in a frozen state, not being able to move or adapt like that statue. As long as I keep trying new things and keeping an open mind, there is always a chance to bring this journey to a happy ending.

Expect to see more posts in this blog where time permits. In the meantime, wish me luck!

David

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