Month: April 2012

The Broken, Yet Unspoken, Word

Contract (From the Free Dictionary Website)It’s not surprising many people forget, when they accept a job offer, it’s under an agreement of terms. In some cases it’s a written job description that clearly states what the employee is expected to do while working for the employer, and is signed on the first day of work in the employer’s or HR manager’s office. It’s not that far removed from a signed contract. It can also be less formalized, or even agreed to verbally and not put down on paper, but the employee still has an understanding of what he or she is expected to do from their job description. With that said, what happens if that same employee discovers his or her job description changes to something not agreed to, and does not want to do? While it is a personal judgement call for each employee when faced with this situation, one option the employee will take is resign. This is called constructive dismissal.

According to Toronto Employment Lawyer Karen Zvulony, constructive dismissal is defined “where an employee quits because their employer unilaterally and fundamentally changed the conditions of employment.” It is very important to understand the meaning of this definition. It does not mean the person quit in a hissyfit because they disliked their boss, co-worker, or because the employee had a bad work attitude. It simply means the reason why you took the job was changed to something differnent.

Until recently, I didn’t know that term even existed.  “Constructive dismissal” sounds like an oxymoron: there’s nothing constructive about being dismissed, as being dismissed is supposed to be a bad thing. It’s something that has come to the forefront of the media’s attention in light of the economic collapse of 2008 and the downsizing in the private sector. Employees are being asked to do more for less, with no change in pay, and no thanks for the effort. Their work/life balance is put into chaos and, in some extreme cases, their mental and physical health is put at risk. A part of this comes from employers changing the agreement of the job offer that was understood by the employee.

As I said in the beginning, it’s a personal judgement call for each employee if he or she wants to continue. It sometimes boils down to is the lesser of two evils: keep the job that is pushing you closer to your personal limit, or consider resigning at the risk you may not find a better job. Some employees don’t have a chance to find a new job because their personal time needed to look for a new job is now consumed by their employment. As a result, resigning without a new job to go to is the only solution. It’s easier for a single person to come to that drastic decision since they have no one but themself who will be adversely affected by their decision. Those with families may not have such freedom to choose: the mortgage and children cannot be put at risk so the devil you know is taken.

I find this situation involving constructive dismissal unacceptable. Two-thirds of your daytime involves your job. You see your employer and co-workers more than you see your family and friends. If employees must invest that amount of personal time into work, then it is fair to state:

1) They should like the work they do in order to work there for that amount of time.

2) Both the employee and employer are responsible for honoring the terms of why the employee accepted the job offer in the first place.

I would consider a significant change in one’s job description the same as the ending of the original job and the creation of a new job opening, with duties outlined in the new job. If it were up to me, I would like to see employers handle this situation in the following manner:

  • The employee is told in clear and understandable terms that their job description is going to change, and why it must change.
  • The employee is given the new job description that they are expected to do, if they choose to do so, with compensation for accepting this new change. This compensation could come in the form of increased pay, flex hours, improved benefits, or a change in working conditions that is positive for the employee.
  • The employee is given the choice to do one of the following:
    •  The employee accepts the new job description and understands he or she is responsible for carrying out these new duties.
    •  The employee refuses. This is considered the equivalent of a layoff, and the employer must offer a severance or advance warning of layoff.

As I said in my previous blog post, we need to understand the story behind why a person is unemployed. Constructive dismissal is very difficult to quantify for just reason to leave a job, especially in rough economic times like the one we are in now.  Nevertheless, it must be understood that no employer has the right to unilaterally change the job description of an employee’s position, especially if the employee enjoys the work they do. It’s why they took the job offer in the first place.

Thanks for reading!

Being Unemployed Is Not A Crime

This file comes from Reuters' files  and was displayed on the Vancouver Sun web page.Whenever I tell people I’m out of work and looking for a job, I receive a wide variety of responses: sympathy (if they are emphatic) , understanding (if they too are out of work), indifference (if they frankly do not care), or discomfort.

I don’t understand why some people would feel uncomfortable about the subject of unemployment. I suppose it’s because I’m comfortable with my own transition from gainful employment to being unemployed: what happened made sense, and I felt it was a fitting closure to my last position. Having said this, do not assume I’m lazy. While I am comfortable with what happened, I realize, like everyone else who has not “struck it rich” yet, I need a job that pays the bills and puts food on the table, otherwise I’m homeless. As mentioned in the very first post of my blog, I’ve been trying very hard to find work since the end of December, 2009. I just haven’t found a job yet.

One guess I might make is that it reminds some people about their own tenuous situation at work, and what will happen if they lost their job. I can understand that trepitation. A job supplies income to pay for your children’s care, your mortgage and bills, any emergencies that come up, and so on. If that person closely associates their job with who they are, a job also gives a raison d’être (reason to exist). Fro those people, losing a job means losing purpose in life and, in the most extreme situations, a reason to live.

Part of that discomfort, especially if one has been out of work for so long such as myself, comes from the belief that maybe there is something wrong with the person who is unemployed. Maybe that person got fired, so they deserve to be unemployed. For those people who believe that, I say that’s absolute nonsense. Being unemployed is not a form of punishment. While it is true that being fired leads to unemployment, it’s only one cause of unemployment. Someone unemployed may have been laid off, may have been forced to quit for health reasons or had a boss or co-worker from hell, or have experienced sexual harassment or racism in the workplace. Perhaps it was an issue about their work-life balance because their job was impacting their personal time and happiness. A new situation that has recently come up on the workplace radar is the subject of constructive-dismissal. I’ll address that in the next blog post.

Even if someone was fired from his or her job, I don’t think that should be a permanent roadblock to return to work. I admit there are exceptions to what I just typed: if someone was dismissed from a nuclear reactor facility because lives were endangered, that person should not be allowed to work in future positions that involve public safety. Having said that, that person should still be able to find work in other professions.

Whatever the reason, none of the above should make people consider unemployment like something out of “The Scarlet Letter”. It’s not something to be ashamed of, but recognized as a social problem that needs to be solved, especially if we have a stubbornly high unemployment rate. If you know of someone who is looking for a job, offer them a temp job or at least some job search tips at the most, or words of encouragement at the least. Both will work wonders.

Thanks for reading

P.S. I found some really interesting links regarding why some people quit their jobs that I’d like to share with you, since I touched on some reasons in my blog.

Why Some People Quit Their Jobs

When To Resign

As The World Turns (Over You).

Hello.

When you are focused on one particular thing in your life — in my case, my job search —- you tend to forget about the other things that are going on about you until you are reminded of them. Some of them come as gentle nudges: you discover you need milk for the morning’s breakfast, you look at a calendar and realize you have to call your mother to wish her a Happy St. Patrick’s Day, or you learn you need to take your suit to the cleaner’s while looking in the mirror before heading out for your interview. At other times, some things you thought were settled and long forgotten suddenly come back at you, and not in a gentle way.

We have a great health care system here in Canada. It’s not perfect and it needs improvement (particularly the issue of wait times), but it’s paid for through the provinces, and there’s no excuse not to go to the doctor if you notice something amiss.

I regularly check the moles on my body for anything that looks out of order, and I have gone to a dermatologist twice in the past when I saw what appeared to be a mole change. Those two concerns turned out to be false alarms and I was commended after each doctor’s examination for taking charge of my health. During the first week of March, I was trying to check out a mole on my back that was in an awkward place. It looked perfectly fine, but it was really getting on my nerves. Have you ever seen a dog chase it’s tail? Have you ever seen a stupid dog chase it’s tail? That’s what I looked like, while standing in front of the mirror, twisting around while trying to get a good look at that mole. I finally said, “This is ridiculous, I’m going to have a doctor look at it close up before I injure myself”.

I went to the medical clinic up the street, where a GP examined me. He said there was nothing wrong with it, but he referred me to a dermatologist just to be safe. 10 days later, I went to that dermatologist, who examined me and said it looked fine, but he recommended removing it because it was over 1 cm in size. He froze the skin on that part of my back and removed it (I didn’t know exactly how and I don’t want to know if he is freezing me). The procedure took just five minutes and he slapped a bandage there, telling me to keep it clean and put PolySporin on it. He then said I would be contacted later if anything came up in the biopsy report.

That part made me worry. “Biopsy report?”, I asked him. “I thought I was fine!”. He said it’s just a precaution to make sure the tissue removed was not undergoing any changes that could indicate cancer. Because I had “job-search-on-the-brain”, I asked him if I should perhaps throttle back on my looking for work until the results come back. Don’t be surprised by that question: the last thing you want to do is apply for a position and later, if hired, explain to your new boss you need to take a leave of absence or even resign if you have to undergo medical treatment. He replied to me that would not be necessary, since he felt the mole was likely non-cancerous but he can’t be positive until the biopsy report returns. He would know the results in three weeks.

So, two doctors tell me not to worry, with the latter removing it as a precautionary double-check for a lab to look at. Fine by me: no more looking like a dog chasing his tail in front of the mirror. Weeks go by and I forget about the mole. Granted, the wound made by the removal of the mole is taking a while to heal, but it does not hurt at all and only bleeds a bit during the changing of bandages and the application of Polysporin, but three weeks go by and no call from the doctor.

Just after the start of the fifth week, I get the following message on my answering machine:

(I edited the name of the clinic and the doctor out, so that is why it skips in some places. Sorry.)

Not urgent my you-know-what. I’ve gone to many specialists in the past, including dermatologists as I mentioned before, and not one has ever called me back just to tell me “You’re fine! Thanks for coming down!”. I called the clinic staff person who left that message,  asking her what the reason was for having to come back. I might as well have tried herding cats in an alley with the runaround I got:

“Hi I’m calling about my test results. The doctor needs to see me?”

“Yes, sir”

“Was it a positive?”

“He didn’t say, he just needs to see you”

“Well it must be bad news if he wants to see me”

“Why are you saying it’s bad, sir!? How can you say this as fact? He just wants to see you!”

“Well, what does he want to see me about, if you know it’s not so bad?”

“Sir I don’t know! It just says here (where exactly is here…on a screen? paper?) that he wants to see you!”

I have a great deal of respect for doctors and anyone else who work in the medical field. They work long insane hours, take care of people like myself, and do not get thanked for their efforts. But I always hated the fact it was a “Snakes And Ladders” game when came to getting test results. I waited 10 days to see a dermatologist. I waited just over 4 weeks to get this answering machine message. Now I have to wait 3 weeks more to see the same dermatologist again for something I can’t be told about over the phone. It’s supposedly not urgent, but the doctor still has to tell me in person rather than make the results available to staff to tell me over the phone.

Now I have this angel of uncertainty yammering in my ear for the next three weeks while I continue with my job search and my course at George Brown College. It’s going to be a distraction for both, but as I said, this blog is supposed to chronicle my job search and distractions like this are a part of the process. It’s a reminder that the world still turns no matter what I’m doing, and sometimes the world can suddenly roll right over you without warning.

I’ll update this blog post on May 3rd once I come back from the doctor with the results. Wish me luck!

David

ΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞ

Update May 3, 2012: I have the results and I wish I can tell you the news is good, but it is not. I will require a second biopsy to ensure the mole is not cancerous because the sample was incomplete. This is likely because it was a deeper mole than expected, and deepening moles are typical of melanoma, or skin cancer. I have to wait for a local plastic surgeon to contact me to schedule an appointment for a deeper extraction and biopsy.

This will of course affect my job search, as I cannot apply to full time positions while this health scare  hangs over me. I have an obligation to ensure I am capable of holding down a full-time position before accepting any offer. I would appreciate hearing from cancer survivors how they are handling their employment situation, especially if they are out of work. Please feel free to drop me a line.

In the meantime,  I plan to apply for part-time and temporary positions for now, and the college course will complete as scheduled.

Update May 31, 2012: Finally! Someone from the Health Care Clinic calls me back while I was out job-hunting. A staffer left a telephone number and extension for me to call to get information about my appointment date and time. When I call, however, I get an answering machine saying they are either dealing with another patient or away from their desk. WHAT?! I left a message on the answering machine to call me back. A call-back has confirmed a time to see a skin surgeon. I’ll keep you posted through updates on this page.

Update June 22, 2012: The plastic surgeon at Toronto East General removed the last of the mole, and has my final biopsy reports. All negative. Huzzah!

…..now…if I can only get rid of this meibomian cyst that just popped up. Yeesh. Never a boring moment at Chez David

Update June 26, 2012: Another reason why we need a computer system that shares patient data between doctors in Ontario: I just received a phone call from the dermatologist office who sent me to the plastic surgeon, asking if I have gone to that plastic surgeon yet. WHAT? Health Minister Deb Matthews really needs to work on this. On second though, heck with that.  I could probably write one for the Ontario government. Hire me!

Lights! Camera! Hire Me!

In my last blog post, I mentioned the last time I looked for work was in the early 1990s, before the Internet became a part of our lives. In those days, all you were armed with as a job-seeker was a resume, head-hunters (common in IT employment), friends, newspaper want-ads, and persistence.

Well, the Internet has changed all that. You can order a pizza online. You can download a movie or your favorite TV show online. You can pay your bills online. At my last place of employment, we used the Internet for EDI (electronic data interchange) and logging in from home using a VPN client. The way we look for work now has also changed because of the Internet. I already mentioned that I used Workopolis, Monster and TorontoJobShop to apply for jobs online and have a LinkedIn profile. However, I’m still out of work, and it was time to take the job search up to a new level. This level came in the form of YouTube, home of cats playing the piano and future singing and acting stars who think they have talent. Whether they have talent or not is left up to those watching. I have seen some cringeworthy moments, but those moments are not the subject of today’s blog post.

My efforts in my job search were getting me interviews and leads to places where I could apply for open positions, but I felt it was not enough, since I am still unemployed.  I mentioned in my last post about “throwing the playbook out” and trying my best to stand out from the rest of the crowd as a potential hire. After all, that’s what Career Foundation was pushing in their workshops: market yourself, sell yourself, rise head and shoulders above the pack. This blog and the videos on Google+ were a start, and as I said from the beginning, YouTube was the next logical step. It is the 800 pound gorilla of independently-generated and mass-consumed social media content. If I could get a video on there, I felt, on paper at least, it would help my job search.

I did some research on what to do before making the video. One part of the research was to watch other people’s videos on Youtube who were also looking for work. I discovered that many do not dress up properly. Some people in their videos were wearing street clothes. Some were wearing clothes no one in their right mind would wear on the street. I looked out a suit and tie from the closet to wear for my video, since this was just like getting ready for an interview, but in reverse. Instead of going to the office for an interview, someone from that office is coming to see you on video.

I’ll tell you right now, it’s tough making a video like this. Even though I keep myself up to date with Internet skills, since it is both a hobby and a part of my work as a 20-year Information Technology professional. I never really got the social media part of it. I tried to maintain a Facebook page but, embarrassing as it sounds, I only have one contact on it. One. Person. My neighbour. I don’t post my vacation photos or my attempts to sing on MSN. I’m not an introvert, but I’m also not a “Look at me! Look! Look!” type of person. I let my reputation and the facts about me (including my resume) speak for me.

I’m also very shy about having my picture taken, and admit I’m not very photogenic. I have been described by a friend, “in a good way” (???), of having the features of an anime character: large eyes, big Diedre Barlow glasses, and a round face. Nevertheless, if I wanted to get attention focused to my job search, I had to get past that discomfort and make this video to promote myself, and draw attention to my job search.

I used a Logitech Ultra Vid webcam that I normally use for MSN to record the video, and it took many, many, MANY takes. I initially read from a Notepad text file, but after reviewing the first video takes, I sounded robotic and I was not looking at the camera. I decided to “wing it” instead, but adding an apology at the beginning of the video for sounding nervous and tense. Because I downgraded my internet access to the cheapest one with a bandwidth cap (since I am out of work), I had to compromise on the video quality so the end result looked a little grainy. The auto-correcting of the lighting caused the video to brighten and darken a few times as well.

It took me an hour, sitting in that suit and doing the takes over and over and OVER again, to record that video. In the end, I was very pleased with the finished work and used my Google+ account to seamlessly connect and upload the video. I added search metatags to improve the chances of the video being spidered. It was my very first Youtube content creation, and even though it was for a job search, it was a fun experience and somewhat self-liberating. The YouTube video can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pUO4Sv8QJsE&feature=youtu.be

Maybe I’ll go back and try my Facebook page again. Don’t expect to see any vacation photos or my singing attempts any time soon, though!

Thanks for reading!

David