Month: July 2012

What I Hate And Like (*WHAT*?) About Looking For Work

As of today’s date, it has been 940 days since I was last employed. That’s 2 years, 6 months, and 28 days (including today’s date). While I have no time to do a precise tally, I’m positive the number of interviews I’ve been on is well over one hundred, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the number of job positions I’ve applied to (be it through newspaper classifieds, online job banks, or Kijiji and Craigslist ads) is in the thousands.

I wouldn’t blame myself if I went into a tirade in this blog post about my job search. There’s nothing wrong with venting one’s spleen (provided it does not break any laws or cast myself in a bad light). I think I’ve earned the right to at least blow off a little steam on what I hate about my job search. Here we go.

I hate the fact I’m out of work to begin with. I’m not the type of person whose self-worth is based on what I do for work. What I hate about being out of work is the loss of routine and the fact it got me out of my home. I miss enjoying what I do for work because it was something I liked doing and was in-line with who I was in terms of ethics and interests.

I hate marketing myself in order to get a job. I’m not a product. I’m not a service. I hate using action words to promote myself like I am one. I’m a person with feelings and goals and dreams and aspirations.

I hate bothering people for help. I’m a strong independent person. I hate asking people to take time out from their lives to be a reference or to be on the lookout for any jobs. I’m grateful for the help, but I hate imposing myself on people. That’s out of character for someone like me. I also hate advice to build up my contact list and network with more people to improve my chances to find a job. I hate it because the reason why I’m trying to expand my contact list is not because I want to be friends with these new people, but to get a job through them. I’m being asked to use people for my own personal gain. That too is out of character, and it makes me so sick to my stomach I hate it.

I hate the phrase “networking with people”. You do not network with people, you talk to people. Networking is what you do with a computer, printer, or Xbox. I should know, I worked in the information technology field. I hate it when people apply computer terms like this to interpersonal relationships which have nothing to do with computers.

I hate the budgeting I have to do because I have no income coming in. I hate watching my bank account dwindle slowly and making decisions on whether the cheaper no-name brand of toilet paper, mouthwash, cereal, jeans, or dental floss is as good as the brand I used to go with. I hate finding out in some cases I should have stuck with the original brand because the no-name brand was terrible so I wasted money as a result.

I hate tailoring my resume and cover letter to fit a particular position or company I’m applying for. There’s only so many ways I can tell you I’m a hard-working 20 year veteran of the information technology field with amazing skills, integrity, a willingness to learn, and am a team player. In the reformulation process, I risk downplaying something that is my greatest strength for something that is completely meaningless yet I need to fluff up more with action words (see previous rantpoint) in order to improve my chances.

I hate interviews. I have having to show up at an interview only to be taken in 15, 30, 45, or even 60 minutes after the appointment time. I  hate phone interviews, especially if they do not call at the agreed time and apologize for not calling,  even though I put my ENTIRE JOB SEARCH on hold in order to be at home for the call. I hate the fact that my chances of landing a job are entirely based on whether or not I smile, sit up straight, talk with my hands, or have sweat, a blemish or a pimple on my face during the interview. Who care that my resume says I’m a hard-working 20 year veteran of the information technology field with amazing skills, integrity, a willingness to learn, and am a team player? Yes, I said that before, but I’m repeating it because I feel it is far more important than some interviewer judging me based on whether or not I smile, sit up straight, talk with my hands, or have sweat, a blemish or a pimple on my face. Yes, I said that before as well.

I hate weeding through the idiotic responses to my Kijiji and Craigslist ads from people offering me a chance to start my own franchaise when I clearly stated in my ad I did not want to run my own franchaise.  I also hate the snarky responses I get when I politely tell these same people what I am looking for. Don’t get angry with me. Learn to read my ad or just keep your idiotic responses to yourself. I also hate the scams people try to pull on me. I hate taking time from my job search to tell these scammers I wasn’t born yesterday, even if it gives me a bit of smug satisfaction telling them that I wasn’t born yesterday.

I hate the lack of courtesy from potential employers after the interview or after I apply for a job. I write a sincere and thoughtful “thank you for the interview” or “thank you for the opportunity to apply for the position” letter, and I do not get a reply back. Any kind of reply back. I especially hate it when the potential employer neglects to tell me the position was filled 3 weeks ago after three weeks of following up.

I hate being told I’m over-qualified. There’s no such thing as being over-qualified. Over-qualified in my book means “I’m perfect for the job, but you lucky-so-and-so, you just found someone with extra work skills and experiences you might be able to use for your business down the road”. I hate employers who are picky at who to hire, especially if it is someone like me who is not being too picky at what jobs I’m applying for.

I hate job search centres and these so-called hiring experts and career coaches who think they know the best way to land a job. They really don’t. They are so disconnected from the real world one would need  Star Trek warp-drive to traverse the vastness of that disconnect within a lifetime. I’m willing to wager with the scant funds I have left that very few of them have been out of work  longer than a few days. Try 940 days. It’s not fun. It’s no picnic.

I hate the sheer amount of effort and resources and time and money I have to put into finding a job, and wondering what good it’s doing. I apply for job openings in as many various ways as possible, forsaking my IT career to apply for jobs at insurance firms, video processing houses, and grocery stores. I have a blog. I have videos. I have Kijiji and Craigslist ads. I was a client at many job search centres. I go to interview after interview after interview. I ask people to keep their eyes open for any leads. All of this I have done, yet the only thing it has come out of this massive war effort is this blog  post where I’m venting my spleen about why I hate my job search.

But venting the spleen helped. It got the frustration out of my system. In addition, out of this frothing boil of steam, something else has surfaced. The job search has not been entirely unpleasant or fruitless (though it has been damn close). There were some moments during the job-search that I actually….liked. Something I felt a sense of pride in trying and accomplishing.

I liked trying new things, like the YouTube videos, this blog, the ads. I never tried writing anything longer than an Email. I would never have considered trying to make a video about myself before.  I never had the time to go to George Brown College to learn a bit about Visual Basic .NET 2010. The necessity of my job search, however, pushed me to go do these things. As a result I learned something new, and enjoyed learning about in the end.

I like being able to challenge my fears. Going to interviews is unnerving. Trying something new to find a job is somewhat scary. Facing your fears, however, is character-building. Every time I face my fear of doing anything, I become a better person because I conquered something.

I like learning about new areas of the city I’ve never been to because my interview appointment sent me there. There were a few interviews I went to where a store or other place caught my eye, so I wrote the address down in my address book for future reference.

I like researching about a company I go to before an interview. Even if I don’t get the job there, the company might have a product or service I’m interested in, or I just found fascinating to learn about.

I liked self-evaluation, asking myself what I want to do for the job I apply for. It was a rewarding experience to re-examine the personal playbook I’ve used over my life, tearing out a few pages that maybe are out of date, or adding in new pages. Self-analysis is good for the soul.

I liked learning new things from people I encounter and work with in my job search. One person on my contact list told me about a site where you could do online jigsaw puzzles. I haven’t done a puzzle since I was a kid, but visited the site. It’s now on my favorites list in my browser because it’s addictively fun.

I liked what the job search has done to me. It made me humble. It’s amazing what having very little money can teach you about that is truly important in life, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing if your priorities are changed for the better.

(in a meek voice) Uhm, still wouldn’t mind landing a job though…..

Thanks for reading!

David

Toronto The….Jobless???????

It’s no secret (especially if you have been following my blog) that I’ve tried my hardest to find work. Recently, I’ve gone as far as applying for openings at Wal-Mart, Metro (a grocery store chain), and Goodwill. These applications were not for information technology positions. They were for any job position.

Despite the effort, I feel sometimes like I’m hitting a brick wall. All this effort yet I can’t find a job? What’s going on? What am I doing wrong?

As I stated in my previous blog post, unemployment is a complex issue to tackle. In that post, I stated that one piece to solving this puzzle is ensuring we have plenty of employers looking for hires and plenty of people ready and willing to work. Unlike what some people might say, the unemployed are not lazy welfare cheats. They want a job. They want to work.

Last weekend, I took some time to try to figure out where this brick wall I was hitting was coming from. It certainly was not from lack of trying, or lack of creativity. It certainly was not from being too rigid in my job search criteria. A 20 year information technology professional applying at a grocery store for any job opening is hardly someone you would accuse of being picky, n’est-ce pas?

I’ve stated in my Kijiji, Craigslist, and other looking-for-a-job advertisements that I wanted a job within Toronto. That’s not an unreasonable request, especially since I don’t drive and do not want to learn to drive and purchase a car in order to get a job. I also love Toronto, despite the recent insanity it’s been going through. I was born here; my greatest life accomplishments (professionally and personally) were in Toronto. Everything I want is pretty much in T.O. Because of my decision to remain here, I decided to do a little research on the employment scene in Toronto.

Sometimes you regret what you ask for.

First of all, I learned Toronto has a higher unemployment rate than the provincial and national average. I couldn’t find the unemployment rate for July, but according to an article in the National Post on June 6th, 2012, Toronto had an unemployment rate last month of 9.5%. Nine point five percent. That’s nearly 1 out of every 10 people out of work. In that same article, Mayor Ford stated the commercial tax rate is too high. That part was not a surprise to me. The last company I worked for moved to the 905 area because it was too expensive to operate in Toronto, much to my chagrin. Immigrants living in Toronto suffer an even worse situation than Canadian-born citizens like myself. An article written by the Toronto Workforce Innovation Group reports immigrants looking for information technology jobs are instead being forced to work at Tim Horton’s. Toronto appears to be losing it’s lustre as a place to find a job.

And it looks like the job recruiters have reached the same conclusion as well. Below are excerpts from the following job opportunities I’ve received via Email:

July 19th, 2012: I saw your resume on a job board. I am currently recruiting for an RPG – Application Developer for a 6 months contract project with IBM Canada – Montreal, QC.

July 10th, 2012: One of our clients has an opportunity for which you may be interested. The job description is outlined below. Technical Consultant – SAP  (EH & S) Duration : 2 months; starting 9th July 2012; close dt : 3rd July 2012 Location : Calgary

July 9th, 2012: Our Client has a need for a Software Applications Engineer – RPG4/ILE in London, Ontario. This company is a Fortune 500 company experiencing significant growth throughout Canada, and offers a competitive compensation package.

July 5th, 2012: Good evening,I have a new ABAP role which just opened up for the Ottawa region for 2 persons. The first starts immediately.  The second starts mid august.

June 19th, 2012: We have an urgent requirement for a SAP BASIS. This is a Contract position based in Calgary, AB. If you are interested in this position, please contact / send me your updated resume.

That’s just the past month alone. I have plenty more where that came from, and it outnumbers the job opportunities I get within Toronto. I even received notices from recruiters asking if I’m interested in moving to the United States, to the United Kingdom, for work.

I’m not ready to be a gypsy yet, travelling from town to town to find work. I’m also not ready to give up on Toronto yet, either. All Toronto needs is solid leadership with a strategy to lure companies back to Toronto again and start creating jobs. Judging from the City of Toronto council’s recent “Who’s In Charge?” moment, however, that needed leadership may not be forthcoming. Even an Email to Mayor Ford by you-know-who asking for job search tips (not a job, just suggestions on how to find work in Toronto) elicited nothing except the following automated response:

Thank you for your email.

As I promised during the mayoralty election, I am dedicated to delivering customer service excellence, creating a transparent and accountable government, reducing the size and cost of government and building a transportation city.

I will continue to work on behalf of the taxpayers to make sure you get the respect you deserve.

This note is to confirm that we have received your email and that we are looking into your matter. 

Please feel free to follow up to check the status of your email.

Thanks again and have a great day.

Yours truly,

Mayor Rob Ford
City of Toronto

We’re all in this together.

Are we really? I, as well as many unemployed people looking for work in Toronto, will believe it when I see it.

Thanks for reading!

David

Dealing With Unemployment: Whose “Job” Is It?

In a previous blog post, “The Emotional Flat Tire“, I stated I found another employment assistance centre to aid me in my job search. After six weeks of being one of their clients, I asked my contact at the St. Stephen’s Community Centre to close my file because I felt I was not being helped. I did not receive any responses to my inquiries for updates, even after many attempts to reach my contact. In fact, the only time I got a response was when I asked my contact to close my file. Just to clarify, it was an amicable parting of the ways. I wished my contact nothing but the best.

To clarify further, this post is not about launching a bash-fest against employment assistance centres. It’s about how much help the unemployed, such as myself, are expected to receive in looking for work. There are two camps on this contentious issue.

The first group is composed of people who believe each of us is solely responsible for finding a job. Any unemployed person who asks for assistance is considered lazy and not serious in their willingness to work. Some of these people might even regale you with stories of how they came to Canada with just a few dollars and ratty clothes and, through hard work and perseverance, made a good life for themselves. I agree with where these people are coming from, but only up to a point.

The other group consists of those who believe corporations and governments are not doing their part in ensuring “jobs and housing for all”, and will even go as far to state corporations and the government are the reason why we have so many homeless and unemployed. Companies are trying to do more with less workers and resorting to offshoring, and governments are taxing too much and killing the economy. Again, I understand this reasoning, but I don’t fully agree with it.

I’ve been looking for work for about two and a half years. You could say this makes me an expert on the subject of unemployment, and like any expert on a subject, I have an opinion on why things have gone off the rails when tackling with unemployment. The TL;DR is we have forgotten over time that unemployment is a complex, compounded social problem. You can’t pin the  cause on one aspect of society.

You can’t blame the unemployed for not having a job. They’re trying, really trying. I know. I am one of them and this blog is just a small part of a massive machine dedicated to finding work. I won’t repeat the parts of that machine here, as it would take too much time. I would suggest reading my previous blog posts to get an idea what I have tried in order to land a job. Having said that, I shouldn’t expect to have a job just handed to me. No one should. Every person who is unemployed should be trying to find work. That’s our job (no pun intended).

Governments are not responsible for “creating jobs”. They are responsible for the political direction and control exercised over the members of a community such as a city or town, regions such as provinces, states, and districts, or the nation as a whole. They are, however, responsible for establishing an environment where a thriving workforce exists and in turn provides government revenues (in the form of taxes) to pay for services that keep the government going. This environment is composed of two parts: those providing employment, and those aiding in providing employment.

Employers make up the first part. Whether it’s a major multi-national corporation or a small SOHO, it is unreasonable to state businesses should be responsible for providing jobs for everyone. Businesses exist to make money, period. The only reason why businesses provide employment is because people are needed to collectively work together on the corporate purpose or focus. On the other side of that point, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that a small effort be made by businesses to allow in their operating model more entry-level positions that either require no experience, or offer more junior training positions or in-house apprenticeships. This would provide more employment opportunities for young people looking for work yet lack experience, and adults considering a career change.

Next we have the education system (which includes universities), private training centres geared toward a profession, and employment assistance centres. On the latter, it is true that employment assistance centres should not be forced to find work for people, as stated often from caseworkers in that field. Still, having dealt with two job assistance centres  in my job search — Career Foundation and St. Stephen’s Community Centre — I get the impression all employment assistance centres are working as a disorganized and fragmented collective. Each has their own funding model. Each offers varying degrees of the same services based on how much funding they receive. I also get the impression those centres are not working as closely with government and businesses as they should be. How else would this explain some of the advice I’ve received on how to land a job? I don’t think employers really give a hoot about “action words” in resumes, or “positive body images” during an interview. It’s more likely they just want to find the right candidate to fill a vacancy. For employers, the hiring process is tedious enough without having to wade through a pile of bafflegab during  interviews. I think what is needed is a tighter, more seamless cohesion with both government and business. There should also be fewer yet much larger employment assistance centres that are better funded by either the government or the private sector. The funding should be directed on where the need is greatest. For example, if there is a need for construction workers, the employment assistance centres should receive the appropriate amount of funding — and direction on where to use the funding — so the need for construction workers is sated and the placement quota required by the agencies is met.

As I said, this is just my opinion, so it’s open for debate. I invite any comments on what I proposed in this blog post. One thing we all can agree on is that unemployment will continue to be a significant problem in society until everyone works together to bring the unemployed back to work, their confidence and feeling of self-worth restored by being contributing members of society.

Thanks for reading!

David

Compromise Or Personal Growth?

On July 4th, 2012, One Voice Canada (a job placement centre that just opened up behind the Tim Horton’s I frequenty haunt) featured a seminar hosted by a certified image consultant. For a registration fee of $20, the participant will, among other things, learn to “dress appropriately with elegance and professionalism”, “get your point across using effective body language”, and will become “a compelling communicator and experience higher productivity”.

Now, I’m not taking a swipe at the placement centre. I know what they are trying to do with this seminar. I know their hearts and intentions are in the right place. They want to help people find work by offering this option to consider.  Nevertheless. after taking a look at the certified image consultant (who is indeed attractive, confident, and professional in her appearance), I took a pass at registering.

It wasn’t the $20 fee that put me off (though it could be argued that amount of money can cover the cost of paper to print resumes, transit fare to interviews, and dry-cleaning to keep my suit spick-and-span). What tweaked me the wrong way was how looking for a job has devolved into something out of a television reality show. It’s now about style and flash over substance and quality. Instead of demonstrating why your past work experience and skills make you the ideal candidate for the position, an interview is now a commercial. I’m supposed to market myself like I’m some sort of appliance or product using “action words”. David Gay, Version Whatever Point Oh! Now With 20% More Debugging Power! Guaranteed To Stamp Out Those Hard To Reach Logic Bugs, Or Your Money Back!

Ugh.

I’m a “Deeds Speak” person. The reason why I lasted 20 years in the IT field was because I delivered what was required of me. People I worked with during that time respected me for the work I did on the job, not the way I looked on the job. My resume is a chronicle of what I accomplished and why I’m so proud of what I put down on paper. I don’t want to go down the path where I have to consider a hair weave, aesthetic dental work, botox, and shopping at Harry Rosen to glam myself into a job. That’s the line in the sand I refuse to cross.

Having said that, I’ll admit that line was not always in the same place in the sand since my job search started January 2010. In the first year, I focused on applying for IT jobs and would never have considered anything outside that. That changed when I started to send a generalized resume to entry-level positions that were not in the IT field. I was told by colleagues that I was hurting my career if I considered leaving IT just for the sake of getting a job, but I was comfortable adjusting where that line was drawn. It was my decision. I used to stick to looking for work  through newspapers, headhunters, and job-search engines like Workopolis. Now I include buy-and-sell places (Kijiji and Craigslist) and pound the pavement as part of my job search strategy.

That line hasn’t stopped moving. As you can see in the image embedded in the blog, I recently filled out a Wal-Mart application form both in the store and online for any openings there. I like shopping there and think Wal-Mart does a lot more good than people give it credit for (getting involved in relief efforts being an admirable example), but I never considered myself a retail person. Apparently my opinion has changed if I applied there.

Oh yes…I also shaved off my beard to give a sharp clean impression at interviews. In my twenties, I started growing a beard to add some ruggedness to my round anime-like face and would have never considered shaving it off. The line moved again.

I doubt that un-crossable line will move to the point where I will become a metrosexual to get a job. But it did give me reason to pause to ask myself, “Has the job search started undoing the foundations of what I believe as a person? Am I becoming someone else, no longer me,  for the sake of a job?”

Thankfully, I found that’s not the case. All that has happened is that I’ve become more aware of the evolution of self over time. Just as nature’s evolution is shaped by outside events, my aspirations on what type of work I wanted to do changed, based what I faced ahead of me. That’s fine. I’m not the same person I was when I was 30, 20, or even a teenager. My interest in music has changed over the years. The political party I voted for never remained the same. I used to like watching baseball, now I could care less. I once though poetry was too artsy, now I like reading and writing poetry.

To close this blog entry, I’d like to share with you a great quotation a friend Emailed to me. It best describes why the re-evaluation of self is not necessary a bad thing:

“The most important thing to remember is this: To be ready at any moment to give up what you are for what you might become.”

W. E. B. Du Bois

Beautifully put!

Thanks for reading!

David

Oh, Canada!

Today is Canada’s 145th birthday, and like any birthday, I was looking for an excuse to celebrate. No, I was not headed for another emotional flat tire, I just wanted an excuse to have fun, but there was a caveat. It had to be free fun, as in the type of fun that didn’t cost a dime to have.

I was going to visit a Canada Day picnic in my neighbourhood (which is free) but I had a craving for a Tim Horton’s coffee (which was not free, but I had money left on my Tim Horton’s card to buy one). Since I had my newspaper with me, I decided I was going to have a coffee while reading my newspaper before heading to the picnic. Just as I swiped the card on the reader to pay for the coffee, I noticed nearby some advert cards for an open house at the One Voice Employment And Community Services, opening up today just behind the Tim Horton’s I was at. Were it not for the advert, I would not have known about this place.

I was going to take a pass on the open house, since the original plan was to have fun and forget about looking for work for at least one crummy day. That was before my guilty conscience reminded me that I was still unemployed and should be taking every opportunity to investigate leads to find work. My conscience won: it was the picnic that I ended up taking a pass on.

Once I arrived at the centre, I stepped inside and was pretty impressed by how bright and cheerful the office looked, and that included the staff as well. I was greeted warmly by Parveen, the executive director of the centre. She informed me there would be food served, courtesy of  Faley Restaurant (mmmm, free food!), offered me some cold water, and told me to make myself comfortable and mingle.

While waiting for the food to arrive, I spoke to both the office staff and other residents in my neighbourhood. Of the latter, some were here, like myself, to get some information about the centre and the services offered. Others were people of influence in my neighbourhood and were there to welcome the new centre and offer their support.

Once the food arrived and everyone sat down to start eating, some members of the staff began to explain what the centre was there for and to share with us what the centre was trying to accomplish for the community. I was shocked to hear that my neighbourhood has an unemployment rate of over 20% (holy cats!), and that the unemployment rate for Toronto and Ontario may higher than what the media reports since it does not include people who work for short bursts at a time (like a few days or a few months at a time per year). I also learned about the youth programs being spearheaded to give additional opportunities to young people seeking employment.

I had a good time talking with others around me, and sharing stories about the neighbourhood. The food was absolutely delicious. By the time I was ready to leave and was in the process of getting ready to go home (I was at the centre for nearly an hour and a half and I wasn’t really interested in the picnic any more), it dawned on me that I am lucky to live in a great country like Canada. Sure, I’m out of work for quite some time, but there are places I can go to get help and support, and even if it really goes south for me, there are even more services for me to go to for help. I can bicker with other people in my community — of different faiths and race and color –about how the government is not doing enough to help people (especially young people and skilled immigrants) get back to work. Try speaking your mind  like that in a dictatorship overseas and you’ll end up in prison quicker than you can say the word “prison”. We’re apparently wealthy enough for free food to be served at an open house. To top it all off, Canada has excellent summer days!

While I  have many unemployment challenges ahead of me, I couldn’t have picked a better country to be in while dealing with them.

Happy Birthday, Canada!

David