Month: December 2012

A Self-Portrait Of Unemployment

Is this really me, or is it Memorex? Or just someone in need of a break from the job search grind over the Christmas holidays?(Permission is freely given to distribute this photo)
Is this really me, or is it Memorex, or just someone in need of a break from the job search grind over the Christmas holidays?
(Permission is freely given to distribute this photo)

“David, are you okay?”

“You look tired. Are you getting enough sleep?”

We all get comments like these from time to time. I usually dismiss them depending on who is saying them or what the circumstances are. If a former co-worker said that to me, it’s either Thursday and I can’t wait for the weekend to start or I’m in a project where lots of overtime was required. If it’s from a friend, it’s the same friend I met yesterday on a Saturday night to do the usual thing guys like to do on a Saturday night — within moderation of course! This is a family-rated blog after all! If it’s from my mother, it’s a scripted thing mothers often say, even if you have glowing pink cheeks and a healthy aura around your head. Mothers, and God bless them all for that, never stop worrying about whether their children are eating properly or getting enough sleep.

Recently, however, it’s how often I’ve been asked this question that has made me less dismissive. I need both fingers and toes to count the number of times I’ve been asked about my personal state over the past two months by friends, co-workers, and family members. I look in the mirror and see nothing wrong, and since I’ve lost over 40 pounds since January 2010 by having a proper breakfast with cereal (McDonald’s Egg-McMuffin on my way to work was not breakfast!) and climbing the stairs instead of taking the elevator, I’m in better shape now than when I was working at my last job for 17 years.

The problem with that kind of self-study is that it’s not objective, it’s in fact prone to error through personal bias. While I realize I no longer have the nice head of hair I had during my days in college, I didn’t think I’ve changed that much since then. As I found out later, I was lying to myself in the way we all do while preening in front of the mirror.

It’s been said the camera adds a few pounds to a person, but it’s more accurate to say the camera shows those extra pounds our inner eye of vanity prevents us from seeing. While I haven’t had many pictures of me taken this past year by others, I have done a number of videos since the start of this blog with my trusty Logitech webcam and still have those videos on my hard drive. With those videos at hand, I made a few still-frame captures representing a time period from February 2012 to now.

What I discovered after looking over those still pictures was shocking.

This first capture was from my first set of videos posted on my Google+ page, before my blog was started. I still had my beard, all nicely trimmed. At the risk of sounding like a peacock, I look pretty good in the video.

The next capture was my first time uploading a video to YouTube, and was featured in the blog post “Lights! Camera! Hire me!”  in April 2012. Again, I think I did a great job with that video, but in comparison with the first still capture, I have lines on my forehead that I don’t remember seeing.

Fast forward to September 2012 with the Begslist video I did about getting help with a Mobian cyst. This is long after I shaved off my beard (as a suggestion made by someone) to see if it would help with the interviews. When I saw this video, I thought the reason why I looked so tired was because I no longer had a beard, and also because I took my glasses off to show the cyst on my eyelid, causing me to squint. On closer examination of the capture, I noticed bags under my eyes, a change in the color of my face, and the sagging around my nose. Even with the glasses on in my “1000” video at the end of September, 2012, those changes I noted above were there.

This is a current picture of me as of December 21st, 2012 and it’s clear I’ve gone through some changes in my appearance. I’ll admit the past year was a tough one when it came to looking for work. This year was the most active I’ve ever been in both applying for open job positions and attending interviews. I know I am not ill, as I feel perfectly fine, but I think what is happening is the job search, which in itself is a job, and worrying about money is catching up with me. In a nutshell, the job search is wearing me down physically and mentally and I just need to monitor the effects of that more closely.

Perhaps the next time a friend or family member asks me if I am okay, I should turn on the camera to get a second opinion.

Thanks for reading!


P.S. This is my final blog post for 2012, so I can spend time with friends and family this holiday season. To those of you who have followed my blog up to now, or even to those who just stumbled across this by accident, I want to wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. We’ll talk again in 2013.

A Cut Too Close To Home

Image obtained at Full copyrights and ownership belong to the original author of this image. This image is being used strictly for display purposes.

I have an interview coming up (December 18th, 2012) for an entry level position at an insurance company, so I decided to get a hair trim to look my best for the interview (as I always do). I was in need of a new barber, however, since the place where I used to get my hair trimmed closed suddenly without warning (not even a going-out-of-business sign).

A friend of mine suggested a place, not far where I lived, that handles his hair styling, so after I took down the name and address of the place, I took the bus down to see if a stylist had time to see me. While it was not too busy, the music being played was a bit loud. The place looked like something out of a fashion magazine with neon lights and garishly colored chairs that reminded me of a container accidentally melted in a microwave. It was at that point I realized that my good friend, who is a very successful marketing manager, would go to a place like this to keep his fashionably trendy coiffure in order to present a winning image to his clients.

I’m different. As you can tell by my portrait, I have a pretty simple appearance. I’m a “Deeds Speak” person. I care more about the quality of work I delivered than how fashionably trendy I appeared at work.

One of the stylists, a young woman who looked around the mid-twenties mark, noticed me as I was reviewing the hair styling charges on the wall. I smiled politely and said I was here for a trim. She curtly told me that she had to shampoo my hair first before trimming. Since I already shampooed my hair before leaving home, I told her, again being polite, that I just needed a trim and already shampooed. In a somewhat petulant tone, she responded that she does not cut people’s hair without shampooing first.

I was already pressed for time, and I did not want to get caught in the afternoon rush-hour traffic. As a matter of principle, I also did not want to spend money on something I did not need, let alone have any reason to be done. I already shampooed, I don’t need a second shampoo. I don’t know why I said this to her, perhaps out of exasperation on trying to get my hair trimmed before my interview tomorrow, but I told her I was not working so I did not want to spend money on something I did not need. I wasn’t rude to her, I just said it to her as a matter-of-fact. Her response was “That’s not my problem”.

Technically she’s right. It’s not her problem, it’s my problem. But it was an inappropriate and somewhat insensitive response towards me both as a customer and as an unemployed person trying to make ends meet as best he can. While the comment stung, I didn’t get angry, but instead politely wished her a good day before walking out.

So here I am, on my way back home, still unhappy with the treatment I received from the stylist, the time wasted going down there, and without getting my hair trimmed. Had I not noticed another hair stylist shop near one of the stops, I wouldn’t have stepped off the bus and got that trim. While I’m all ready for my interview, I’m still left pondering why a stylist with poor customer service skills is working while someone like me who has better manners is unemployed despite his best efforts to find work.

Thanks for reading!


Reading is Fundamental

Based on the responses I've been getting from my job ads, I might as well be writing them in Latin...if i knew how to. (source: Wikimedia, Author: Szczecinolog)
Based on the responses I’ve been getting from my job ads, I might as well be writing them in Latin…if i knew how to. (source: Wikimedia, Author: Szczecinolog)

When I was a child in the 1970’s, there was a commercial from Reading Is Fundamental which aired during the Saturday morning cartoons. Reading Is Fundamental was a not-for-profit organization based in America that promoted child literacy through reading programs.

I’ve seen the commercial enough times to motivate myself to try to improve my reading skills, which I admit back then were not very good. With a lot of effort, I became a voracious reader by the time I was 18, reading everything from comic books and science fiction novels to newspapers and computer books. Today, I still read most of the newspaper after checking out the classifieds for work, and have taken up reading poetry and blogs published on the Internet.

Recently, however, the phrase “Reading Is Fundamental” has also become an expression I say in frustration. I’ve made it repeatedly clear to job head-hunters who represent me in my job search that I want to remain in Toronto for work. I do not want to move out of my apartment to work on contract in another city or province, only to have to find a new place to stay when the contract is over. Despite this request, I still get offers to work elsewhere from those same people.

The same goes for my profile on Monster, Workopolis, Careerdoor, Jobboom, Torontojobshop, and other job search portals. I put down in my profile that I do not want to work on 100% commission, yet I am offered commission-only sales jobs from companies that I have to diplomatically turn down. I shouldn’t have to do this, since It’s all there in black and white if one takes the time to read the profile.

The whopper of them all has to be the feedback I get from Kijiji and Craigslist “David Needs A Job” ads. Consider the following excerpt from one of my ads:


My name is David, and like the subject line says, I need a job….

Let me explain what type of job I am looking for:

1) No commission jobs. I’m willing to work at minimum wage ( or even less if the amount of work reflects that.

2) No franchise or SOHO offers, please!

3) It must be in the City of Toronto

4) The job should not require purchase of a license or any type of equipment

Pretty straightforward, right? Well, despite what I put down in the ad, not only do I get offers that are complete one-eighties from what I am looking for, I get a lecture after politely declining the offer:

From: *omitted*

To: David Gay 

Subject: Job Ad Response Date: Mon, 1 Oct 2012 14:31:10 -0300

Why do you rule out jobs that entail getting licensed ? You might be able to make a lot of money doing one of those jobs. Especially considering your experience and background.

Just a thought.

Good luck.

In my reply, I stated money is tight and I can’t justify any expenditures that do not guarantee a return, like a job. The response to my reply is a beauty:

From: *omitted*

To: David Gay

Subject: Job Ad Response Date: Tue, 2 Oct 2012 1:42:52 -0300

Wouldn’t it be awesome if you found something that was minimal start up cost ($100) and that reimbursed you 1000$ in your first month?

In the immortal words of Charlie Brown, “Good Grief”.

All of this might come across as David in a huff about one aspect of his job search, but please consider this: if someone does not take the time to understand what I am looking for in my job search, do you think that same person would take the time to understand my needs as an employee in their company?

Such an understanding, like reading, is fundamental.

Thanks for reading!


The Blackest Ink

"Night And Day", by Robert Weigand.
“Night And Day”, by Robert Weigand.

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012 is one day I won’t soon forget. No, I didn’t land a full time job, but I did go to an interview for one…at 11:15 in the evening. I never had an interview that late in the evening before, but because this was a night cleaner’s job at the mall just up the street from where I live, it’s when my appointment was scheduled.

I’ve been in that mall too many times to count since I moved into my neighbourhood 24 years ago, but this was the first time I was allowed in after hours (9:00 p.m.). I won’t lie to you that it felt downright weird. I’ve never seen the mall this quiet and empty. Despite the unease I was feeling, an interview was an interview, and to use a young person’s expression, I “put my game face on” and met the man who was going to interview me for the night cleaner’s position.

He was a really nice fellow, soft-spoken and very polite. He told me my hours were from 11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and that I would be power cleaning the floor, mopping the edges where the power cleaner could not get to, cleaning the windows at the four exit points, vacuuming the carpets, and giving a thorough clean of the washrooms. Not an easy job, but something anyone without any medical issues or disabilities can accomplish. In addition, I’ve done night work before during the 1990’s as a computer operator, so working overnight was not a problem for me.

Throughout the interview, I showed enthusiasm for the job and a genuine willingness to learn what was involved, since I haven’t had a cleaning job since the days I was an usher in a movie theatre.

Thirty minutes later, the interview was over and my interviewer told me he would call me after talking to the owner. I shook his hand and returned home by midnight, slept for about seven hours, and then after getting some breakfast, began the usual job search routine that has been a constant companion since my job search began in 2010. Later in the week, the man who interviewed me called to let me know the owner had already someone in mind. I thanked him for taking the time to see me, and wished his new cleaner good luck with the job.

I was disappointed I did not get the job, as it was an entry level job just down the street from me with a work schedule that fit perfectly around my job search. I was very proud of this particular attempt despite not getting the job, however. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “I dip my pen in the blackest ink, because I’m not afraid of falling into my inkpot”. Night-time is almost as dark as the proverbial inkpot, yes I felt this was one of the times I truly shone as a person who believes in trying anything once.

Thanks for reading!