Month: November 2013

Casting Call

Dark Mirror, by RubyTheTigress on DeviantArt. All ownership and copyrights belong to her.

(The following post has some strong language elements. Though censored, reader discretion is advised)

My videos have been the face of my job search since I made the decision to produce them at the start of 2012. I produced those videos (including the recently completed “David Needs A Job” series on YouTube this year) to inform as many people as possible about my job search.

Before making the decision to create and upload these videos,  I knew I was risking some backlash from others for the sake of being mean and vicious. I’ll admit something right now: my face and look is not exactly social media friendly.  Sure enough, not long after my videos appeared on YouTube, a (thankfully) small number of smart-aleck comments appeared: pensioner baby boomer whose feeble mind could no longer learn, poor b?????d,  etc.  Some comments I just delete outright and then the poster is blocked, others I do approve and then reply to correct them on a few points made (such as being a pensioner…I am 17 years away, thank you!), and then the poster is blocked. The last thing I need to get into is a lengthy p???ing match with some online troll that would be publicly displayed for all prospective employers to see.

Not all these personal attacks are so easily deflected. One wiseacre decided to give my link for my 1000 video (the one I was too depressed to write about the 1000th day of my unemployment so I v-logged it instead) to an autism support site, claiming the author (me) in the video was suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome which is a form of autism. The galling part of all of this was the person in charge of the support group took it as fact and posted it with the caption “Example of Asperger’s Syndrome on the Unemployed”.

Before I continue, I must stress that I do not suffer from autism or any other psychological disorder. I’m not on any prescribed medication for any disorders of any kind. The nervousness from being on camera in my videos may make me appear a bit off in my approach but it’s because I hate being in front of a camera (yet I do this in order to try to find work).

The video link, with the caption mentioned, was on that site for three months and it would have been there a lot longer had I not stumbled across it by accident. After I contacted the person in charge of the support group about the misuse of my video, the link was removed and I received an apology for any misunderstandings given. The problem, however, is just how many potential employers did a Google on my name and stumbled across that autism support site and link? How many potential employment chances got blown away just because of some prank pulled?

I will probably never know the answer to either question, but I walked away with a lesson that I want to share with you: if you decide to release videos for public viewing, be sure to ensure their usage is as intended. The last thing you want is for someone to see you portrayed in a way that is not only inaccurate and unflattering, but also damaging to your personal credibility.  This is very important when looking for work since your credibility is highly regarded when being considered for employment.

Thanks for reading!

David

Phantom Familiar

A lonely walk on a cold Saturday night
A lonely walk on a cold Saturday night to a Tim Horton’s on King Street West in Kitchener. Permission to use freely as long as credit is given to the author (me)

One suggestion I’ve heard from a few people — friends,  employment assistance centre representatives, even readers of my blog and those who comment on my YouTube videos — is that I should move to another city, province, or country in order to find work.  I’ve stated on many occasions that moving to a new locale to find a job is no easy task. It’s not just about packing up a suitcase and getting your travel papers in order:  I’ve often stated the psychological duress felt when leaving behind your friends, family, community, the familiar. When I came to realize it was time for me to move away from my home city of nearly 50 years to search for work in Kitchener, it was very difficult for me to cope at first with the feelings that came with that decision. It’s been two weeks since my move and I thought that I was getting over those feelings and adjusting in Kitchener. I was wrong.

My sister and brother-in-law, whom I am staying with at the moment until I get back on my feet, had plans to meet with their friends at a bar. I’m on good terms with their friends and even had dinner with them on more than one occasion. I assumed — stupidly on my part — that I had an open seat to join them and blurted out to my brother-in-law, “So what time are we meeting (them) at (the bar)?”. My brother-in-law looked at me like I lost my mind and said “What do you mean, ‘we’?”

Awkward. Moment. Incarnate.

I was so embarrassed. I apologized for assuming I was coming along. My brother-in-law, always forgiving,  took it in stride and thought nothing of it after, but the dull ache in my heart remained even after he left to meet up with the rest.

I realized at that point that just because I was living in my sister and brother-in-law’s home does not mean I have equal and open access to their private lives, including their social circle. Their friends might like me, may even do their best to help me find work here in Kitchener, but they are not part of my social circle that I had back in Toronto. Unlike my laptop and computer, my clothes, and my toothbrush and deodorant for my move,  that cannot be packed into a moving bin.  I also realized,  despite my past mentions of the subject in my blog and videos, I never really understood the psychological loss experienced from moving in order to find a job until that moment.

Most damning of all, I discovered I was too busy looking for a job to understand the ramifications of my decision to move until now. I was spending six to eight hours a day searching for work using (on occasion) the resources at the Northern Lights employment assistance centre. I was exploring Kitchener, dropping off resumes and filling out job applications.  I was visiting temporary employment agencies and dialing telephone numbers in the want ads of the Waterloo Record newspaper. A great job search to be sure, but I was unintentionally diverting my attention from what I had to cope with. Now, two weeks later since my move, I’m suddenly trying to cope with my relocation and I’m not doing a good job of it.

I need to put as much time into building a new social circle as I have done with my job search,  a circle apart from the ones my family already enjoys but I cannot take for granted as being mine as well. Going to community centres and the library will be one of many steps I’ll need to take to start feeling socially comfortable in Kitchener, a sense of belonging. A sense of familiarity, of feeling real.

Until that day comes, I don’t feel real right now. Despite the fact I am making imprints in the snow-covered sidewalks of the street I am walking on and seeing the steam of my breath in the cold November air, I might as well be a phantom if the only person I know, outside of family, is myself.

Thanks for reading.

David

Desperate Measure

Image
Brian of Network126 shares his situation of keeping afloat. Images and videos are the property of Brian and Network126. Good luck to you, Brian.

There’s one fellow I’ve been following on YouTube named Brian who is in a similar situation like myself — suffering from long-term unemployment and trying to find a solution to the rough situation he’s in. Like myself, he’s resorted to pretty desperate means to try to find a job: YouTube videos, begging for donations on PayPal, you name it, he’s probably long done it with the same results. Nada. Zilch. Big fat zero. I really feel sorry for him because I know what he is going through. Right down to some of the comments he receives from others who simply don’t get it and make wrong assumptions on how he is dealing with his chronic unemployment.

The comments I’m referring to are those who assume he has done his job search wrong, by starting off on the wrong foot by begging or doing the videos, as if he did not try other approaches like actually applying for jobs, going to interviews, networking. This misunderstanding is part of a larger deal the unemployed like myself and Brian have to put up with, where people feel we are not trying, or think we have a sense of entitlement where jobs are magically handed to us. I’ve already covered that broad tarring in both the blog and in my videos so I’m not going to rehash that. What I want to talk about is the stages that job seekers like myself and Brian go through that lead us to take such desperate steps others criticize us for doing.

You have to understand something important. I, Brian, and many millions…yes, millions….of unemployed don’t just go on YouTube and other aspects of social media the moment we are out of work. On the first morning of our unemployment, we wake up and realize we have no place to go for work. Some of us initially welcome it, others feel a little weird, but it’s the first day of something that is the new normal we just have to get used to until we are gainfully employed once more. So, off we go to whatever we feel we need to do in order to find a job.

The first stage of this effort is doing what we remember doing before the last time we were out of work. In my case, I looked up I.T. headhunters and consultants to arrange face-time to get my name out that I am back on the market. I tell my friends and family that if they know anyone out there who is looking for a computer guy, just drop my name in a conversation. I checked out the want ads of the newspaper for any openings for programming or systems administration and also browse a few trade magazines at the library.

Some time after the initial launch of the job-search, two outcomes occur — the job-seeker either finds a job fairly quickly (a situation I remember being in one time after I was out of work) or s/he realizes that what used to work fairly quickly in the past is not working at all. When this happens, the job-seeker will seek assistance and encourage advice from others on how to change the approach of the search in the hope that better results occur. In my case, and no doubt Brian’s as well, I contacted employment assistance centres who advised me to network at job fairs, take workshops for improving the interview process and write better résumés, write up a 30 second elevator speech, create profiles on job banks and apply to jobs online, and so on. I attempted to get funding for retraining under the Second Careers program offered by the province of Ontario, though my funding was not granted.

So, after the job-search machine has been expanded to include other methods and approaches, once again we have two outcomes — the job-seeker finds a job (and lets out a big sigh of relief or a loud woo-hoo of triumph) or s/he does not. At this point, the initial confidence one has of finding work begins to wane.  A feeling of uncertainty grows. The job-seeker starts to ask himself/herself a lot of questions. What’s going on? It’s been days/weeks/months and I’m still out of work. What am I doing wrong? Do I have enough money for next month’s rent or mortgage payment? Janey needs braces..will I have enough to cover the dental costs? In my case, I remember estimating a worst-case scenario, which I never believed would happen to me, Mr. Always-In-Demand Computer Guy, of being out of work for six months and my unemployment situation was getting close to a year.

As time goes on, those still out of work begin to realize the gravity of their situation. They begin to realize just how much things cost. They understand time is now starting to run out, but they’re not quite at the panic point. Yet. They re-evaluate their expenses and try to find ways to raise some kind of revenue. In my case, I sold things, started shopping a lot smarter, cut out things like my cable, my cell phone, jaunts to the movie-theatres with my friends. I expanded my job-search outside my I.T. career track in the hope to land some sort of work. I made videos on YouTube, started a blog, and applied for jobs that I would never consider doing like working at Wal-Mart or picking up dog droppings at a park.

So now the unemployment situation is extending into months, perhaps years. There will come a moment where the job-seeker has tried everything s/he can think of, and nothing is working. A wall is hit. There are no more solutions one can think of and nightmare scenarios not previously considered now become more a possibility. In my case, since I lived alone and was the sole income earner in my apartment, eviction was my nightmare scenario and for a time I had no place to go. I remember becoming very panicked and actually went on Begslist, YouTube and Twitter to beg for help. Brian did the same thing. So have many others in this new economy we now live in. The videos are there, just watch them. The blogs and posts on Facebook and Twitter are there, just read them.

The pleas for assistance the unemployed make on social media that some people snidely deride are the end result of a long and painful downward slide from stability and comfort to uncertainty and hopelessness. It is the last ditch attempt to turn a bad situation around before it’s too late.  A desperate measure it might seem, but certainly not deserving to measure us in such an unfair and inaccurate way.

We may have chosen to air our desperation in public, but we didn’t ask to be in the situation of being forced to do so in the first place.

Thanks for reading.

David.

Boldly Go

One more look around.
One more look around the apartment before leaving. Photo taken by David Gay.

(note: this was originally written on November 9th at around 6:30 a.m., but I was unable to post until my spare room was set up and my computer was unpacked. Sorry for the delay)

So: it’s finally here.

If you’ve been following my blog since September 24th 2013, you will remember I announced I was moving to Kitchener, Ontario to stay with my sister and brother-in-law because I cannot find a job here in Toronto.

That was over a month ago. After hiring someone to remove my carpet and dispose of old electronics, removing the wallpaper, phoning my various accounts (credit, phone, Internet, etc.) to either cancel or change my address, and cleaning up my apartment to make it look presentable to the superintendent (which is tougher than it sounds if you lived there for 24 years and you have regular wear and tear all around!), I’m finished. Welcome to November 9th 2013, and I’m standing in my apartment living room watching the sky get brighter (see picture), while waiting for my sister, brother and brother-in-law to help me load my belongings into a truck bound for my new home and hopefully where my next job will come from.

How do I feel at this point?  My back and shoulders ache. I have callouses on my toes from all the running around I had to do. I’ve lost 6 pounds and currently at 139 pounds (too…low….). I have a scar on my ring finger on my left hand from where a carpet nail punctured both my protective glove and the joint on my digit. And that’s just the physiological damage report. The psychological report is not much better.

I haven’t been sleeping too well for three weeks. While I was able to have a desktop computer set up at my sister’s place, I had to give up a lot of things…Facebook, Tumblr, some games I play, and Skype with some close friends I know on the MSN network. This may seem like a trivial whine to some of you but cyberspace has been a big part of my psyche since I ran a bulletin board in the 90s. On top of that, it also means I cannot keep up to speed on new Internet trends which could play a role in being hired. Saying good bye to my closest friends that I’ve known for half my life has nearly totalled me emotionally. I’m nearly out of money now but enough at least to pay for any emergency dental work or replace a pair of broken glasses.

I knew the decision to move was going to be tough. I also knew it was the right thing to do. I just did not know how tough it was going to be, or how enduring it was going to be. Every day I woke up I had to deal with losing a bit of my life as I understood it. Some parts were easy, some were very painful. I’m not ashamed to admit this, I probably cried more in October than I ever had in my life, even that time when my father passed away. This is half my life I’m writing off. All for a chance to get a job, which even there is not a guarantee I will get. Where my job search is concerned, I could pretty much be stuck in neutral in Kitchener like I was in Toronto. To make things interesting, I have no social network in Kitchener so I will have to find ways to rebuild it, assuming I figure where half the resources are without sounding like a big-city twit every time I ask someone for directions.

The only thing that is keeping my nose to the grindstone is a list of points that tell me why the move is the right thing to do. Here’s what I am able to come up with.

Toronto is finished. Not finished as in Detroit City finished, but it’s going to go the way New York city went before that city smartened itself up and got with the civic program it implemented to clean up its act. Gridlock. Crime. Unemployment. Political correctness and special interest funding bordering on the “spending like a drunken sailor” stupidity. One buffoon of a mayor who can’t keep himself out of trouble and a council whose members seem to think it is more important to grandstand for the sake of political gain — just in case someone wants to run for the mayor’s job — than to do the job we the electors of Toronto asked them to do through our vote. As I remarked on a few Toronto Sun comment boards, it looks like I’m getting out just in time before “Toronto the Good God It’s Gone Stupid” implodes. No CEO of a business in his or her right mind would dare consider moving to Toronto.

I have no idea when I am going to get a job. And if I am truly going to be stuck in job search neutral, it’s at least in a place where my family will not only catch me when I fall, they will also kick my backside to get back at it again.

I’m in a new city where people do not know me. While that works against me because no one knows what I am able to do when I put my mind to things, both professionally in my career and personally as a friend, it’s in a way good to know no one of Kitchener has heard of the thankfully few gaffes that have left me quite embarrassed and wishing I could die. We call this a clean slate.

I’m also going to eat a lot better. I can’t cook but my brother-in-law is one exemplary cook.

Kitchener, under the wisdom of it’s city and region of Waterloo council (yes, I did type that with a straight face)  at least has some sort of civic plan working in it’s favour, most notably the transit expansion. Compare that to Toronto (see above point previously mentioned). Businesses seem to want to come here and invest. Compare that to  — wait, never mind. I already mentioned that before. Kitchener at least is headed somewhere and maybe my own fortunes will follow in kind.

While I don’t know Kitchener as well as I do Toronto, at least my attempts to find a job and rebuild my job search war machine here will make exploring the unfamiliar less intimidating. It could actually be fun.

Sharing this list with you has helped my mood somewhat. Having said that, I would give anything to get more than just a few hours of sleep. I’ll keep you posted.

Thanks for reading.

David

Update: 2013-11-15: Happy to report I can resume with Facebook, but I recreated it to look more professional. The profile picture I had on there was hardly that.