Month: May 2014

What’s In A Name?

A joke name tag that uses a line from the Seinfeld episode, "The Outing". It was created using Gimp and for the purpose of this post.
A joke name tag that uses a line from the Seinfeld episode, “The Outing”. It was created using Gimp and for the purpose of this post.

Let me share something personal with you. It’s not something I usually do except with family and my closest friends and certainly not in a blog, but it helps set up the theme of today’s post.

When I was but a lad, I was picked on a lot because of my last name. For those of you who are under the age of 25, having been born in today’s open society where the LGBT lifestyle is (mostly) accepted, it might not seem like a big deal. For those of you who were born earlier, perhaps being as old as I am, you likely grew up in a time where homosexuality and other forms of sexual lifestyles were certified as psychological deviations. In those aforementioned times, having a last name Gay was quite a big freaking deal, so I got beat up and bullied a lot by just about everyone in school, including nearly all of my gym teachers and one female math teacher who shall remain nameless.

Not only was that part of my life extremely trying, the label I received was also extremely inaccurate. I am not gay, yet this controversial definition associated with my last name follows me to this age of the Internet where people can be looked up on Google or FaceBook. Here’s an experiment I want you to try:

  • Start up your favourite browser and go into Google. Turn on the SafeSearch filter to filter out any family unfriendly content.
  • Enter David Alan Gay without quotes in the search field and click the search icon (as of this writing a magnifying glass). Take note of the results (and yes, as you can see, I am quite prolific on the Internet. It’s all part of my job-search to get my name and my story out that I am looking for work). Take a screen shot of the results and paste it into any application like Paint or Word.
  • Turn off the SafeSearch filter and repeat the search. Take a second screen shot and compare it with the first screen shot.

See what I mean? In some cases you might even see some sexually explicit ads appear alongside the results. This is what a potential employer might see when he or she is doing a background check on me before considering me for an interview. While some may be able to filter out the explicit material and focus objectively on the task at hand, it’s not wrong for me to state some people with very conservative (perhaps to the point of bigoted) values might rule against me as a candidate.

I’m not implying the reason why I can’t get a job is because I’m being unfairly singled out due to my last name. What I am trying to demonstrate is how your name may be unfairly working against you if you are a job seeker, without one second of consideration being given for your amazing employment history, academic achievements, and volunteer work.

There are many interesting online articles about this subject that prompted the writing of the post, particularly on Freakonomics, The Global And Mail, NBC, and Workopolis. the last one of which I commented on. I know one bar owner named Paul who changed his very long Greek last name to something easier to remember because he was sick of being treated like an ethnic when he first came to Canada. A few Asian friends prefer to be called by their “English” name because their original name implies something not in the way they would like (Hung being one of them).

Let’s cut to the quick: you can’t choose the family you are born in, or even what part of the world where you are born. That’s something whatever power based on your faith has a say in, and is beyond the scope of this blog. This also goes for your first name. Your parents might name you after someone they knew, loved and admired or (as was the case with my parents) for no particular reason at all except to give you a human identifier.

What your name will ultimately stand for, on the other hand, is based on the choices you made in the past, are making right now, and will make in the future. How you interact with other people through those choices and during your travels in life will add meaning to your name.

The mere notion suggested by these so-called job search experts and career coaches that your name must be changed or at least presented differently in order to help you find a job is laughable, and distracts from the real reason job seekers like myself struggle to find steady work. Our economy is anaemic and we are in a jobless recovery. Companies are cutting back on hiring, since human resources is now regarded as a consumable expense that needs to be closely watched and trimmed where needed.

Names are just words, and since it’s been said that actions speak louder than words, perhaps it’s time we need to look past what people are called and instead focus on what they can do when given the chance to prove themselves.

Thanks for reading!


Room To Manoeuvre

The laptop I use to conduct a six hour job search each and every morning from Monday to Friday, and even sometimes Saturday. Image belongs to David Alan Gay with permission to use provided credit is given to the author.
The laptop I use to conduct a six hour job search each and every morning from Monday to Friday, and even sometimes Saturday. Image belongs to David Alan Gay with permission to use provided credit is given to the author.

I’ve just finished making plans for my next trip to another city in search of work. While such preparations are a necessity, it’s a time-consuming routine: tickets to buy for the next bus or train, phone calls to make to confirm with a friend or family member that everything’s a go for my stay-over, and — if the area I’m going to is unfamiliar territory — checking out the area I’ll be staying in with the help of Google Maps.

I feel like a baton in a relay race: being passed on from one person to another, except it’s the baton (me) that is handling the transfer. Pack, travel, rest, unpack — this ceremony of transition will repeat until, hopefully, I land a long-term job that allows me to stay longer, perhaps even make the current town or city I’m in a place I can finally call home.

The concept of home that I’ve grown up with no longer exists now that I am a couch-surfer. Home used to be the one place where it was always the same while everything around me changed. Now it changes constantly, sometimes a few days, maybe a few weeks. It’s now one of many places I go to, much like one of many places I go to for interviews, a coffee, or groceries. My personal world-view has changed from being at the centre of a bicycle wheel watching everything rotate around me to being on the edge of that spinning tire, feeling like I’m going to fly off into space if I miscalculate my next move. Thankfully, those friends and family members who graciously offer space and a bed for me to sleep serve as the anchor that prevents that from happening. To them, I am most grateful.

The odd thing about my transition to a mobile job-searching lifestyle is that I’m reminded of a old (and rather silly) episode of the 1960’s Star Trek series where Captain James T. Kirk is forced to fight a large lumbering lizard creature called a Gorn. Despite being outmatched in size and physical strength, Kirk wins the fight by using the environment around him to fashion a portable projectile launcher which he then uses on the Gorn

Perhaps the reminder is not as odd as it appears. The Tim Horton’s I am at right serves as a base of operations for my job search: caffeine to wake me up, free Wi-Fi to log on the Internet so I can apply for jobs through Indeed (see above image), update my Kijiji and Craigslist “Looking For Work” ads, network with any co-workers and friends in the city or town I’m currently in, and of course to post to this job search blog. The nearby corner store or mall supplies me with food and other resources to make my stay in the area comfortable, ensuring a stable state of mind for my next interview when it comes up.  The parks and other nearby scenery in the area I’m in serve as a respite from the job search when I need to take a break. In short, what is available around me in my travels can be forged into a tool or weapon, to be used in my war against unemployment.

Hopefully one day, like Kirk in that episode, I will overcome this challenge, just not look as silly while trying to do so.

Thanks for reading.


Promises, Promises (Yet Still No Results)

Premier Of Ontario Kathleen Wynne, announcing the dissolving of the legislature of Ontario and the next provincial election (image and link are property of the Toronto Sun and it's parent company)
Premier Of Ontario Kathleen Wynne, announcing the dissolving of the legislature of Ontario and the next provincial election (image and link are property of the Toronto Sun and it’s parent company)

I’m now starting my second week of couch surfing, but that does not mean I haven’t been following the news like I usually do. The planned provincial budget vote (for Ontario) has held my interest for the last three weeks, since it’s defeat means the fall of the government and a new election. What actually happened in the end was Premier Wynne asking the Lieutenant-Governor to dissolve the 40th legislature of Ontario because one of the parties (the NDP) was not willing to support her minority government in the upcoming vote. Nevertheless, we have a summer Ontario election to look forward to. Yes, that was your sarcasm detector exploding in a fiery blaze.

I’ll be 50 years old this June, so I’ve been through my share of elections and the campaign promises that come with it. With each passing year (and every broken promise), I become more cynical of what each party says they are going to do once elected.

Let’s take that last statement to the next (and blunt and frank) level: I am firmly convinced all the main parties have no clue how to turn Ontario’s economy around, particularly where job creation is concerned.

I’ve taken the opportunity to study each party’s election platform, in specific how to deal with the chronic unemployment problem that I and other job-seekers struggle with. Starting with the Liberal Party, there’s a promise not to raise corporate taxes and to reduce small business taxes. That’s wonderful, except for two things:

a) Corporate taxes are already too high, which is why corporations have resorted to outsourcing jobs overseas and using the Temporary Foreign Worker program to replace Canadian workers.

b) The Ontario budget that triggered the election in the first place mentioned the creation of a mandatory Ontario pension plan that everyone has to opt into if they currently do not have a company or private pension plan. That’s actually a tax that hits both the employee and his/her employer. That will force employers to hire less while adding more financial burden on those working at or under the poverty line.

The Progressive Conservative Party has an ambitious plank in their election platform that involves the creation of 1 million jobs for Ontarians. To begin with, while i know Ontario has a serious unemployment problem, I do not believe it is actually that high so that number alone lends doubt to the validity of that promise. In addition, there is a reference to creating more skilled workers to fit the demand for trade jobs in this province. How? Through government funded career retraining programs? They already exist! It’s called Second Career! The problem isn’t the absence of these programs, but the eligibility for access to these programs. I have twice applied for Second Career funding, having filled out those dreadful forms. It’s like taking a prostate exam but with a pen and paper. A lot of questions to answer, a lot of qualifications to meet. In both cases, I did not get approved. If Tim Hudak and the Progressive Conservative party want to help people be better trained in order to land a job, start loosening the requirements of existing career retraining programs.

The Ontario New Democratic Party’s platform mentions not only a mandatory Ontario pension plan (like the Liberal Party), it also will push for expanding the Canada Pension Plan, which means more deductions for both employees and businesses. In addition, they promise a push to increase the minimum wage and invest more money in health-care. On the latter, that money has to come from somewhere, and like then-Premier Dalton McGuinty and the Liberal government did in the past, the NDP will likely raise the OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Plan) deduction on our paycheques. Will we see eye exams and other previously de-listed medical coverage return to OHIP coverage? No mention of that on their election platform page. The most telling part of the platform is while it has hinted at actions taken by the current Liberal government as scandalous (google ontario liberal scandals for a list of examples that could easily fill the parking lot of a Wal-Mart), Andrea Horwath and the NDP party were the king-makers for past  budget votes. They could have forced an earlier election yet chose to vote with the government and keep it afloat for another day. In other words, the NDP claims to be the defender of the taxpaper wallet, yet allowed a government to continue with decisions that no only had a profound negative impact of the economy of Ontario, it also supported scandalous actions taxpayers had to pay for (such as the gas plant being moved to favour the outcome of key candidates). Based on that record, would I really trust such a party to handle taxpayer-funded job-creation programs?

With all that said and done, my approach as both a voter and a job-seeker is to grill each party candidate in my riding (well, whatever riding I decide to vote in, since I am now of no fixed address) with the following questions (copied from my post on the comments section of the Toronto Sun web site):

* how much will each promise cost to implement and where will the money come from to pay for each?

* when will each initiative take effect? Ask for a date of completion. If the candidate starts waffling doublespeak, you know it’s not going to be a reality.

* ask who in the party is going to be responsible for making that platform plank happen. Get. A. Name.

* most important: who will bear responsibility if any or all of the promises are not implemented.

These questions are not unreasonable. After all, people currently working are tasked to answer those same questions asked by their immediate employer while working. As someone trying to re-enter the working world and also a believer that government serves the people (not the other way around), I feel I have a right to demand that any election promises made are worth more than the ink written on paper.

Thanks for reading!