Are You Experienced? (With Apologies To Jimi)

Today is Simcoe Day in Ontario, and while others are no doubt enjoying the long weekend, for me it’s another day of job searching. While most businesses are closed this holiday Monday, a manager of a store that had a vacancy for a cashier position used his Blackberry to tell me my application was turned down. After over two years of job searching, you get used to the “sorry, you were not considered” responses….when they at least have the courtesy to respond, that is. This particular turndown, however, rubbed me the wrong way.

As with every application where I do not get the job, I ask the hiring manager in question the reason why I was not considered. Not in an accusing or snarky way, mind you. More like, “can you explain the reason why I was not considered so I may learn from this experience for future job applications?”. I was told, as quoted below, in the reply below:

“you — have no experience behind a regitser (sic) and I have no time to train”

It is true I haven’t recently worked behind a cash register, since I worked at a movie theatre in the 80s. The machine I worked with was similar to the image supplied in this post. The drawer would jam sometimes, and when it did pop out, it’s best to stand back a bit so you didn’t get a surprise whack. One time the key snapped in the lock when I turned it, so we had to phone for help to get the fragment out.

But enough with the walk down Memory Lane. The point I’m trying to make is that employers used to have the time to train people for entry-level positions like this. At that theatre I worked for, I had the manager standing next to me telling me what to do, such as how to count the change back to the customer after they paid for their popcorn and soda. Oh, and to always remember to say “Enjoy the show!” Even though I made mistakes, and the theatre was pretty busy at times, I learned how to use the cash register.

Because I applied in-person at the store that was advertising the cashier position, I know what the cash register (POS terminal) looks like. It’s basically a computer with it’s own operating system and a bar code reader. You don’t even enter the price of the product, you scan the reader over the product’s bar-code and it displays everything on screen. It even computes the change for you so you don’t have to work it out yourself.

Look, no offense to anyone reading this who has worked with these terminals — and please feel free to write to tear a strip out of me if I’m oversimplifying things —- but I was once responsible for hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of hardware and software. If I can apply a kernel patch to a SAP instance, learn a new programming language (Winbatch) on my own time, and compile a new device description using PCL to get a Canon Imagerunner 5570 to print properly, I’m sure I can learn, in time and with patience, how to operate a POS. What rankled me was that I wasn’t even given a chance to try.

I’m not saying “to hell with experience” and let any Tom, Dick, Or Harry (or Tammy, Donna, Or Helen!) come in and take jobs without ensuring these people know what they are doing. Some high-level professions in science, engineering, and finance require knowledge and experience that would take far too long to learn on-the-job, and any beginner’s mistake could be disastrous. What I am saying is that not all job positions are like that, despite the overinflated opinion of some hiring managers that don’t understand the position they are trying to fill. Some job positions can be understood through employment mentorships or other forms of on-the-job training. I briefly touched on this in a previous post.

We must make it easier for job-seekers to get work experience for entry-level positions like this. Otherwise, young people and those trying to change careers will continue to face the Catch-22 that keeps them unemployed. How can anyone build work experience if managers won’t hire them because the applicant has no work experience?

I’d like to close by saying that being a good employee is not just knowing the job inside and out. It’s about being fearless. It’s about the willingness to try and to think outside the box. It’s about having a good work attitude. I remember one time, at one company I worked for, a young man who was brilliant with computer technology. He really knew his trade. The problem was he also loved to party late into the early hours and would often stagger in late for work looking like Keith Richards. The information technology manager went above and beyond his duties to try to set the employee straight, but in the end he had to let him go because he couldn’t straighten up and fly right. In the end, he didn’t lose his job because of experience. He lost his job for the other important things that were required for the position.

It’s these other important things that hiring managers sometimes forget to factor in when trying to find that experienced employee to fill a vacancy.

Thanks for reading!


UPDATE: 08/16/2012 – Eleanor Gordon, a secondary level languages teacher looking for a change in career, has written an excellent article  about her own frustration at hitting the experience wall, despite having so many amazing skills.


Silence Is Not Golden

If you’re a job-seeker like me (or remember the last time you had to find a job), the waiting game after the interview is a nail-biter. During the interview, you dressed sharp, smiled, sat up straight,  and did your best to sell yourself as the best candidate for the job (while pacing yourself carefully so you didn’t come across as an arrogant you-know-what). At the end of the interview, the interviewer asks if you have any questions. If you are drawing a blank, the correct response is, “When can I expect to hear from you again?”. The most common responses I get when I ask that question is either “Two to three days”, “sometime next week”, or “you are welcome to follow up on the status of your application”.

Time passes, and you haven’t heard anything from the person who interviewed you. You already sent that “thank you for the opportunity to meet with you” Email that shows you are still enthusiastic about getting the position, but there’s no reply at all. To keep that interest going, you follow up with another Email. Perhaps you decide to add a personal touch by phoning, only to be told by the receptionist that the person who interviewed you is not available.  Days pass, follow ups are done, but you never hear from that person again.

If I had a dollar for every time I didn’t get a response to post-interview follow-ups, I’d have enough money to pay for cable TV for a month…if I didn’t cancel it a year ago in order to save money. One example I had was at a office support agency that had openings for contract work. It wasn’t information technology, it was entry-level and required no experience. The agency was well-known, and not a fly-by-night operation. I filled out an application form and sent a resume along with it by to the agency by Email. Two days later, I received a call from a manager who wanted to see me for an interview. We had an excellent conversation that lasted a little over 45 minutes. I felt the manager and I got along well during the interview. At the end of the interview, I was asked if I could provide a void cheque (YES!) which is required for direct-deposit payments for contract work completed. Seeing I had my chequebook with me, I provided one while trying my best not to bounce up and down in excitement like a kid at Christmas. I felt things were looking up: I was finally going to get some kind of income flowing into my home to pay the bills. I wrote a short but sincere thank you Email for the interview to ensure the job was sealed.

Turns out I was overly optimistic. I never heard back from the manager who interviewed me, despite leaving 4 messages to contact me on the status of my application. I had to contact the head office of that agency to ensure my void cheque was destroyed. Big letdown.

In this age  of free Email, system automation, and reliable high-speed computer networks, I never understood why some companies can’t return a short response to a job-seeker’s followup. It only takes a minute to return a phone call. If there are a lot of applicants, it’s a cop-out to say “there are simply too many people to respond to”. There’s such a thing as form letters and mailing lists. At my last job, I configured our company’s SAP system to Email invoices to customers each business evening with very little human intervention required.  If doing something similar is that much of a chore for some businesses, I’ll be happy to hire my programming skills out to code something, at minimum wage.

I’m not going to use this post to rant and rage about employers who don’t call back, especially if they fail to inform me that the position is filled. I am, however, going to offer some friendly advice to those managers (referred to as “you” in the section following) who are currently hiring.

The first thing to remember is any employee who works for a company represents that company. It doesn’t matter if that person deals with customers directly or not. You work for the company, you are the company. Any act you do on-the-job that results in a negative response reflects on the company in a negative way. If you treat a job-seeker the same manner I was treated in the above example, that person is going to remember the company name even if the name of the interviewer is long forgotten. Now that we have social media spreading the word about companies and their products, the last thing you want is someone slagging your company name because so-and-so in the Human Resources Department did not return the job-seekers calls about the status of the position they applied for.

If there is a chance you are not going to be able to follow up with every job application for a position, say either at the end of the interview or write at the bottom of the job advertisement, “Only candidates in whom there is an interest will be contacted”. This tells the job-seeker that if they do not hear from the company, they didn’t get the job. This frees them to move on to the next job advertisement. Don’t say you will call the applicant on some date or time and then fail to do so.

Also, the interview is not just a chance for the job-seeker to sell him/herself. It’s also the chance for the interviewer, who represents the company (see above), to sell the company to the person being interviewed. If you fail to return the job-seeker’s calls for a status update, what does that say about you (as an employer or co-worker) if the job-seeker is hired? Is this the kind of thing the new hire is going to experience on the job?

For any person in charge of hiring for a position, if you are not returning the job-seeker’s inquiries because you are afraid to tell the person he or she didn’t get the job,  that’s unprofessional. We won’t take it personally if we learn we were not hired. Life goes on, and so will we.

Thanks for reading!


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!


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!


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!


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!


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!


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!