As The World Turns (Over You).

Hello.

When you are focused on one particular thing in your life — in my case, my job search —- you tend to forget about the other things that are going on about you until you are reminded of them. Some of them come as gentle nudges: you discover you need milk for the morning’s breakfast, you look at a calendar and realize you have to call your mother to wish her a Happy St. Patrick’s Day, or you learn you need to take your suit to the cleaner’s while looking in the mirror before heading out for your interview. At other times, some things you thought were settled and long forgotten suddenly come back at you, and not in a gentle way.

We have a great health care system here in Canada. It’s not perfect and it needs improvement (particularly the issue of wait times), but it’s paid for through the provinces, and there’s no excuse not to go to the doctor if you notice something amiss.

I regularly check the moles on my body for anything that looks out of order, and I have gone to a dermatologist twice in the past when I saw what appeared to be a mole change. Those two concerns turned out to be false alarms and I was commended after each doctor’s examination for taking charge of my health. During the first week of March, I was trying to check out a mole on my back that was in an awkward place. It looked perfectly fine, but it was really getting on my nerves. Have you ever seen a dog chase it’s tail? Have you ever seen a stupid dog chase it’s tail? That’s what I looked like, while standing in front of the mirror, twisting around while trying to get a good look at that mole. I finally said, “This is ridiculous, I’m going to have a doctor look at it close up before I injure myself”.

I went to the medical clinic up the street, where a GP examined me. He said there was nothing wrong with it, but he referred me to a dermatologist just to be safe. 10 days later, I went to that dermatologist, who examined me and said it looked fine, but he recommended removing it because it was over 1 cm in size. He froze the skin on that part of my back and removed it (I didn’t know exactly how and I don’t want to know if he is freezing me). The procedure took just five minutes and he slapped a bandage there, telling me to keep it clean and put PolySporin on it. He then said I would be contacted later if anything came up in the biopsy report.

That part made me worry. “Biopsy report?”, I asked him. “I thought I was fine!”. He said it’s just a precaution to make sure the tissue removed was not undergoing any changes that could indicate cancer. Because I had “job-search-on-the-brain”, I asked him if I should perhaps throttle back on my looking for work until the results come back. Don’t be surprised by that question: the last thing you want to do is apply for a position and later, if hired, explain to your new boss you need to take a leave of absence or even resign if you have to undergo medical treatment. He replied to me that would not be necessary, since he felt the mole was likely non-cancerous but he can’t be positive until the biopsy report returns. He would know the results in three weeks.

So, two doctors tell me not to worry, with the latter removing it as a precautionary double-check for a lab to look at. Fine by me: no more looking like a dog chasing his tail in front of the mirror. Weeks go by and I forget about the mole. Granted, the wound made by the removal of the mole is taking a while to heal, but it does not hurt at all and only bleeds a bit during the changing of bandages and the application of Polysporin, but three weeks go by and no call from the doctor.

Just after the start of the fifth week, I get the following message on my answering machine:

(I edited the name of the clinic and the doctor out, so that is why it skips in some places. Sorry.)

Not urgent my you-know-what. I’ve gone to many specialists in the past, including dermatologists as I mentioned before, and not one has ever called me back just to tell me “You’re fine! Thanks for coming down!”. I called the clinic staff person who left that message,  asking her what the reason was for having to come back. I might as well have tried herding cats in an alley with the runaround I got:

“Hi I’m calling about my test results. The doctor needs to see me?”

“Yes, sir”

“Was it a positive?”

“He didn’t say, he just needs to see you”

“Well it must be bad news if he wants to see me”

“Why are you saying it’s bad, sir!? How can you say this as fact? He just wants to see you!”

“Well, what does he want to see me about, if you know it’s not so bad?”

“Sir I don’t know! It just says here (where exactly is here…on a screen? paper?) that he wants to see you!”

I have a great deal of respect for doctors and anyone else who work in the medical field. They work long insane hours, take care of people like myself, and do not get thanked for their efforts. But I always hated the fact it was a “Snakes And Ladders” game when came to getting test results. I waited 10 days to see a dermatologist. I waited just over 4 weeks to get this answering machine message. Now I have to wait 3 weeks more to see the same dermatologist again for something I can’t be told about over the phone. It’s supposedly not urgent, but the doctor still has to tell me in person rather than make the results available to staff to tell me over the phone.

Now I have this angel of uncertainty yammering in my ear for the next three weeks while I continue with my job search and my course at George Brown College. It’s going to be a distraction for both, but as I said, this blog is supposed to chronicle my job search and distractions like this are a part of the process. It’s a reminder that the world still turns no matter what I’m doing, and sometimes the world can suddenly roll right over you without warning.

I’ll update this blog post on May 3rd once I come back from the doctor with the results. Wish me luck!

David

ΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞΞ

Update May 3, 2012: I have the results and I wish I can tell you the news is good, but it is not. I will require a second biopsy to ensure the mole is not cancerous because the sample was incomplete. This is likely because it was a deeper mole than expected, and deepening moles are typical of melanoma, or skin cancer. I have to wait for a local plastic surgeon to contact me to schedule an appointment for a deeper extraction and biopsy.

This will of course affect my job search, as I cannot apply to full time positions while this health scare  hangs over me. I have an obligation to ensure I am capable of holding down a full-time position before accepting any offer. I would appreciate hearing from cancer survivors how they are handling their employment situation, especially if they are out of work. Please feel free to drop me a line.

In the meantime,  I plan to apply for part-time and temporary positions for now, and the college course will complete as scheduled.

Update May 31, 2012: Finally! Someone from the Health Care Clinic calls me back while I was out job-hunting. A staffer left a telephone number and extension for me to call to get information about my appointment date and time. When I call, however, I get an answering machine saying they are either dealing with another patient or away from their desk. WHAT?! I left a message on the answering machine to call me back. A call-back has confirmed a time to see a skin surgeon. I’ll keep you posted through updates on this page.

Update June 22, 2012: The plastic surgeon at Toronto East General removed the last of the mole, and has my final biopsy reports. All negative. Huzzah!

…..now…if I can only get rid of this meibomian cyst that just popped up. Yeesh. Never a boring moment at Chez David

Update June 26, 2012: Another reason why we need a computer system that shares patient data between doctors in Ontario: I just received a phone call from the dermatologist office who sent me to the plastic surgeon, asking if I have gone to that plastic surgeon yet. WHAT? Health Minister Deb Matthews really needs to work on this. On second though, heck with that.  I could probably write one for the Ontario government. Hire me!

Lights! Camera! Hire Me!

In my last blog post, I mentioned the last time I looked for work was in the early 1990s, before the Internet became a part of our lives. In those days, all you were armed with as a job-seeker was a resume, head-hunters (common in IT employment), friends, newspaper want-ads, and persistence.

Well, the Internet has changed all that. You can order a pizza online. You can download a movie or your favorite TV show online. You can pay your bills online. At my last place of employment, we used the Internet for EDI (electronic data interchange) and logging in from home using a VPN client. The way we look for work now has also changed because of the Internet. I already mentioned that I used Workopolis, Monster and TorontoJobShop to apply for jobs online and have a LinkedIn profile. However, I’m still out of work, and it was time to take the job search up to a new level. This level came in the form of YouTube, home of cats playing the piano and future singing and acting stars who think they have talent. Whether they have talent or not is left up to those watching. I have seen some cringeworthy moments, but those moments are not the subject of today’s blog post.

My efforts in my job search were getting me interviews and leads to places where I could apply for open positions, but I felt it was not enough, since I am still unemployed.  I mentioned in my last post about “throwing the playbook out” and trying my best to stand out from the rest of the crowd as a potential hire. After all, that’s what Career Foundation was pushing in their workshops: market yourself, sell yourself, rise head and shoulders above the pack. This blog and the videos on Google+ were a start, and as I said from the beginning, YouTube was the next logical step. It is the 800 pound gorilla of independently-generated and mass-consumed social media content. If I could get a video on there, I felt, on paper at least, it would help my job search.

I did some research on what to do before making the video. One part of the research was to watch other people’s videos on Youtube who were also looking for work. I discovered that many do not dress up properly. Some people in their videos were wearing street clothes. Some were wearing clothes no one in their right mind would wear on the street. I looked out a suit and tie from the closet to wear for my video, since this was just like getting ready for an interview, but in reverse. Instead of going to the office for an interview, someone from that office is coming to see you on video.

I’ll tell you right now, it’s tough making a video like this. Even though I keep myself up to date with Internet skills, since it is both a hobby and a part of my work as a 20-year Information Technology professional. I never really got the social media part of it. I tried to maintain a Facebook page but, embarrassing as it sounds, I only have one contact on it. One. Person. My neighbour. I don’t post my vacation photos or my attempts to sing on MSN. I’m not an introvert, but I’m also not a “Look at me! Look! Look!” type of person. I let my reputation and the facts about me (including my resume) speak for me.

I’m also very shy about having my picture taken, and admit I’m not very photogenic. I have been described by a friend, “in a good way” (???), of having the features of an anime character: large eyes, big Diedre Barlow glasses, and a round face. Nevertheless, if I wanted to get attention focused to my job search, I had to get past that discomfort and make this video to promote myself, and draw attention to my job search.

I used a Logitech Ultra Vid webcam that I normally use for MSN to record the video, and it took many, many, MANY takes. I initially read from a Notepad text file, but after reviewing the first video takes, I sounded robotic and I was not looking at the camera. I decided to “wing it” instead, but adding an apology at the beginning of the video for sounding nervous and tense. Because I downgraded my internet access to the cheapest one with a bandwidth cap (since I am out of work), I had to compromise on the video quality so the end result looked a little grainy. The auto-correcting of the lighting caused the video to brighten and darken a few times as well.

It took me an hour, sitting in that suit and doing the takes over and over and OVER again, to record that video. In the end, I was very pleased with the finished work and used my Google+ account to seamlessly connect and upload the video. I added search metatags to improve the chances of the video being spidered. It was my very first Youtube content creation, and even though it was for a job search, it was a fun experience and somewhat self-liberating. The YouTube video can be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pUO4Sv8QJsE&feature=youtu.be

Maybe I’ll go back and try my Facebook page again. Don’t expect to see any vacation photos or my singing attempts any time soon, though!

Thanks for reading!

David

From then to now, in a single blog post.

Once upon a time, this statue and I had something in common, minus the pigeon droppings. Both of us had somewhere to go every morning. Both of us had a job. For me, that ended on December 30th 2009. I worked in the Information Technology field for 20 years, 17 at my last job. I was a computer operator, then a programmer, later a system administrator and analyst. I have experience with SAP and the IBM Iseries midrange computers. I participated in six major IT projects, mostly migration ones, and one Y2K initiative. I also did double-duty handling user requests about their personal computers for three months until we finally hired a permanent network administrator to take over.

I won’t go into the events leading up to my current unemployment. That’s inappropriate to post on a blog and best discussed one-on-one in a job interview.  This story is not about my past employer: this is about me looking for work for over two years.

What I can tell you, honestly, was that I was not fired. I was not asked to leave. I was not escorted off the premises like Charlie Sheen’s “Bud Fox” was near the end of the movie, “Wall Street”.

I can tell you that the end of my employment was on the very best of terms, and it closed a chapter in my life to my satisfaction.

I can tell you I helped my former employer and co-workers with any issue that came up during the six months that followed, without asking for money.  I don’t believe in burning bridges and I’m a good person when it comes to helping others.

I can also tell you it did me a world of good. I lost a lot of weight (about 45 pounds), got back in touch with myself, and re-aligned my worldview and my priorities to something a normal person is supposed to have.

Nevertheless, I was unemployed, and needed to find work. The last time I looked for work was in the early 1990s. That was a different world then. There was no easy access to the Internet, no social media sites like Facebook or LinkedIn. There were a lot more job openings to choose from. All you needed to have was the newspaper classifieds, a few printed resumes, persistence, and your references. Your resume pretty much spoke for you as an employee. If you had an impressive work history and accomplished some amazing things during your career, you generally had no trouble finding a job even in the toughest of times.

Flash forward to 2009. There’s not as many job openings since the recession, but there’s a lot more unemployed people looking for work. In between searching the classifieds and going on interviews, I took some workshops at Career Foundation in Toronto to get some job search tips and pointers. I soon learned the way you look for work changed, and I’ll admit it’s not something I like. It’s not about your resume any more. I was told you had to sell yourself, market yourself, network. Though career coaching, I learned using action words in my resumes would catch the attention of the person in charge of hiring for the job opening. Your resume had to be a certain font size and style and no more than a certain number of pages or it was tossed in the recycle bin. All of this was part of the gospel we job-seekers had to follow in this New World Order, or remain unemployed.

Don’t get me wrong: those workshops were helpful, since it gave me an idea of what to expect. What it did not do was improve my chances of getting more interviews, let alone landing a job. Despite putting a lot of effort into the job search and networking with friends, family, and former-coworkers, I was getting nowhere fast.

But there is the Internet and it did offer new ways to look for employment. I registered on the following job search sites:

  • Torontojobshop
  • Workopolis
  • Manpower
  • Monster
  • Careerdoor
  • Careerbuilder
  • Thingamajob
  • Torontojobs
  • Drake

to apply for open positions offered by many companies. I also created a LinkedIn profile containing my work history, which helped me connect to other professionals. I also went to various social sites like Meetup (which turned out to be an absolute disaster) for networking through meeting groups devoted to job searching. Believe me, it’s no joke when people say, “a job search has to be treated like a real job”. I spent nearly the same number of hours looking for work each day as I did in my last job.

I also learned what the expression “jobless recovery” really meant. The economy is improving but companies are not hiring as often as they used to. Those still employed are being asked to do more work to cover for those positions that were downsized in 2008 and 2009. It felt like I was hitting a brick wall at every turn. Nothing was working, no matter what I tried.

Despite the frustration I felt, I was not raised to be a quitter. On September 6th 2011 I decided to “throw the playbook out”. What I learned over the last two years to do in my job search was pitched out the window. I widened my job search to include job openings outside the IT field. It did not matter what the position was — floor sweeping, customer service, vacuum cleaner salesman, accounting clerk, even scooping up dog droppings in a park (of which I was told I was overqualified for) — I used the contact information listed in the want ad to either make a phone call or send in my resume. After an interview at Rogers for an equipment testing position, a fellow job-seeker at a Lawrence Square Tim Horton’s showed me how to safely use Kijiji and Craigslist as part of my job search. It brought in many more interviews, and even came close to landing me some work. The only reason those interviews did not strike paydirt was because I was required to spend between $500 and $1000 on equipment, training and a license. I didn’t want to risk spending a lot of money on a job position I might have second thoughts about doing down the road.

I did spend money on updating my job skills, however. After many failed attempts to get funding from Second Career for some computer courses, I enrolled in a Visual Basic .NET 2010 computer course at George Brown College out of my own pocket. The course will be finished on May 26th, 2012.

Now we are coming to the end of my story. We live in the age of social media, so I decided to create my own online content. I recorded a few videos and placed them on my Google+ site. The videos explained my situation regarding my unemployment and why I would be a valuable asset for any company looking for new employees. While that hasn’t landed me a job yet, it did get the attention of many people offering words of sympathy, encouragement, and job search tips. This gave me the confidence to soldier on.

As for this blog, it is the latest addition to a job search web that spans across job search engines, social media sites, and message boards, a web two years in the making. But you’re probably asking at this point, “what is the blog all about?”.

For those who are looking for new employees, it shows what I’ve accomplished in my work history using links to my LinkedIn and Google+ pages, before I arrive at any interview. It also shows the effort taken to find work over the last two years. I am willing to do any kind of work, as long as I have the soft and hard skills required for the position. An interview will determine if that is the case, and I invite any hiring manager or employment recruiter reading this to contact me if there is a job opening I can send my resume to.

For myself, it’s a form of self-evaluation and positive reinforcement. One evening, I experienced an upsetting event on my way to a Meetup job search seminar held at Drake. There was an elderly man in a wheelchair just outside the Dundas subway station exit pleading for money so he can buy his medication. My heart was breaking at this sight, but it also made me ask myself if I was trying my very hardest to find a job, and if anything I’ve overlooked would lead me to the same fate that man is now in. It’s a doubt I’ve had for some time, but now that I’ve had a chance to write down and review the history of my job search in this blog post, I can finally answer, “Yes, I really tried, and then some”.

Getting back to that statue at the beginning of the post, the blog is an example of not being stuck in a frozen state, not being able to move or adapt like that statue. As long as I keep trying new things and keeping an open mind, there is always a chance to bring this journey to a happy ending.

Expect to see more posts in this blog where time permits. In the meantime, wish me luck!

David