Wednesday, April 29, 2009

One, Two, Three

This is the pattern. Wake up on Monday and open up the online version of the classifieds - the job websites on and Scour through the ads to find three that I can apply for. Print out the job listings, open up the folder that contains all of my resumes and various cover letters. Brew some coffee. Start sending out applications. And keep notes on everything in my handy-dandy job search log.

In order to receive my weekly unemployment check, there are a couple of things I need to do. I have to file a weekly claim, and I have to answer a few questions. No, I didn't work last week. Yes, I was available every day for work. No, I didn't work in self-employment. No, I didn't skip any job interviews, didn't serve on a jury, didn't earn any income from any other sources.

Yes, I applied for three jobs last week.

It doesn't sound that hard, does it? Find three jobs and apply for 'em. Big deal. I could do that in my sleep. It's mandated by the state, although of course I'd probably be sending in three applications or more anyway whether or not I had to. I hate being unemployed. I want to get back to work.

When I started looking for work in January, I found a slew of job postings. I could find four each week on Monday morning, and I had my pick of the fundraiser jobs. I could put aside jobs that I was underqualified or overqualified for, or were too far away. I printed out job descriptions and saved them for the following weeks. I was feeling confident, both that the jobs would never run out and that I'd find a position soon.

This lasted until the beginning of April, when I noticed that things were getting tight. Now, it's getting to be a real struggle to find those three jobs every week. Often, I find one job early in the week, apply for it, and then wait for the other two to surface later in the week. It's a waiting game. For example, today is Wednesday. I've applied for one job. I have another one I'm looking into. I don't know what that third job is going to be. It hasn't been posted yet.

I'm checking other websites more frequently, and more desperately, now -, the WorkSource website, the University of Washington jobs site. I might even start going to the spam-infested CareerBuilder website again if it keeps this bad.

If I get really desperate, there is another option. I can go down to the job training center and do an approved job search there. Meaning, I check in with one of the counselors, tell them what I'm looking for, and let them search to try and find jobs for me. That can count as one of my three "job activities." I haven't had to resort to that yet, but it might be happening soon.

This is what I think is happening. I'm looking for nonprofit work. Nonprofits (and regular businesses, I suppose) operate on one of two budget cycles - a simple calendar year budget, which rolls over in January, or a fiscal year budget, which runs from July-June. So when I started looking for work in January, it just happened to be the time of year when several organizations were starting new budget cycles and had fresh money freed up for hiring. I was in the right place at the right time.

Now, however, things are slowing down. It's the middle of the budget cycle for some orgs and the end of the budget year for others. And most nonprofits operate on a shoestring budget, so they don't just have reserve money floating around. They live budget to budget. Most orgs are going to wait until their budget rolls over before taking on the expense of a new employee. So I might have to wait until July until the job pools really start expanding again.

That's assuming the job search stretches that long, and I really hope it doesn't. I don't want to be unemployed on my birthday, a month from now. I really don't want to go through the summer without a job. I can't even imagine going for six months without work, even though I know it's happening to a lot of people right now. I have never gone that long without a job, and I hope it doesn't happen.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day Fail

I have to go drive around and do a bunch of errands on Earth Day. I will be driving by myself in a gasoline-powered car to several stores. I know that's not good, but that's what's happening.

I was considering going to the local Thriftway to buy my groceries. The groceries are a bit more expensive, but they're giving away free canvas bags to every shopper today in commemoration of Earth Day. So I thought, hey, I could use some free bags, maybe I'll make up a reason to go there.

As I look around our living room, I see three big reusable shopping bags. There are at least six Chico bags, the small, foldable kind that you can throw in your pocket or in your purse. And we've got four or five other canvas bags from random stores and giveaways. We have reusable bags all over the place.

So going to a store to get more of something that I don't really need - I think that counts as wasteful. So I won't be going there. However, now I've reminded myself to take some of those Chico bags so I don't have to use plastic bags when I go grocery shopping. So yay for me.

P.S. Oh, by the way, if you live in West Seattle, go to the local Thriftway. I used to live blocks away from them and was able to walk there easily. They give great stickers to the kids, the food is great, their coffee bar rocks, and everyone there is friendly. They are the epitome of the perfect local grocery store.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Waiting for Destiny

The right job is waiting for me.

I really believe this.

However, I'm getting tired of waiting.

I'm getting tired of interview practice. I'm getting tired of trying to explain my philosophy of how to do my job. It's time to have an actual damn job again.

I got another rejection call yesterday - a company with whom I interviewed twice. Good job, a bit of a commute, but nothing I couldn't handle. Job was well within my comfort level. Salary was good, work environment looked great. I didn't get the job.

I asked them why. That's what you're supposed to do - use every rejection as a learning experience. The response was curt - "We just didn't think you were the right match at this time."

Awesome. That's great. Hey, thanks for taking the time for that thorough assessment.

When I was laid off three months ago, I went after my job search with a vengeance. I was going to be back on my feet as quickly as possible. I even said that. Remember?
Nonprofits always need good fundraisers and good organizers, and I've done both. I have half a dozen jobs I'm looking at already. I don't think I'll be out of work long. I might end up taking a pay cut, but I'll be back on my feet soon.
That was me, three months ago. I even had a plan for making some money out of my sudden unemployment. I actually thought at one point that if I could get back into a new job within two months, we'd be able to bank some of my severance pay and my unemployment checks. It was a nice idea, back in January, but those days are gone. We're not exactly hemorrhaging money, but we're losing about a thousand dollars every month I'm not employed.

The state's unemployment rate ballooned to 9.2% recently. They're expecting it to top out at 10% sometime next year. That probably means the actual unemployment rate is somewhere between 13% and 15%, if you count everyone who's given up on find work, everyone who's run out of benefits, and everyone who's working part-time but wants a full-time job.

I'm trying to stay optimistic, but it's hard to recover from each slapdown. I have more and more doubts about my abilities. I start seeing more and more jobs for which I know I don't have enough experience, and I start wondering if maybe the experience I have is worthless. I worry about my references. I worry about the answers I give in interviews. Fuck, I hate this.

I know that I deserve a great job. Not a good job, but a great job. If I had my pick, I'd take a job that was within ten miles of my house, a job with a straight forty-hour work week, one where I could learn some new skills and build on my own strengths, and one with lots of opportunity for advancement. But at this point, I'm going to have to take the first job I'm offered. I won't have my pick of the lot.

I know that the right job is out there waiting for me. There are thousands, hundreds of thousands of people in this state looking for a job. Every job I apply for has two hundred other applicants.

And yet, I've been offered interviews with eight different organizations. So something I'm doing is working right. All I need is to win over one of those organizations. Just one. I only need one job. Just one.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Yes, but No

(Thanks to Flickr user _FXR for the photo.)

I thought I was going to be able to share the glorious news that I had been hired. I was sure it was going to happen, and then it didn't.

Here's the story. I got a phone interview with a local company. It's a nonprofit. You've never heard of them.

The phone interview was wonderful. I was telling great anecdotes that made me look witty and talented. The director told me his moving personal story of why and how she got involved, how his family felt about the work. We spoke for nearly two hours. I felt great afterward.

The first in-person interview was excellent. It was the director, a board member, a staff member. It was a great interview.

They invited me to a second interview, and this one felt much more intimate. We were sitting around a conference room table, chatting like old friends. We talked about scheduling vacation days and workspaces and upcoming events. I showed them pictures of my son. I asked a couple of hard questions about the organization's finances and got a hard answer instead of cold stares.

At the end of the interview, I was feeling pretty confident. I had a hunch and I wanted to see if I was right.

"At this point, are you interviewing any other candidates?"

I thought I saw a bit of a smirk. "You're our top candidate."

I gave them my references and filled out a generic form authorizing a background check.

I got an email early next week. "The background check looks great. I spoke to one of your references. Just need to speak to the other one and get the board to okay the hire. We're almost done!"

We're almost done. I remember that phrase. He was telling me that he was just checking off the final boxes on the form, dotting the i's, crossing the t's. The process, the waiting, this whole purgatory of job seeking, all of it was nearing it's end. We were almost done.

The next day, another email. "Okay, I spoke to your second reference. Now the final step is getting the board's approval." The board would meet in executive session that Friday, where one of the questions would be my hiring.

Naturally enough, I was feeling optimistic. Who says things like "the final step" and "we're almost done" to someone you're not going to hire? Mrs. B and I made plans to go out to dinner on Friday night. I started compiling a mental list of all the things I wanted to buy once I was working again - albums, electronic devices, household stuff. I was imagining what I'd need at my desk on that first week, the programs I'd have to set up, what pictures to bring with me for the office.

And then Friday came and went. I stared at my phone all day, kept checking to make sure the ringer was turned up. I expected, based on the constant stream of communication, that I'd get an immediate phone call as soon as the official decision was made. I never got that call.

Dinner that night was somber and awkward. I kept my phone with me the whole night, half-expecting it to ring and kick the celebration into full gear. Instead, it stared at me blankly, like an unconvinced witness.

I was tense and cranky all weekend, trying to figure out what had gone wrong. My wife kept reassuring me that the call could still come Monday. Maybe she had been working late and wanted to save the call until next week. Maybe.

I didn't get the phone call on Monday morning. Finally, late that afternoon, I decided to call. I left a voice mail. I tried to keep my voice even, but I'm not sure I succeeded.

Tuesday I got a cryptic email - "we've still got a couple of issues to work out, so sorry, call if you wanted more information." Of course I wanted more information, so I called.

The director sounded nervous. He gave me a song-and-dance about how nervous he was about making the right decision. He was second-guessing whether he had made the right decision. "80% of this organization's budget comes from this position, after all," he told me. (I knew this. I had worked in fundraising before, knew the pressure on the job better than he did.)

And then he dropped the bomb. She was going to schedule interviews with a couple of "late-surfacing" candidates.

"Oh," I said.

"I know, I know," he said too quickly. "I want this to be done, but ... you know? We just need to make sure we made the right call."

He made more apologies which I didn't really hear. I was being turned away. After all the reassuring messages, after all the great impressions and positive vibes. After meeting three board members, two staff members, and two of the office volunteers, I was going to be turned away.

It's now four weeks later. I still haven't heard back. I haven't called back because I don't want to be told that they hired someone else. As long as I don't hear from them, the possibility still exists that I'll get the job.

And honestly, I'm not sure I want this job. I don't know if it was genuinely jitters on his part or if the board wasn't completely sold on hiring me. I don't know the real story. What I know is that I felt misled. I feel like I was led on. I told someone that it felt like we got engaged, and then the organization decided to screw a few more people just to make sure it had made the right choice.

If they have that much trouble believing I'm the right person for the job, I'm not sure I want it anymore. I'd rather work for someone who knows that I'm the right guy, not someone who thinks I might be, but maybe I'm not, and it might work but I don't know, and who really knows anyway, and oh, gosh, this is all so hard and maybe we just ought to think about it for a while more. I know I'm a hell of a catch, and if he couldn't figure it out, someone else will. Someone else will.