Tag Archives: money

Work-Life Balance and the Single Person

I’m starting to see what a lot of other single people, perhaps, already have learned–other people don’t think single people deserve work-life balance.

Now, I haven’t had anyone say this to me in person. But I have approached my current job a little bit differently than I have approached other jobs. I have indirectly let it be known that I am not one of those workers of whom you can just take advantage–that’s my friend Clara. I’m not worried about being the perfect employee or losing my job. I let people know that when the clock hits that time at the end of the workday, I’m gone.

Recently, a lot of changes have been made at my job. Essentially, everything I liked about my job is either now gone or likely will be very soon. The only thing that is still in the “very soon” category is a change being made to what time I have to be at work in the mornings and what time I get to leave in the afternoons. Nobody has told me that is about to change, but I’m not stupid. My job duties have completely changed, and the people I work with are totally different people.

They have me training with this guy, whom, I can tell, doesn’t seem to understand what my hours are at work. He’s the kind of guy who is very into his job, very dedicated. I’m not like that, especially not now that my employers have f*cked my job all up with these changes. Plus, I’m a contract employee and he’s not…so why should I be dedicated when my employer is not dedicated to me? You think this is true for every job. You also think it’s true that changes occur at every job. But neither of these things in a regular job is like how they are in a contract position. There is absolutely no stability in a contract job in any sense, no regularity or uniformity–you do whatever they want whenever, regardless of what you’re told in the beginning about the position or what you’re told while working the position. Contract jobs might as well never have job titles, at least not in IT, because the title won’t apply for long (if ever). And then to top it off, most contract jobs eventually end, usually in a year or less. Now that I understand this about how employers yank their contractors here, there and yonder with no regard for them, I will not be taking contract IT jobs ever again.

Given all of this, it should be of little surprise that I care little about what the company’s needs are, what their customers’ needs are. I will probably be getting tossed out of the company after my contract is up, regardless of how well I do, and I wouldn’t necessarily like to have my contract renewed there anyway. I plan to move to another city/state, and that has been my plan for a while and I am applying for jobs in those places…even have one interview lined up. So, I care about putting in my 8 hours and then getting the hell out of there. And even with a permanent position, frankly, I’d be the same way and have been the same way.

Every day this week, I’ve had to let this guy who is training me know that I get off work at X time, because he talks as if I’m going to still be around after that time or like I have time to stick around a little later and do XYZ. I flatout told this guy, “My supervisor said my hours are still the same, so until they say different I’m out at [X] time.” This afternoon, one of the other guys I now work with, this creepy guy, assumed I would still be around late, and my trainer heard me tell him what time I leave. Immediately, my trainer was like, “You’re ready to go home, aren’t you? Do you have kids you’re taking trick-or-treating tonight?” because it’s Halloween in the US.

Look, I know what that question really was–trying to find out if I have kids and is that the reason why I am adamant about leaving work at a certain time. Because having kids is the only legitimate reason for running away from your job, don’t you know. Especially if you’re a woman. My friend Clara lets people know she can’t stay late because of her son all the time or she’s leaving early because of her son, and people accept that. But with me, people are wanting to know why I “have” to leave at X time.

Three things:

1) Halloween is a fake holiday. It’s one of the most pointless days I’ve ever known. I especially can’t stand how there are grown adults who “celebrate” Halloween; they need to grow the f*ck up. Nobody should pay any attention to it, in my opinion, so it’d never have a thing to do with why I’m leaving work.

2) There’s so much wrong with thinking only parents have a legitimate reason to run off from work, including the fact that they probably are actually the main ones who need the damn money if they’re going to see any overtime pay from staying late. The average single person just has bills. Parents have bills and expensive-@ss kids. Yet parents are actually the main ones always trying to leave work early or on time. This guy at my job basically has a newborn, and ever since he had that kid he has never again worked a full day not called Monday (our busiest day) on the job. Yet he says he doesn’t have enough money. He’s an hourly contractor…hmm, he’s leaving after 4-5 hours of work…wonder why he’s not making anything.

He and I need to swap hours. Working 4-5 hours most days is my kind of schitt. They should have put someone like him in my new position (and they could have, but didn’t–wonder why?), where they’re talking about working overtime (which I loathe) and Saturdays (which is just sacrilegious and damn-near something to walk out the door over, especially if you love college football more than anything, as I do). Plus, let’s be real–who is more hands-on with babies and kids, moms or dads? What the hell does he need to be at home all the time for? All he’s going to do is say, “Here, hon, the baby is crying” or “Here, hon, the baby needs to be changed,” hand the kid to the mother and then go sit down in front of the TV or the computer. Sorry, men–I have had this kind of convo with dads before, and you guys just have no idea how little dads help with or do for their kids compared to the kids’ mother.

Ironically, the exact reasons why I don’t have kids are because I don’t want to have to care for anyone–financially or in any other way–and because I want a life and because I want my life to be about me. That includes work–I don’t want a life that is about work. This is where “work-life balance” comes in. Everyone I know who looks on the bright side when it comes to working overtime is a parent–usually, a man–and it’s always about the money.

My observation about women has been that women who have kids tend to know on some level that their life is not theirs anymore, it’s not about them–so they don’t even think that way. They think in terms of what their kids (or husband) need, what’s best for their kids. Kids need things that cost money, however much time you’d rather spend with them. My observation about men is that the vast majority of men care more about making money than the vast majority of women do, for a variety of reasons–probably the three biggest are status, attracting women and what they were taught about being a man growing up. As a single female, I have totally different concerns, concerns that really don’t involve making money. These different concerns leave me trying to figure out how to explain to the moms, dads and single men I know why I value my free time far more than I value the extra money I’ll get by working on Saturday (the extra money being something I don’t value at all). Yet all of them will be home on Saturday or enjoying some activity outside the home and outside of work.

3) Why do I “have” to leave at X time? Because that’s what time I’m scheduled to leave. And I have every right to leave at that time. Whether or not I have kids is immaterial.

One more point before I go–not too long ago, I was reading an article online where the author wondered why people speak of “work-life balance.” Is working really so bad and do people hate their jobs so much that they need to categorically separate it from the rest of their life, the author wondered. At that point, I wondered where in the hell this author has been her entire working life. Seriously, she must be part of the lucky 10-15% of people who loves their job. Ever notice how it’s always writers with real writing jobs, always entertainers who have officially “made it,” always people who work in the media, always people who make big bucks who love their jobs? Gee, I wonder why. No wonder they can’t relate. I know they didn’t start at the top, but the point is they’re there now and now they don’t “get it.”

Pay me a ridiculous amount to dish sports on ESPN three hours a day, and see how much I love my job. Pay me to write ridiculous articles about how I can no longer relate to mere commoners who need work-life balance because I make enough money to actually pay bills and eat as a writer as opposed to having to write on the side like 90% of writers do (myself included). Or how about those ridiculous articles about “do what you love for a living”? You do know that the average person “loves” things that either don’t pay, don’t pay enough to make a living or require expensive schooling only to be shut out of jobs because that person has never had a job in that industry, right? Oh, I forget–you no longer relate to the mere commoner because you’ve got the rare cushy, enjoyable writing job that actually pays bills.

Over the past week, I’ve confirmed that, yes, work and life have to be separated for most people, including myself. I am largely in that category where what I’d love to do generally doesn’t pay enough to make a living (writing and/or technical repair). I would agree with people who say to find a job you can tolerate, but that’s easier said than done. So, my best solution is to find a job I can actually do for the most amount of money I can get, because if I’m going to hate every job I get at some point then I might as well focus on the money. It’s not easy, because caring about money isn’t my nature. But I made more money at my last job, and the positives to that were now I have surpassed my initial savings goal and am on to my next savings goal (which I am close to meeting)…and I have still been able to buy everything I want (except a Mercedes), take trips everywhere I’ve wanted to go and enjoy myself outside of work. Although I hated my last job, it created a pretty decent work-life balance and I never had to work late or on Saturdays.

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Operation Find A Job Pt. 6–More Realistic Standards

6) You Need To Lower Your Standards. When all else fails, perhaps before you dip into being less than honest, check into your standards. A lot of people who have degrees have a standards problem, and a lot of people who had good jobs but got laid off have a standards problem. People with degrees want to go directly from college to a job that pays at least $50,000 a year, and people who had a job paying at least $50,000 a year want another job that is exactly like the one they lost that pays the same as or more than what they were making before.

Sorry. But you gotta do what you gotta do if you’ve been looking for a job for a long time and nothing has worked. If that means taking a pay cut, you take a pay cut. If that means doing something different in a different field for a living, do something different in a different field for a living. If that means doing something for which you perceive yourself to be overqualified, then you take a job for which you’re overqualified.

I also think people have incorrect ideas about being overqualified/underemployed. I could easily say I’m overqualified for the work I do. In fact, my “best work friend” Clara often talks about how a lot of people where we work have degrees and are overqualified, which is definitely true for her (she has an IT degree and has worked better IT jobs with higher pay prior to this one). But to me, unless their degree is in IT, Computer Science, Computer Engineering or anything like that, they are not overqualified–they are alternatively qualified, like me. IT has nothing to do with what I studied in school–nothing at all. So, taking entry-level IT positions doesn’t make me overqualified just because I have a college degree and a professional degree. In fact, when you’re making a career change or trying to break into a field that is different from the one for which you prepared in school, you’re going to have to start at the bottom in that field. You don’t just get to skip over step 1 because you’re past step 1 on a totally different track.

And even still, I’ve noticed that a lot of people with IT-related degrees had to start with the same garbage IT jobs I have worked. So, in a way, I am doing better than these people are because they spent years in school studying this schitt and are exactly where I am. At some point, will someone get an IT job over me because they have a related degree plus the experience? Yeah, I’m sure. That’s the way it should be, though. I still have every confidence that I will be fine in my chosen field. If that’s not the case, I will go back to [a cheap] school.

I’ve seen a lot of people turn down jobs because they “only” pay $12/hr. Um. So, remaining unemployed is somehow better than making $12/hr? Get over yourself. It looks worse when you’re applying for jobs to have a big gap on your resume, or to admit you’ve sat around doing nothing but applying for jobs, than to work a $12/hr job. In fact, you eventually reach a point where not having a job keeps you from getting one. So, get over your degree or your previous job and take that job that’s not good enough for you. And if you already have a gap, you might have to take my advice about being less than honest (see “Operation Get A Job” Post #2).

I’m not one to hate on certain majors, but most majors are general and don’t career-track you–at least not without getting a masters degree or Ph.D or another advanced degree (and oftentimes, not even those advanced degrees help). The mistake a lot of college grads make is they take a general degree and apply for all kinds of jobs that seem “prestigious” without having anything to show as to why they’re qualified for these positions, just thinking a college degree or a nice school name should do the trick. They don’t. As mentioned in #1, you’re predominantly “qualified” for low-paying jobs that have a customer-service aspect to them. You’re almost certainly not going to be able to take an English or philosophy degree into a healthcare or business position (love English and philosophy–minored in both and enjoyed them immensely, particularly English courses–I respect these subjects, but I’m just being honest and realistic). I know it’s a hard pill to swallow for new grads when they start realizing this, but this is how it is now.

If you have to move back in with your parents, move back in. If you have to work two jobs, work two jobs. You gotta do what you gotta do. Let go of your ego and your expectations, and stop worrying about appearances–these things are getting in your way.

Pt. 1–You’re Not Focusing Your Job Search

Pt. 2–Your Resume Isn’t Cutting It

Pt. 3–You Don’t Know How To Apply

Pt. 4–You Need To Learn How To Interview

Pt. 5–What Employers Value

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Football Gametime Etiquette

Well, those of you who know already know this is the best time of the year–football is back. A lot of people prefer the NFL. I love college football myself and am a diehard Michigan Wolverine. Now, I spent an ojo de la cara to go to the Michigan-Notre Dame game this past weekend, and, though the experience was worth every penny and I’m glad I went to the game, I seriously contemplated after the game whether or not I ever wanted to do it again (before I went right back to making plans to attend the Rose Bowl in California).

Why?

Due to the lack of gametime etiquette in the stadium.

Now, it’s not like this was my first time going to a football game, but this was the first time the etiquette was this out of hand. And I wasn’t the only one who had a problem with it, as I heard an old bitty behind me outside the stadium after the game whining and giving her laundry list of etiquette issues.

This is not a Michigan thing, I’m sure. That’s why I’m posting this message which I’d like to reach football fans far and wide. This is my football gametime etiquette guide for those who attend football games.

Let’s begin:

1) Um…sit the fuck down. I mean, really. If you’re standing, people behind you are forced to stand…and standing for 4 hours at the Michigan-ND game wasn’t exactly what I wanted to do. I bought a ticket for a seat, not for concrete to torture my feet muscles. I know the game was a special occasion–hell, that’s why I ponied up the dough for this game, and I would have quit my job if they had told me I had to work Friday instead of fly up to Michigan, just so I could see Michigan beat ND for the last time at our stadium. But not everything is worth jumping the fuck up and refusing to sit down. “Woo, the running back ran for 2 yards…let’s stand up and get in everybody’s way!” Come on, now.

2) Along the same lines, contrary to popular belief, plenty of women like football. Plenty. So, if you’re a big, tall-@ss man and your seat is in front of a chick, you need to get the fuck out of the way. I don’t care how you do it, but you need to do it. There is really no amount of neck contortion a woman behind a man can do to see the game. It’s probably easier for a guy to duck down a bit and still see what’s going on than anything else. Plus, men are often the first ones who want to stand up in everybody’s way when something happens, and it’s just thoughtless to stand whenever you feel like it vs out of necessity, regardless of sex…but especially so if a woman or kid is sitting behind you.

Stated another, perhaps more acceptable way–be courteous to those around you. You know how expensive seats are, and 9 times out of 10 the person behind you is a fellow fan of the same team, particularly if you’re at a home game. If we’re on the same side, let’s act like it. If we’re not on the same side, let’s show some class anyways. Same goes for noticing whether or not a kid is near you, because plenty of people take young people to these games.

3) Don’t act like you’re the offensive or defensive coordinator. Now, I’m a little guilty of this, admittedly. But there just always seems to be one or two white guys in your section who just have to be heard and just have to spend at least 30% of the game coaching loudly from, like, row 45. If you were the coach, you wouldn’t be in row 45; you’d be on the sideline. If you want to encourage the defense on a critical 3rd down, that’s fine–“come on, D, get an interception” is not coaching. Nobody cares. But if people actually turn back and look at you after something comes out of your mouth, that’s a sign you need to hush. You’re either “encouraging” too often, too loudly or you’re coaching without being on the payroll.

4) Sit in your seat. Don’t be partially in the next seat, and don’t have your @ss hanging all off the back of the bench. My knees really don’t belong in your @ss, especially if you have pink bumps all over it like this one dude at the Michigan game did…dude, I’m glad it turned out I was in the wrong seat, or else who knows what kind of ointment I would have ended up needing for my knees after the game…

5) Sit the fuck down. Yeah, I know I already listed this one, but I can’t stress it enough.

Other tips:

-Taking pictures…okay, this one goes with just the general idea I have tried to stress in several points above about being in the way, blocking people’s view and being courteous. You don’t have to hold both arms 100% in the air in order to get a good pic, especially if everyone would just do as I said and sit the fuck down until absolutely necessary. I take pics and record videos, too, but the phone/camera really should not be above your forehead, if it can be helped, because then you’re blocking other people’s view. And arms/elbows should come into your body, not be all out to the sides or up in the air.

-Drinking and eating, including getting drunk…now, I have never had these issues at a football game, but if you’re eating and drinking you’ve got to take care not to get schitt on other people. In fact, to me, as cramped as the space was at the Michigan-ND game, people shouldn’t even have been trying to eat or drink in the stands. I mean, I can’t even move my arms, but the fucker beside me is having a good ole time with, like, a hotdog and a beverage. You’re not at home. All that body movement–bending over to pick up stuff, bending your elbow out to bring a drink to your lips, etc–infringes on other people’s space. Plus, it’s common sense to me to just eat before the damn game, especially a night game.

-I don’t know what to say about alcohol…I don’t think we can drink at Michigan Stadium, so people get drunk before a night game. Luckily, I wasn’t near any drunk people during the game, and I’m sure they can be obnoxious during the game. But some drunk Notre Dame fan was harassing me and my cabbie earlier on gameday. Rivalry games are #1 to me, more important than winning championships. It’s fun to hate other teams, other schools, people with the wrong color on (okay, that makes me sound like I’m in a street gang…really, Michigan is a college gang). But getting drunk and then harassing other fans…[shakes her head]. If I seriously harass a fan of another team, I’m going to be a wimp about it and do it online anonymously while 100% in my right mind; I’m not going to do it out in the open (drunk or not) or without mainly joking. That’s why I hate Michigan State fans more than Ohio State fans–OSU fans actually tend to be more cool to Michigan fans in person vs the @ssholes that MSU fans are.

But what to do about this? You can’t make people not get drunk; it’d probably be easier to make people sit the fuck down. And you definitely can’t control drunk people; gametime etiquette would be the farthest thing from their mind.

-Listen, I went to ESPN’s College GameDay on campus earlier on Saturday, and I went to the game later on Saturday. It was hot and humid all day, and I spent well over 7 hours outdoors. So, to be perfectly frank…I am sure I was guilty of not smelling all that good during the game. I realized during the game, “Yeah, I should have cleaned up a bit before the game.” Anybody going to an outdoor football game needs to be mindful before they leave home that they might assault people around them with funk and take all preventative measures. Next time, I’ll remember. Sorry to those who sat near me…

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When Sharing Crosses the Line

You know, they say best friends share everything. Well, my work bff Clara took that saying just a little too far and shared her sickness with me. I ought to serve her right and stay home from work tomorrow so she will have to do my job and hers.

Except I can’t really stay home tomorrow. I left work early Friday because I felt sick, and the week before that I was off because I went to Chicago. And next week I’ll be going to Michigan. Plus, all this taking off and spending money on trips means I need all the money I can get–that Michigan trip has been expensive as hell to plan since it includes an expensive-@ss football ticket, an expensive-@ss hotel room, plane tickets, a shuttle from Detroit to Ann Arbor (and back) and will eventually include food costs. Seriously, if I told you how much I have spent so far, especially if you’re not a sports fan, you’d think I was nuts (if you don’t already). Alas, this is the price you pay for being a diehard fan and a loyal alum–especially one who lives in a totally different region from her team/alma mater.

So, I will be dragging it into work tomorrow morning, probably getting more people sick like Clara did with me. That Michigan trip is so going to be worth it–I really can’t wait, and I’m glad I got sick now and not then since I knew it was coming, despite trying to avoid it. I always get sick around this time every year, July-August-September. I’ll never forget being sick on the first day of class in law school my first year of law school, and you can’t miss the first day. And last year I was sick the first weekend of college football/labor day weekend, when people at work acted as if I extended a 3-day weekend into a 4-day weekend merely for the hell of it. No, I was being tortured by mucous. Oh, and of course there was the bar exam debacle…well, let’s not talk about that one.

Man, I tell ya–when you’re sick, you just want to be in bed, take meds (depending on whether you’re one of those people who does or one of those weirdos who refuses to take them), sleep, watch TV (or in my case, play music all day, as I’ve done all weekend–TV is taking too much focusing). And doesn’t it always feel as if you’re either being burned alive or frozen to death (unfortunately for me, I prefer “frozen to death” but am dealing with “burned alive” and the sweaty yuckiness that accompanies it)?

‘Tis the season for illness, so steer clear of that hacking, sniffling co-worker who felt the need to bring his/her @ss to work anyways.

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The Surprise

I’m trying to figure out what on earth goes through the mind of someone who thinks it’s a good idea to surprise someone. I’m talking about real surprises, big surprises–not little things like bringing someone his/her favorite food without that person expecting it. I mean stuff that draws a crowd/eyeballs or puts someone on the spot. I think there are people out there who believe everyone likes surprises. But rest assured, I most certainly do not.

So, I was at work today, trying hard to get schitt done. Since I started working this job, there have been more things I’ve realized that I don’t like about it…one being that it’s hard to tell from day to day how busy it’s going to be. You can walk in and there’s absolutely nothing to do; the next day you can get slammed. Today we were slammed. I’m a work-life balance kind of chick, so you can forget about me staying late regardless of the fact that I’d get paid overtime. Free time > money in my world. So I was rushing to make sure I’d finish my work on time.

I was in the middle of hard work, and my eyes quickly moved across the room in that way it does when I’m not actually seeing anything–it just means I’m in a hurry and very focused. In a blur, I saw a lady and did a double take. It really was the chick from my employment agency. Still distracted, I greeted her and went back to work. Then she said they came to see me. I looked back up, and this time I noticed she was with another chick from the agency, as well as my manager.

Naturally, I thought I was about to get fired or receive a talking-to about something. Come to think of it, getting fired probably would have been preferable to what actually happened.

My employment agency was having some kind of drawing, and it turns out I won. I won a bunch of bullschitt and a very little bit of money…very little bit. Wouldn’t pay for me and a date to have a proper dining experience, to be honest with you. Whatever, they could have just, like, dropped my schitt off at the front door or left it with my manager or something.

But noooooo…they had to turn it into a big thing, all game-show-y and crap…over some bullschitt and pocket change. They did two of the worst things you can do to me–made me take photos and drew a lot of attention to me. And as if that wasn’t enough, they’re actually going to send these photos out to people! Look, if I dodge cameras when family members pull them out, why would I want to take pics for my employer and then have them sent to more non-familial people? I mean, not one family member of mine has a recent pic of me. My sister in Chicago whipped out the ole cell phone as we were leaving on Sunday, and, naturally, I had to throw a quick hand up like always on these little family visits. I do not take pics–what do people not get about this?

I daydream a lot about being famous. I’ve done it all my life, literally–every single day of my life since I can remember. As I wrote in another post a while back, I used to want to be an actress when I was a kid. I wrote scripts and performed them. Then I moved on to music and spent several years working on a music career that never really materialized…thankfully. Ever since I left school, whenever I play basketball I pretend I am playing for real, like in the WNBA, and just kind of regret not caring enough about playing ball when I was in school and still could have had some kind of opportunity. For a while, I played bball every day and just pretended as if I was in a big game, making all the big plays.

And then there’s the one thing for which I’ve always actually been destined, even when I thought I wanted to be a psychologist, doctor, lawyer, sports writer and now an IT professional–to write a book. Just about everyone who knows me knows that someday I will be writing books for a living (key phrase is “for a living”–I have written plenty of books, most of which haven’t been seen or read by anyone). I don’t tell them–in fact, as far back as 3rd grade, people have been telling me that’s what I would do. I was recently told that I should write a book, as well, for the 50 millionth time from the 50 millionth person. I’ve gone back and forth on whether or not to publish under my name, and now I see that if I want to maintain my sanity, no, I shouldn’t.

Gawd, I would so hate being famous. Even just a little bit of attention for my work would be entirely too much, which is why I say “thankfully” in regards to my music career that wasn’t. I would be one of those celebs who is a total @ss to the media and would whine about my [lack of] privacy all the time and how horrible it is to have fame. I do not like attention at all, unless on an one-on-one basis. Dude, a crowd actually gathered at work to see this totally unnecessary presentation for winning a simple drawing, and I just wanted to figure out how to end everything without being a rude b!tch. And then I had people I didn’t know coming up to me about it, people whining because they didn’t win, people “joking” about wanting a piece of the money. I seriously thought about just giving the money to one of them and being done with it–it really isn’t enough money for people to have an attitude because they didn’t win or to be harassing me about paying for their lunch.

This is not at all how I wanted my day to go, nor was it how I wanted to spend my day–being embarrassed surprised in front of everyone and then talking about it with a bunch of people the rest of the day. Hopefully tomorrow I will be back in my anonymous hole where I belong.

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Operation Find A Job Pt. 5–What Employers Value

5) You Don’t Know What Employers Value. Probably the biggest misconception out there is about education. A lot of people who struggle with finding a job think they are not educated enough. Some of them have never attended college while others already have a degree and are thinking about going back to school. Throwing education at unemployment is not the answer, especially if you’d have to go into debt to do it. I know there are some cities in the US where you’ll see a lot of job ads that want someone with a college degree. But honestly, a lot of those jobs pay a salary you can make without a college degree at a job that doesn’t require one. And I’ve had a few jobs like that–many of them, if not all of them, had employees who either didn’t have a degree or who were currently in college.

Also, look carefully at various job ads some time. Many of the ones that ask for a degree also ask for some years of work experience. Unless it is one of those fields that requires a degree, i.e. nursing, teaching or law, the degree is optional and the work experience matters way more. Indeed, you can have that nursing or law degree or a degree related to teaching and still struggle to get hired because you lack a couple of years of work experience.

I’m not saying don’t go to college–at least not in this post, because I virtually grab people all the time and try to tell them not to go to college when they question it. Just understand that college is no longer the direct path to getting a good and well-paying job, because, unfortunately, so many people don’t know this before they take out huge student loans and proceed on towards a degree.

I was reading a blog a few weeks ago, and the blogger kind of made fun of people who complain about how expensive and worthless degrees are by saying, basically, “Well, then just don’t go to college. Duh.” Well, duh some more–people complain about degrees after they’ve already gone to college, not before. People don’t really go to college to party–I’d like to think most people aren’t going to take on 5-figure debt just for four years of having fun. They go because they think it will secure their future, or because their parents make them go because their parents think it will secure their future (happened to my oldest sister). If they knew before the fact that it does not necessarily do this, colleges would be a lot emptier. Unlike the blogger who was poking fun, I don’t view this as entitlement, either–or, perhaps I do but don’t see anything wrong with feeling entitled to what you were indirectly or directly promised (if not by your school or your parents, by society), which was not unemployment or working for $8/hr somewhere after graduation when you could have worked there for $8/hr before the fact.

So, I am simply saying don’t think college is the answer to your unemployment woes and, thus, start trading job applications for college applications. You need to understand that work experience matters more than college and graduate degrees in most cases. Go back to square one, and go through my first three pieces of advice on finding a job before you start applying to college or graduate programs. If you’re on point in regards to #1-4 and you’re still struggling, then it might be time to consider #6…

Next Time: Pt. 6–Time To Get Real[istic]

Pt. 1–You’re Not Focusing Your Job Search

Pt. 2–Your Resume Isn’t Cutting It

Pt. 3–You Don’t Know How To Apply

Pt. 4–You Need To Learn How To Interview

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Operation Find A Job Pt. 4–How To Interview

4) You Need To Learn How To Interview. Now, let’s say you’re one of those people whose resume must be right and you’re applying the right way, because you’re getting called in for interviews. So, you’re going on interviews. Perhaps you’re even making it through to the next round of interviews, when required. But after that, it’s crickets. Or rejection letters/emails. You don’t understand it.

Um, not too hard to understand–there’s something about the way you interview. It doesn’t even have to be that you come across negatively in any way. It could just be that someone is always coming across as more so the type of person with whom this employer would rather work. That’s fine, to a degree…but at some point, you need to be the one who comes across as the person an employer would most prefer to have.

I know a bunch of people who just don’t “get it” about interviews. Look, once you get called in for an interview, you’ve basically passed the qualifications assessment test–now it’s a personality test. Now, I know everyone nowadays has social anxiety disorder or is taking pills for something or the other. I’ve told you a thousand times on this blog that I can’t stand people. But it’s time to put on your tap-dancing shoes and give the performance of your life. If I can do it, you can do it. Act your ass off in that job interview. Be likeable. Be friendly. Be agreeable. Appear as if you’re easy to talk to and as if you can talk about a variety of topics that have nothing to do with work with absolutely anyone. Have that can-do attitude. Be outgoing. Even if this is not how you are, you need to be this way for 30 minutes or an hour.

In the earlier stages of my blog, I worked tech support for a small company. And I used to write about this female tech with whom I worked who had serious personality problems. I know that she had been applying for jobs and going on job interviews for years while working for this company because others there told me. She thought once she graduated from college that she was out of there, but it just hasn’t worked out like that. Still, she has seen others at this company come and go, several of them leaving for better, higher-paying jobs. I’m sure she wonders why other people are getting good jobs while she can’t, especially since she is very knowledgeable in IT.

Um. So, someone who is quiet, awkward, can’t look people in the eye when she’s speaking to them, speaks at an inappropriate voice volume (either way too low or spikes too loud while she’s talking), is overly emotional and has a habit of speaking in a rude way wants to know why she doesn’t get hired after job interviews? I can only imagine how her job interviews go. If she didn’t know how to perform around her co-workers, even to some degree, then I’m sure she’s not performing in job interviews…because the performance you give in a job interview is going to have to carry over to the job once you receive it, even if not full force.

I think advice articles steer people a little bit wrong when it comes to interviewing advice, and I think people make too big a deal about interviews. For example, I don’t really think you need to “study” a company before an interview and then whip out info about the company to show how interested you are. I don’t prep for interviews beyond what I’m curious to know. I certainly visit the company’s web site, I ask questions in the interview and I might even look up reviews from former/current employees. But I do it for me–not for the interview. And I think when you do it for you, it’s easier to come across as naturally interested as opposed to “interested because an article about job interviews told me to do these things.” If you’re busy thinking about what an article or web site said, then that’s where your focus is in the interview–not on showing the type of personality you need to be showing.

To me, interviews are just what I said–a performance, unless you’re the type of person who is naturally sociable and outgoing. A lot of us aren’t like that. If you need to do any prep, it’s to get yourself ready to be “on.” Interviews are about you seeing if the job is right for you, learning about what the job is and the expectations, performing (if you need to) in order to pass the personality test that is before you and talking about you–largely your resume and past work experience.

Lost in all the traditional advice given in interview pieces is not only that you need to show the right personality and hit the right chords with the employer in terms of who you are…but also that you’re being evaluated on your speech. It really does matter in a lot of cases, and I’ve had employers flatout tell me it matters that I speak well during the job interview. So be mindful of this, as well.

You have to understand that the need to perform does not equate to the need to be over the top and obvious about the fact that you’re not being exactly who you are. I just think there are examples all around us of people who appear to be confident, friendly, conversational and such that we can easily copy in a job interview, and that’s what we’ve got to do. If you’re not comfortable with this, I think the best way to get comfortable with it is through doing a bunch of interviews. I feel like most interviews, more or less, go the same way, and they are–as I said–largely about your resume, which is a part of the hiring process that you’ve essentially already passed anyways. It’s funny that people worry so much about what questions they’ll be asked, especially given that they’ve already passed the questions, for the most part. Now it’s about how you sound, act and look when you answer. Do interviews to get used to the questions, but, more importantly, to get used to performing and speaking a certain way while answering the questions. Do mock interviews or real interviews for jobs you don’t really care whether or not you get offered.

Now that I’m used to the performance aspect, when I am contacted for interviews I know that the job is as good as mine at that point. This is despite being a black female who is almost always interviewing with a white man or a white woman (and I would like to emphasize again here that you need to appear to have no problem talking to anyone about a variety of non-work topics, which might be the #1 reason why I can get white Southern men to hire me). The hardest part for me is just getting the callback. I almost never get rejected after a job interview–and, again, this is coming from a self-proclaimed people hater, a loner, someone who is socially challenged and quiet (someone who, if I were a white male, would fit the profile of a serial killer, if you will–I know this). If you learn how to interview correctly and focus on what’s really important in job interviews, neither will you.

What can I say? Acting was the first thing I ever seriously wanted to do with my life. Didn’t work out, but it’s serving me well anyhow. 😉

Next Time: Pt. 5–Employers and Their Values

Pt. 1–You’re Not Focusing Your Job Search

Pt. 2–Your Resume Isn’t Cutting It

Pt. 3–You Don’t Know How To Apply

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Operation Find A Job Pt. 3–How To Apply

3) You Don’t Know How To Apply. A lot of people seem to think Craigslist is a scam. But in my experience, it’s the best place to apply for jobs. There are definitely scam listings on Craigslist, but you have to learn how to spot them before you submit a resume. I always try to look for an email address that seems valid that is posted in the ad, i.e. it has a company name in the address, and look for a company name or site address that looks professional (i.e. not salesbiz.com) in the listing. I also look at how much the advertised salary is, and if it seems too high for the job description I don’t apply.

I pay attention to how often I see the same ad listed, spelling and grammar, and how the job itself is described. There are job ads that seem to be posted on Craigslist several times a month for several months, and that just seems odd to me–seems that if it’s a real position it ought to be filled within a month, and even if they’re having to re-hire that tells you something, too. I’ve mentioned a few times on my blog about a previous job I had where I repaired laptops, and I see that company advertising all the time on Craigslist. It’s a legitimate job, but there’s a reason they’re always hiring–the best employees get tired of the bullschitt and leave at some point, and they “lay off” people who can’t meet their unrealistic standards all the time but they lie to them about why they’ve been laid off, i.e. that they don’t have enough work.

Also, I’ve found that legitimate Craigslist ads tend to be fairly well-written, though this is not 100%. More on this in a second, but the general rule is ignore ads in all caps, poor spelling, and poor grammar–especially if they don’t have any information such as a company name or an email address that seems legitimate or professional, not a Hotmail or Yahoo! one. And be wary of jobs that seem too good to be true or like they will hire anyone, or jobs that sound like sales or multi-level marketing jobs that don’t pay a steady salary.

Another good use of Craigslist can be posting your own “seeking work” ad, but it depends on how you write it. No matter what, you will get a bunch of fake emails. But if you’re creative enough and write the ad with your mind towards what employers look for, you will also get actual employers responding to you. I actually got a job this way once, and the woman who responded to me sent a poorly-written email. If she hadn’t put the company’s phone number in the email for me to look up online and verify it was a legitimate business, I might have ignored it. But it turned into a job interview, and I was hired.

The first thing you’ll have to do is write a subject line that stands out from the hundreds of other “seeking” ads on Craigslist. Second, in the ad make yourself sound like an employer’s dream–no excuses, always on time, can-do attitude, pleasant demeanor. Make yourself sound like an ass kisser who is always happy and willing. Third, let them know what skills you have and what you’re interested in. I’ve been contacted for legitimate positions almost every single time I’ve posted this kind of ad (just not always with the kind of position I wanted), but it really starts with having the right subject line in order to get employers to click–something creative and something that lets employers know you’re different from other employees. Make it sound like it’s all about them, not about how you need a job right this instant.

So, I’ve gotten several jobs through Craigslist, but anyone who reads the blog enough will also see that I’ve gotten jobs through employment agencies, as well. In my opinion, employment agencies are hit-or-miss, especially depending on where you live, and you also have to be looking for certain kinds of jobs in order for them to be of real use. Employment agencies weren’t worth schitt for me when I was in Chicago, but they’ve been the primary way I’ve found work since being back in my hometown. In Chicago, it just could have been the kinds of jobs I was looking for, as I had no IT experience back then and wasn’t really looking for IT jobs when I first got there. But in my hometown, it almost feels as if IT jobs primarily hire through employment agencies. Pretty much everyone I’ve worked with at my current and previous jobs came through an employment agency, even if they are now full-time employees directly of the company for which we work.

I’ve also found jobs through job listings on college career services sites, and this was despite not technically being a student at that particular college.

I think these are the best ways to find jobs–Craigslist, employment agencies and career services sites. I have never heard a peep through sites like Indeed or SimplyHired, and the one time I heard anything from sites like Monster is when an employment agency posted an ad there (the one through which I’m currently employed).

I think filling out applications in any way, shape or form is a waste of time. You always want to apply for jobs to which you submit just your resume and cover letter. If they want an app after that, that’s fine. But you need someone to actually look at your resume, and you’re probably not going to get that when you apply via app, especially if you apply online. Most, if not all, sites use a filtering key word system that will wipe out even qualified applicants, but the thing is their applications are extensive and time-consuming. It’s not worth it to spend an hour filling out an application when you have a better shot at a job where you just email your resume after writing a 10-minute tailored cover letter.

And I’m surprised that people still physically go out and submit resumes or apps. This, too, is largely a waste, in my opinion. What’s worse is some people still advise people to do this. I’ve seen people say that it helps your chances for the employer to see you.

Look, I’ve worked places where people would come in and ask for applications or submit apps they filled out already. Greater than 9 times out of 10, you’re handing in your application to someone who has absolutely nothing to do with hiring you. That person takes your app and puts it in a stack that no one touches or in a mail thingy on the manager’s office door. That manager might go through those apps if someone quits or is fired and he needs someone right away, but more often than not your app is merely one in a million that just sits somewhere. The manager will hire someone via recommendation from a current employee, family member or from an employment agency before he hires someone who submits a handwritten app. And even if you get the opportunity to hand your resume or app directly to a hiring manager, it usually makes no difference at all. He/she will encourage you to your face, but your app is still going in the stack of infinity.

You don’t need to go anywhere. And the thing about going out asking for apps is these places usually aren’t looking to hire, kind of as I suggested above. Just stay home, hop on the computer, make sure your resume is alright, pound out a good cover letter for each job ad you like and submit resumes via email. Focus on places that actually say they are hiring and are asking for submissions–this gets more results than physically pounding the pavement and submitting apps to random businesses.

And one more thing before I move on–passing your resume on to someone else to pass on. I haven’t seen where this works, either. Usually, the person to whom you give your resume has no real influence, so it’s as good as your emailing your resume to wherever this person is sending it.

You’ll notice that I don’t mention networking, although that’s not to say that networking doesn’t work. But I recognize that most of us don’t have that networking sort of personality, including myself, and aren’t going to do it no matter what. Many job advice articles you read will continue to tell you that you need to network, but I’m telling you whatever I think is more important, works more often or is something that any of us can or simply must do. You don’t have to network. Still, in a sense, I did get my last job through networking. The best part was I hadn’t purposely set out to network my way into a job when it happened, which is so awkward. Whenever I’ve tried to network, it didn’t get me anywhere. So I say don’t force networking. Focus on the other tips I’m giving you, and if you see a natural opportunity to network with which you feel comfortable take it.

Next Time: Pt. 4–The Truth About Job Interviews

Pt. 1–You’re Not Focusing Your Job Search

Pt. 2–Your Resume Isn’t Cutting It

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Operation Find A Job Pt. 2–Your Resume

2) Your Resume Isn’t Cutting It. A lot of people don’t really believe this is the case. But let me tell you–if you’re sending out resumes and you’re not getting any responses, especially if you’re focusing your job search correctly and using a variety of mediums for applying, then the problem is your resume.

While searching for my first “adult” job, I ran up against a few people who wanted to get a few hundred bucks out of poor job seekers in order to properly write their resume. But instead of getting scammed, I kind of scammed all of these people. I would submit my resume to them for the initial free consultation and, of course, they’d rip it to shreds. Now, you’d think that these people, just wanting money, would tell you some things that aren’t exactly true about your resume just to sucker you in and get you to pay them. But one, in particular, gave me a lot of really good info. The others gave me one or two things that were true and useful, but the guy who gave me a lot of good stuff? I scammed the hell out of him. I took all his good info and ran, never to be heard from again.

He basically told me that resumes should have active words and not just state what you did. Resumes should focus on results and achievements. So…I took the info he gave me, took it a step further by doing internet searches on resumes that did what he said resumes should do, and I looked at those examples. I spent one weekend re-writing my resume to be more like those resumes I saw online. Then I continued focusing my job search. I can honestly tell you that since changing my resume using this guy’s advice, I have gotten great results/more responses from employers.

With a lot of people, they will say something like, “I know it’s not my resume. Others have looked at it, and they respond positively to it.” Well, the same was true for me before I learned how to write my resume the way this one guy who wanted a couple hundred bucks to do it essentially taught me without charging me. Most resumes I see are not like how this guy said they should be or the examples after which I modeled mine. They don’t show how you, as an employee, have made an impact and gotten results where you’ve worked; they state the duties for which you were responsible and assignments you completed. No one knows this is relatively ineffective because this is how everyone was taught that resumes should be written. But up against a person who has presented solid figures for how how much they increased revenue, brought in more business or drove up customer satisfaction? Merely listing duties looks kind of bland.

Obviously, if you’ve just graduated from college and don’t have much or any work experience, you have a resume problem. Still, you should be able to get a ranky-dank customer service job without having a resume full of results/impact. Best case scenario is you have internships, summer work experience, part-time work while in school or just something that looks like work experience that can go on your resume. If not?

You gotta do what you gotta do. And what you might have to do right here is be less than honest. Yeah, I said (wrote) it. And this goes for anyone who needs a job right now. If worse comes to worse, you might need to stretch the truth on your resume. And it kills me how so many people poo poo this. Most people will tell you to volunteer or do something else that doesn’t pay. But what if you need cash? You have bills. You have student loans. You might even have kids. You don’t have time to volunteer for a year and hope somebody will pick you up permanently and pay you. I’m not telling you to lie–I’m just saying you don’t have to be 100% honest.

What is people’s deal with being less than honest? Are you worried someone is going to find out? Do you think you’ll be banned from working ever again? Do you think you will be fired? News for ya–you already don’t have a job. If you get a job based on less than honesty, someone finds out and you get fired, hey–at least you were getting paid for a period of time…vs now, when you’re sitting there with nothing. Big deal if you get fired. Get the job first. If you’ve been unemployed for a long time, what do you really have to lose?

Honestly, there’s no real reason why anyone ever has to find out you were less than honest. Don’t get the position and start running your mouth or letting inconsistencies fly. And if you use people to help you be less than honest about the experience you have, get with them ahead of time and work out what you all will say. Seriously, work out all the details ahead of time.

You gotta do what you gotta do, right? Nowadays, you are magically expected to get work experience without being allowed to get work experience. I advise that if there is something you know you know how to do–perhaps you do it all the time but just don’t have formal work experience doing it–get with people who are willing to say you worked for them and serve as a reference, and slap this on your resume, maybe as freelance or contract work. I am so not kidding. If employers are going to be ridiculous with you, they’ve got it coming. Nobody’s got time for all these unrealistic roadblocks to getting hired, and listing your education, all your school activities, all your school honors and semesters on the Dean’s List aren’t getting you anywhere. If you have to manufacture work experience in order to get a job, do it.

Like I said, this should be a last resort. I had several people who were willing to be references for me as a contractor when I decided I wanted to get into IT because they knew I had the knowledge–some of them are people I’d help with tech issues on several occasions–but I ended up getting an entry-level IT job where they just basically hired anybody (they hired hundreds of “just anybody”s, and it showed every single day). So I never had to use any of my faux references…but, trust me, I damn-sure would have had it come to that. I have no shame, and neither should anyone else when it comes to getting a job and surviving.

I can’t emphasize enough, though, that if you’re going to make up work experience, it does need to be something you know a lot about or for which you have skills, just not in a formal sense. On one of the tech message boards I sometimes visit, I saw another user basically advise a newbie to IT who is applying for jobs to be dishonest (and, of course, others jumped in and disagreed). But he also pointed out that in IT, anyway, if you say you know your stuff and you don’t, you’ll probably get found out. I think this is true. I mean, I had an interview for an IT position once where I interviewed with four different people, and my interview with one of the owners basically was a verbal quiz about networks. I don’t come from an IT background and, at the time, had very little formal IT work experience…but I aced the verbal quiz, and so I was hired.

Employers don’t always test what you know in job interviews, but it does happen–and if it does happen when you’ve made up work experience in something in which you lack knowledge, you’re busted. So, the user who was advising the newbie to be less than honest is on the same page as I am–be dishonest if you know you have what it takes but just lack the experience to prove it.

Next Time: Pt. 3–Looking For Jobs In All the Wrong Places

Pt.1–You’re Not Focusing Your Job Search

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Operation Find A Job Pt.1–Focusing Your Search

It’s funny that I just put up an “about” page about how this blog is for me, because I’m about to present an entire series of posts that actually is for you. I have changed jobs, what, 50 million times since keeping this blog. And when I re-found my most recent job opportunity, it occurred to me that I should probably put up a post letting people know how I do it. But I’m just now finding the words to make decent post on this topic.

I definitely used to be one of those people who struggled to find a job. I was in the “degree but no experience” category, and our society was shifting towards work experience being the end-all be-all with degrees carrying less and less meaning or allure. Now, some 10 years later, you finally see articles, videos and stories on the news about the education debt crisis and the damage student loans are doing to young people’s lives, young people who are either not working or are “underemployed,” etc. But this problem, as I suggested, started well before the media really got hold of it. So…for someone like me back then, there were no articles or real advice out there to help me.

And if you have been in the position of struggling to find work for months, especially if you have had to rely on the help of others financially during this time frame, you know that people are not at all sympathetic or understanding. They throw advice at you, most of which is not helpful but with the tone of, “Come on, it’s easy; you’re just not trying hard enough.” Or they try to “help” find a job and show you job listings that, for one reason or another, don’t fit your background or interests. They give you generic advice without the understanding that each field is different and your field has its own set of rules–I have found this is true for law, and I have found this is true for IT, for example.

Well, let me introduce you to my motto, which has served me well:

You gotta do what you gotta do.

If you start to think like this and act with this in mind, you will find a job. I am not promising you the job of your dreams. Clearly, I have worked fairly steadily since conquering my problem of finding a job but have hated every job (except my current one). But still, you need the money. Get a job first, get the necessary work experience and then deal with finding a job you can at least tolerate. Best case scenario is the job of your dreams, but that’s something most of us never find/get.

There are six big things I see with people who stay unemployed for a long time:

1) You’re Not Focusing. Yeah, you sit at your computer every day and shoot off at least 20 applications. Or you drive around, stopping at every business you see and asking if they’re hiring, filling out apps, etc.

Yeah–this is not focusing. You need to figure out, first of all, what you’re most qualified to do. Then, among the list of what you’re qualified to do, figure out what you’re willing to do. Then you need to apply for those jobs only. See, you’re not getting results by applying any and everywhere because the hiring manager either throws your app/resume in the trash altogether or, when he/she looks at it, they’re trying to figure out why you even bothered because they see no connection whatsoever between your background and the positions they have available. Why are you interested? Why are you qualified? Never fill out an app and, on the blank by “what position interests you?” write in “any.” There has to be a match between your background and a known position if you want a realistic shot at getting a job out of the deal.

Focusing your search helps you get better results. It also wastes less of your time and causes you less frustration. There might be days when you only apply for one position. But if it’s a position that fits you perfectly and all signs point to there being a pretty good likelihood you’ll get a callback for an interview based on the listed requirements, job duties and what you’ve done, then that is far more productive than scouring every job board online and applying for 30 seemingly random positions.

For people who have the issue I had of not having much work experience, my observation/experience is you’re little qualified for much more than customer service types of positions. That’s the way it is–doesn’t matter how much your degree cost, and it damn-near doesn’t matter what your degree is in (there are, of course, exceptions). You’re looking at a low-paying job where you’re going to have to deal with assholes all day, more than likely. Retail, hospitality, front desk, call center, tech support/help desk, food/restaurant types of garbage. This is what you should largely be applying for. Sad but true. Stick it out for a year, do the best job you can so you can get good job references or be the first in line for a better position where you work, focus on getting promoted or gaining skills that will allow you to move on to bigger and better things.

For me, I got down to the point where I would do just about anything except fast food and cleaning. Somehow, I got the idea to apply to hotels/hospitality, which I had not been doing before. It just seemed like an easy job, and much of the time it was. It wasn’t long before I got my first full-time, post-graduate job working in the hospitality industry. Within a year, I was being offered management positions at my hotel. And if that had been something I wanted to do, I would likely be making more money than I currently do and working in hospitality. But the experience still helped me get other, higher-paying jobs than what I started with.

Next Time: Pt. 2–Why Your Resume Isn’t Cutting It

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