So, Bill, what can *you* do for *me*?

March 29, 2010

One of the reasons I am writing this blog is to make sure everyone possible knows that I am job-hunting and seeking freelance writing work.

Here are the answers to two basic questions.

So, Bill, you have said you are freelancing. What kinds of things can you do for me or people I know?

Press releases
Pre-writing your obituary
Newspaper, magazine, web articles
Social-networking coordination
Web-site critiques
Letters of complaint, etc.

So, Bill, what kind of full-time work are you qualified for?

Teaching History Social Studies in public schools
Teaching English and related subjects in private schools
Newspaper reporting and editing.
Web writing, editing and social-networking
Public relations
Directing various types of non-profits
Grant writing
Corporate communications
Some types of technical writing

My resume is available for anyone who wants to see it.

Please pass any of this on.


So where do I go from here?

March 19, 2010

So here we are on Day 50 of the job hunt.

I have been spending  a lot of time in front of the computer, and I think the “Sent Resume” stack has topped 30 at least. No new movement at all in terms of responses, not even a “No, thanks” in the last week or two. I’ve also been doing a lot of networking and learning more and more about social networking.

As I have said before, you do a lot of introspection when you are unemployed and figuring out where to go next.

What I find odd about my particular job hunt, is that it’s got multiple goals. I am using letters, rather than numbers in this list,  because there is not necessarily a hierarchy.

A. Replace my previous job: This would mean working for a non-profit organization or perhaps a small/medium for-profit, either in human services, running a program or doing communications-heavy work. In this case, I would hope it would be local enough that I would not have to replace my $1,000 pickup truck. A longer commute would probably force that issue. Here we’re also looking at salaries similar to what I was making, or maybe a little higher.

B. Get up another step: Find a job that really meets my skills, and in the better scenario, one which is fairly local and represents a raise of more than $100 a week. This could happen. These jobs exist, and this would be a case in which the layoff would prove to be a boon in disguise. I believe in this. I really do. What kinds of jobs are we talking about? There are likely some that I have not visualized yet. Some of those I am thinking about would involve being a reporter or editor at a newspaper or online media outlet, running publication relations for a company or group, directing the training department or a training program at a company of almost any size, being a director of volunteers, running a human-services program such as a homeless shelter, food bank or something similar, likely for a non-profit, or working in one of these fields at a local or state agency.

C. Get back in the classroom: This has always been the long-term plan. I am passionate about teaching and I am very, very good at it. Trouble is, the economy that is depressing the job market is strangling teaching hiring, and while I am very good and highly experienced, I also cost substantially more than a second- or third-year teacher. But I would be happy to go to a Catholic or other private school. I can show certifications for Massachusetts and Connecticut, and Vermont would only require paying the fee. I am three test scores away from full New York certification, and I should have that by summer. I could likely get hired here anyway. But I teach Social Studies, and there are a lot of applicants.

D. Work for myself: This just might be The Grail, and if I could do it, I would look back at the day I got laid off as the day I was set free. I’ve got all the skills to run my own freelance writing and editing business, and honestly that’s the only way I am bringing money in right now. I am expanding my contacts and looking in other directions, such as writing resumes, doing social-networking campaigns and pre-writing obituaries. I won’t be filing for full unemployment this  week, because I will be spending all day Friday and Saturday (plus Sunday, which is a new week,) covering the state public school boys’ basketball tournament, which is in town. Next weekend is the state Federation tournament for boys and girls. I have been covering hockey, and I know I can keep doing similar work. This is a long-term goal and, frankly, I know it’s a long shot, but it is a possibility, and it’s something I never would have done if I had not gotten laid off.

E. Go back to school: This would actually be a corollary to “Working For Myself,” and really represent working two jobs. I have been back to school once, to get my Master of Arts in Teaching, and I was a far better student than I was as an undergraduate. Part of the problem here is figuring out what to pursue. Do I add an English or Special Education certification to make myself more marketable as a teacher? Do I get an administrative certification? There is serious money down that road, but I really like working with kids, and you get less of that. Do I go after a marketing or human resources degree or pursue more computer education. I figure I have at least 15 years of work, maybe more, ahead of me, and that would be plenty of time for a new career. Do I go in another direction, say adding massage certification to the writing and being able to work at both those things? Is there something else out there?

Thank you for letting me share. The blog is a major positive part of the experience I am going through right now. It’s good to have you with me.

Hard at work on the job hunt

March 18, 2010

Reading the help-wanted ads, which for some of us happens multiple times every day, can be an exercise in frustration and wonder.

Who knew tattoo artists were in such demand? When are your political views critical for job-application success?  Why didn’t we all climb more trees? Exactly what is a dirndl and do you have to make your own?

And just how many “Stay at home and get rich quick” schemes are there, really?

What you’ve got to remember about this sampling from jobs advertised in a 50-mile radius around Albany, NY. The mind boggles to think about the specific skills and past experiences wanted in jobs all over the country.

One of the favorites so far was for a bartender at a German beer garden. It’s a great bartending job, because there are no mixed drinks at all, just pouring tap beers, opening bottles and pouring wine for those odd folks who must have wine in a beer bar. The catch? There are a couple, actually. First, you must have experience with soccer (make sure you call it futbol). There will be a taste. Second, while the ad says the job is open to men and women, it also notes that at the time of the ad, there were no female bartenders. Oh, and to the female applicants, there will be special events when you’ll need to wear a dirndl. (Think Heidi or the St Pauli Girl). Fascinating. The temptation would be to go to the interview in full Austrian regalia, juggling a soccer ball with both knees. (Folks, I think he’s filled it anyway, so you can take the shin pads and eye black off).

In the last couple of months, there have been at least five ads looking for tattoo artists, ranging from Lake Luzerne, down to Ulster County. This is a career path none of our guidance counselors ever mentioned.

No one ever talked about go-go dancing skills either, and honestly not many of us went out and picked up the skills to pilot a 100-ton cruise boat on Lake George for the summer. Your chances of getting the go-go dancer job are improved if you have bartending skills. You do not, apparently, have to wear a dirndl.

There are some job experiences that just seem a little more difficult to acquire, unless you’re in the “right” industry. Jobs that went unapplied for this week included one requiring an “experienced process server” and another for an experienced tree climber. Some of us mighty have been good at tree-climbing back in the day, but probably not today. This lack of specific experience has also deep-sixed jobs such as “repo man” and “Zamboni driver.”

Then there’s the whole idea that if you don’t know what job ads want, it doesn’t make sense to apply for them. Perhaps you want to work the health-care industry. Well, you better know the differences among PCA, LPN, CNA and HHA.

Here are just part of the requirements for a job doing – well it’s got something to do with computers and wireless stuff.

– Working knowledge of wireless technologies like GSM, UMTS, CDMA, GPRS, EDGE.
– Very good knowledge of TDM signaling protocols like SS7, ISDN PRI&BRI, CAS-R1, CAS-R2, V5.1&V5.

– Very good knowledge of IP networking and various IP Protocols like TCP/IP, UDP, SIP, RTP&SIGTRAN.

Who knew you needed an engineering degree to read the want ads? The good news, though, there’s part of the qualifications that even a former newspaper reporter and teacher can meet — Proficient in Microsoft Office. Now if it weren’t for the pesky TDM signaling protocols.

A couple of times in this job hunt, positions that might have worked otherwise – training positions – were derailed by phrases like “pro-life stance” and “abstinence education.” Tough to work for something you don’t believe in.

Then there are the jobs we are all qualified for. Almost all of us want to make lots of money from home, and those homes usually include a computer. But it seems as though the people making the money on those jobs are the ones who are running the ads.

Finally, who hasn’t been a “Pet Parent” over the years? Who doesn’t want to tell stories about their pets? That’s all you need to be a “Pet Detective.” What’s the job? It’s selling holistic dog food in pet stores.

Well, there’s always tomorrow.

A day off for “Working Press”

March 17, 2010

I worked in an office once, where there was a piece of paper pinned to the wall that said: “The definition if insanity is trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

My typical plan of attack for the day has been to settle down in front of the computer, check my personal e-mail and links, check the job websites, and then bounce back and forth among job letters, this blog, my beer blog and other writing projects.

Yesterday, I decided to focus on job letters, and that worked well. Today, being St. Patrick’s Day, I focused on my beer blog, Short Pours. I got some posts up and have at least one in lien for posting later this week.

Tomorrow, I will focus here. I have a couple of posts percolating in my brain.

No safety net for Catholic school teachers

March 13, 2010

From a paper I used to work at:

New London Day

Norwich – The 20 staff members at St. Joseph School will not receive unemployment compensation if they are laid off and not hired for other positions within the Diocese of Norwich, state and diocesan officials confirmed Thursday.

State statutes say any school or church “operated primarily for religious purposes” is exempt from paying unemployment insurance under the Unemployment Compensation Act. While the school or religious organization can voluntarily opt to pay the insurance and thus make its employees eligible for unemployment compensation, the Diocese of Norwich does not pay the insurance.

Maybe it’s me. As someone who was brought up in the Catholic Church, I would expect better. Sure, they don’t *have* to pay unemployment insurance, but why not do it? Anyone who has taught Catholic (or other private) school knows that many of the folks are getting paid a lot less than their public-school colleagues. People do it for love and for faith and because it’s the right thing to do. Then, they get let go with no unemployment.

This does not seem right to me.

Looking for a job makes you think

March 9, 2010

For a minute there, I thought I was unemployed for longer than I have been. It feels as though it’s pushing two months.

It will be six weeks effective tomorrow, and I am not definitely through the severance an into the unemployment. There are some good things, like being on COBRA and still having health insurance.

There’s also been support from folks around me, people willing to look into jobs at their company or to pass my information on. I’ve also been working steadily covering basketball and hockey games for the local newspaper and for out-of-town ones and I have picked up a couple of consulting gigs.

The not-so-good part? Still only the one interview, which might well have paid off had I lived closer to Albany. The Census Bureau called back to check on my supervisory experience, but there’s been nothing since.

What’s making it even tough is that while I have earned several hundred dollars with the newspaper work, that money’s not going to show up until early April. That doesn’t make for effective cash flow.

But people have gotten through this before, and I intend to be another one of those who do. That means keeping up the daily regimen of checking a half-dozen Internet jobs sites, getting the resumes out and continuing to build social-networking ties. The deeper I get into LinkedIn, the more fascinating it gets. It definitely requires a lot of seed time, responding to threads and making connections. (And my friends are thinking, “Bill, you find this hard?”)

Still edging around Twitter, also I am using one of my Twitter identities to make more connections for the Short Pours, my craft beer blog.

I’ve also greatly expanded my reading about employment news and job-search how-tos. I will admit, though, that it’s hard not to get discouraged. Here’s hoping those things become useful working knowledge for the future.

It’s all about making connections

March 5, 2010

Social networking is nothing new. It’s just got some spiffy new paint and pin-striping.

My life is a social network. I collect friends and contacts. I am one of those, “Hey, Bill, so you know this guy?” or “How do you know that makes good beer?” or anything else along those lines. Among my friends, we call it “The Liamverse.” It’s pretty well based around the Society For Creative Anachronism, a group that is based on Medieval re-creation. (That’s a whole series of topics for another blog).

I am finding that on-line social networking, which is what people mean when they use the phrase these days, is very similar to networking in person, but it comes with a shiny bonus. The connections multiply much faster.

Going into the job-search, I had been active on Live Journal (more than 600 friends) for many years and had also built up a solid number of friends on FaceBook (about 920 at this point). I had barely started using Twitter, and I now have two twitter accounts, one for personal use at “LiamStLiam” and the “BillToscano” account, which is for blogging and job-searching.

The new social networking foray is into LinkedIn. I never realized how powerful that site was, both for connecting with people and finding job leads. What I like is that I have a backbone in place after importing my Gmail and other contacts, and I have found that people are very willing to help. I have connected with Society For Creative Anachronism folks who do freelancing or have job leads. I tracked down the name of the direction of human resources at a local company I am trying to get into it. I think being able to address my letter directly to him will help.

I’ve also connected with a full-time freelancer who has given me excellent direction. That one came from a friend seeing one of my LJ postings and saying, “I have a friend who does this. Want an introduction.” And to be honest, there are several old-school, long-time friends who are helping as well.

The blogs, especially this one, are another part of my effort to reach out, connect and find work, whether it’s full-time or part-time. And, again, I am also teaching myself more about blogging. We’re off to slow start, but that’s OK. I appreciate everyone who comes, and especially those who are commenting. I think it will grow as we go on. Any publicity you might be able to do would be great.

It’s time to work on cover letters. Have a great day.