1,007 miles in a week and back to Square One

September 24, 2010

My latest job-hunting adventure began on Thursday, Sept. 2, when I opened my “business” e-mail account to see a job listed on schoolsroung.com and ended three weeks later — yesterday afternoon — with a phone call.

The short version is that I had my best possibility for a job since I got laid off, and it would have been the best possible job I have considered. I would have gone back to teaching at Ledyard High School in Connecticut, with an excellent class load and working for a principal who was a great colleague and a close friend.

Unfortunately, the committee chose an “exceptional” candidate over me.

I am surprisingly OK with it. It would have been great, and it would have paid extremely well, but it would have uprooted us and made the next month or so very stressful. I chose to put it in God’s hands (or the Cosmic Muffin, depending on your belief system), and I am taking it as a message that I need to work harder on my writing and make something from that.

We’re managing OK for the time being, and I am working on some other ideas to make money.

So here’s what happened:

I saw the ad and e-mailed the principal, who told me that if his superintendent felt they could afford me (I have a lot of experience), he would interview me).

I then spent almost three hours banging out all the application materials.

They got 70+ applications in eight days, and last week I had a phone screening.

Monday, I drove 400 miles round trip for a good interview with the principal, his assistant and two Social Studies teacher.

I did well enough that I got invited to teach a sample lesson on Wednesday. It was 30 minutes on the “Trail of Tears.” It went well, and the kids even applauded at the end. I stayed Tuesday and Wednesday nights with my daughter Theresa, in Worcester, Mass., which was about 75 minutes from the school.

I spent yesterday hanging around, waiting for the call and finally got it in the afternoon. I was disappointed, and I know it was a hard phone call for my friend to make.

As my friend said, “It is what it is.” Back to job-hunting, resume-writing and writing.

Of course, this morning I open schoolspring.com to see that the middle school in my hometown (not far from where I was interviewing) has a one-year position open. I decided to pass on it, but then a friend IMed me to tell me there were a couple retirements expected at the high school.

Nope, the fun never ends.


Working toward the future

May 2, 2010

The days seem to run together sometimes during a job hunt, but I am pretty sure it was Thursday that I had a really good day.

It was a day more about the future than the present. I spent more than five hours, pulling together my teaching application packets for the Internet. I still need to do some actual, physical packets, but there are several sites out there that hold your application materials online and then let you apply for a job with the click of a button. One of them, SchoolSpring.com, also pops your generic cover letter up so you can personalize it. The other, OLAS is used by many of the school districts in New York.

So after slogging through the setup and update process, I applied for 16 jobs in somewhere less than 90 minutes.

I have application in for New York schools, including Moravia, Greater Amsterdam, Duanesburg, Cherry Valley, Pelham, North Salem, Harrison, White Plains, Byram Hills and the Believe High School Network of Brooklyn. Also, South Burlington, Vt., a hospital teaching position in Pembroke, Mass., and two more from Massachusetts, Agawam and Ayer.

I got the polite rejection note from the really cool interview I went on a couple of weeks ago. I still have never heard back from the vast majority of the applications.

I did have a real disappointment this week. Ommegang Brewery was looking for a local representative to handle tastings in the area. I responded right away, but I never heard back, Dang!


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.


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 time to dance faster!

March 4, 2010

My current, fervent hope is that the old cliché, “When one door closes, another opens” turns out to be true for me.

One of the things that being laid off has done is to allow me to do more writing. That’s something I always said I wanted to de, and I now I can – and must – do that. I have to admit, I have not been taking advantage of this as I should, but today’s a new day, and I am hard at it.

The neat thing is that this expansion of writing is also leading me in new career directions. I have always wanted to do more freelancing and writing, and here’s the chance to do it.

What am I writing? Well, this blog for one thing. I am trying to expand it a bit and talk about job-search methods, especially social networking. I am also expanding my beer blog at Short Pours, here on Word Press.

I’ve launched PLQ Freelancing, and I am currently working on a social-networking project and a series of resumes. I am doing a lot of game coverage for the local newspaper, because the high school basketball playoffs are upon us. Glens Falls is the center for these tournaments, from now until the last weekend of March.

Beyond that, I am developing some travel and opinion articles to pitch to newspapers and magazines. Of course, like most of my friends, I have several novels percolating, so we will see what happens there.

Oh, and I am writing a lot of cover letters for jobs. A lot.

I think the message here is that as much as I would like to just pull up the covers and wait for the phone to ring with a spiffy job, it’s time to really start pushing in new directions.