Fine-tuning the keywords on your résumé

The Consumerist offers the latest in an endless series of articles giving helpful advice to those seeking jobs that don’t exist. This one is about “Tips for Beating the Résumé-Reading Robots of Doom.” Keywords, gaming the system, yada yada.

It’s possible such tips and tricks might make a difference for someone, and I’m sure they’re offered in a genuine attempt to be helpful. But still, after the first 40 or 50 or 500 such articles, it becomes hard to read such advice without it all seeming like it’s an attempt to assign blame. We’ve got more than four jobless workers for every job opening. It’s aggregate demand, stupid. That is why we have widespread, enduring unemployment. Not because we have 14 million people who haven’t sufficiently tweaked the keywords in their résumés for optimal automated sifting.

These earnest offerings of advice all start to blur together after a few weeks, all fusing into a single accusing finger. “You there, member of the 14-million-strong army of the idle, you need to shape up and fix this.” Get to work at finding work. It’s about shoe leather. Pounding the pavement. Working the phone. Surfing the Web. Hop to it!

But they never tell you how to deal with having done all that. They don’t warn you about the bewildering, befuddling vertigo that comes with having done everything they say to do, all to no avail, and having no idea what to do next. There you are, willing and eager to wear away whatever leather there still is on your shoes, but you have no idea what direction to walk. There sits the phone, but you have no one left to call. And you’ve refined your online job-searching skills to the point where it takes you only a fraction of the time to confirm that there’s nothing out there.

Now what? What happens when something must be done, but there is nothing left to do about having nothing to do?

Such repetitive futility is sometimes described as “Sisyphean,” but you come to envy Sisyphus. He never doubts his next step. He has a task at hand and knows what is required and expected of him. The boulder must be rolled up the hill again, and though his back is breaking and his muscles shudder from exhaustion, he will roll it.

But you haven’t got a boulder. Or a hill. Point me to a boulder, you think, and I will gladly break myself pushing it wherever it needs to go. But you’re not Sisyphus and no one is asking you to do that. No one is asking you to do anything. You’ve been trying to get someone to ask you to do something, but no one will.

It’s been five minutes now. Maybe it’s not too soon to check all those websites again. It’s unlikely that anything new will have appeared on there in just the last five minutes, but you’ve got a long list of sites to check, and by the time you reach the end of that list even more time will have passed. If you wait a bit longer you might have more grounds for hope. If you wait 10 minutes instead of five, then it’s twice as likely that some new job opening will have appeared, right? Or does the math not work that way? You’re not sure, but you wait another five minutes, or maybe only another two, confirming that your inbox is still empty and that the phone has still not rung, and then you check that list of websites again.

Still nothing.

A whole hour can go by in such 10-minute increments. It passes by and you have nothing to show for it and you ask yourself where that hour went, where that day went, where that week went. It seems a waste of time, like that old bit about the definition of insanity being doing the same thing over again but expecting different results. But it still seems a bit more sane than doing nothing, and you don’t know what else to try, what else to do.

But it’s not quite so regular and steady as that, really. It’s a bit more manic-depressive. The depressive part sneaks up on you. You just sort of notice at some point that you’d stopped, that you’d been sitting there frozen, paralyzed for you don’t know how long. And then you launch yourself back at it in a manic, directionless frenzy. Either way, the results are the same. When there is nothing to do, you can’t do it harder. When you have run out of ideas, out of leads, out of options and plans and possibilities, when you just plain don’t know what to do next, then urgency is as useless as inertia.

I need to take a break from this, you start to think, then catch yourself, wondering how you can take a break from having nothing to do, wondering how it is that having nothing to do can be, at times, so exhausting. And but still, life is life and you have all those other things to do — laundry and dishes to wash, grass to mow, leaves to rake, snow to shovel. (How did it get to be winter already?) You’re grateful for all these tasks and chores, and you perform them with greater care and zeal than ever. And then, remembering, you rush back to check again that list of websites, to confirm the emptiness of the inbox and the silence of the phone.

And so time elapses without its passage bringing you any closer to any destination. When there is nothing to be done, you can never be finished doing it.

“How’s the job-hunt going?” someones asks you.

“Oh, you know,” you say, surprised to hear what sounds like cheerfulness in your own voice. “I’m surfing the Web, working the phone, pounding the pavement, fine-tuning the keywords on my résumé …”

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  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    The ridiculousness of forcing the unemployed into this hoop-jumping venture of resume queue-jumping is just… well, ridiculous. Farcical. Demeaning. Disgraceful. And most of all, futile.

  • Aidan Bird

    I haven’t actually posted here before, just been a lurker, reading everyone else’s posts and comments, but…

    I just wanted to say that the advice columns that you mention, Fred, the ones that list all the things job-seekers should do to ‘find a job’ is actually a form of victim-blaming.  Victim blaming doesn’t just exist for rape victims (though this is the most common form that is seen in our society).  Victim blaming is when another person, whether intentionally or not, blames the individual for a situation outside their control. This can be done directly or indirectly.  Often, when advice is given, the way the person words it can end up being a form of victim-blaming, rather than any sort of useful set of advice. 

    Ana Mardoll explains this much better than I, so I highly recommend reading her link where she deconstructs this further:http://www.anamardoll.com/2012/01/deconstruction-why-your-well.html

  • Anonymous

    This was a great post, that was a great article, and I’d like to second the recommendation!

    I agree that victim-blaming is pervasive. I think it’s because people don’t want to think about the fact that bad things can happen even to people who don’t “deserve” them. When you’re talking about long-term unemployment, you get people who are so far in denial that it’s a structural thing and keep trying to find ways to make it seem as if it’s the unemployed’s fault.

    This is supported by the fact that sometimes people really do make mistakes when applying for a job. Obviously not enough to actually explain the economic recession, but just enough so that every HR person can tell a story about how a job applicant showed up for an interview drunk or naked or something.

    But the fact is, bad things happen to good people and vice-versa. People who do excellent jobs get laid off, not because they screwed up but because their industry is dying or their company is failing or they got acquired by another company who doesn’t need double the complement of staff. In a healthy economy, resume fine-tuning tips are much more helpful since you’re competing with job applicants similar to you for another company somewhere else. But when the economy is bad, your resume could include Nobel Prizes but if there aren’t any jobs then there just aren’t any jobs and it’s not your fault.

    (And it doesn’t help that when the economy is bad you suddenly have a flood of “overqualified” people joining the market, competing for the same jobs as recent grads. And it doesn’t help that companies are realizing that they can slash their workforce and work their employees to the bone, knowing that people will hold onto their jobs as long as possible no matter how bad it gets. There are probably a lot of firms who should expand but won’t because they’re risk-averse and know that they can keep working their current people like dogs).

  • Kirala

    And it doesn’t help that when the economy is bad you suddenly have a
    flood of “overqualified” people joining the market, competing for the
    same jobs as recent grads.

    This can hurt in either direction. My lack of experience helped me get my job here because then they get to pay me less. Teachers with advanced degrees are practically unemployable in public schools around here. On the other hand, I couldn’t even get considered for several of the local private schools without at least 5 years of experience and one extra degree.

  • Anonymous

    But when the economy is bad, your resume could include Nobel Prizes but if there aren’t any jobs then there just aren’t any jobs and it’s not your fault. 

    Literally (well, almost). See: Douglas Prasher as a heartbreaking example.

  • Lori

     
    Literally (well, almost). See: Douglas Prasher as a heartbreaking example.  

     

    Jesus. There is no excuse for that. It’s unions of the hack obsession of the day, excessive civil service salaries, that is killing the US. It’s the fact that we’re throwing away people who could actually make things better. 

  • Anonymous

    Just FYI: your third sentence doesn’t parse.

  • Lori

     
    Just FYI: your third sentence doesn’t parse. 

     

    Thanks. 

    Apparently my brain went into vapor lock at the idea of a Nobel-level scientist driving an airport shuttle van because he can’t find a science job. 

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the link. Also, welcome to the community, don’t kill us with sheep!

  • Hawker40

    Alleged Story: a job opened up where I worked, but they had already chosen someone ‘in house’ to fill it.  But they were required to put out a ‘help wanted’ ad.  So, they intentionally misspelled some of the keywords, told thier chosen candidate what the misspellings were, and watched as only her resume made it past the computer run search algorithm.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Another real dickish-move story I read in Arianna Huffington’s book: Someone who’d worked for months (this was 2009/early 2010) at a gas station as a very last resort – no other jobs were open – couldn’t make it in one day because his car broke down. That same day this person got fired like a hot potato. The boss’s brother-in-law was immediately hired as a replacement.

    Here’s another story I read from the Great Depression: A guy and his buddy worked at some factory for like 20 cents an hour. Then their supervisor got fired. Guy’s buddy got promoted – the wage was 10 cents more an hour. As the guy said, “my friend turned into a complete son of a bitch for 10 cents more an hour.”

    This is what massive unemployment does to people: turns them against each other and creates no-win situations in which for someone to gain, someone else has to lose. And the Devil takes the hindmost.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    This is what massive unemployment does to people: turns them against
    each other and creates no-win situations in which for someone to gain,
    someone else has to lose. And the Devil takes the hindmost.

    “I can hire one-half of the working class to kill the other half.” – Jay Gould, After hiring strikebreakers.

  • Richard Hershberger

    Hawker40:

    What you describe is a modern variant of an old trick.  In Ye Olden Dayes there would occasionally be a job posting with specific and odd requirements, tailored to match the chosen candidate.

  • Hawker40

    Dilbert (Scott Adams) had a episode where the job ad said “Candidate must be 6’2″, drive a red pick up, answer to Bob…”

  • Anonymous

    So… I, along with 14 million other people, read an article telling me to use certain special keywords in my resume and all of that to get past the bots.  Later, we read different articles by HR folks who talk about how all resumes end up looking the same and that job seekers need to do things to stand out.

    Now what am I supposed to be doing again? 

  • Münchner Kindl

    Now what am I supposed to be doing again?

    Why, become one of the 1% by pulling yourself up from your bootstraps, like all those rich white old men who got there … (mostly by coming from rich families with connections)

    But if you need to be told, you aren’t swallowing the myth that everybody can become rich in the US! / sarcasm

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=507398586 Tim Fargus

    I’m lucky enough to have a job right now, but I’m in a rough situation all the same. My job is in New Jersey. My wife, before we married, got a job down in Maryland, and couldn’t afford not to take it. I’ve been finding, in the meantime, that getting a job is awfully tough. I’m in the position of having to spend weekends at home with my wife, and spend the weekdays at work 4 hours away, staying on friends’ couches or in cheap motels.

    Any jobs I apply to, it’s all the same. If it’s within my industry, I’ll sometimes hear back that I wasn’t qualified for the position, or that I was qualified, but not among the most qualified. Or that the position on offer has been revoked and will not be filled. I’ve tried other industries, where I’ve had friends and family able to help work my resume up the ladder. Time and time again, things go absolutely nowhere. The only possibilities that have presented themselves (and even these are remote) would require a big enough cut in pay that it would cause us significant pain even though we’d get to live together.

    And I’m told that I’m not putting the right keywords into my resumes. That I’m not qualified for positions I’m clearly qualified for. Since when were resumes not a factual recounting of work history, but a document tailored not just to one specific company, but one specific position within the company, designed to kiss the hiring managers’ ass and parrot the words of their job announcement back to them?

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    The John Q movie is applicable even more now, I think, since the health-care debate was reopened a couple years ago and the familiar refrain of job-search futility is echoed in that movie.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCpU63mB_5Y

  • Kirala

    My deepest sympathies to everyone out there job hunting. I spent a mere four months unemployed this year (and only two of those months felt like they counted, since as a teacher I usually have June and July off anyway). I was down to questioning my worth as a human being by the end of it. And I did not lack for money for that period; my urgent need was purpose. This is why I find it unfathomable when people claim that most people would laze around doing nothing taking government handouts if they could; it’s so fundamentally boring and soul-draining to be unable to visibly contribute to society.

    And the job I got? Had to do with time and chance, not strength or wisdom. My responsibility was to raise sails when the wind came, not create the wind itself, nor waste all my energy constantly trying to row.

    Fred, FWIW, you are serving at least some purpose with this site. I find it valuable as a thought-provoking, well-researched source of editorials, and I hope to make good use of it for teaching my teenage debate students how to see and understand multiple points of view while still making value judgments about points of view. I’ll be praying that you find a purpose that better suits your needs soon.

  • Münchner Kindl

    “And I did not lack for money for that period; my urgent need was purpose.
    This is why I find it unfathomable when people claim that most people
    would laze around doing nothing taking government handouts if they
    could; it’s so fundamentally boring and soul-draining to be unable to visibly contribute to society.”

    That’s where the “socialist” countries in Europe have a tiny advantage: in theory, even if you can’t find a job, you get welfare to pay for basic needs, so to feel useful, you can volunteer for an org. that needs people with your skill, but can’t afford pay.

    That’s also the idea behind the unconditional general income – instead of all those checks and forms to fill out wasting officials time, everybody gets a fixed income regardless of worth, and is free to work how much or little as they want. So some people can spend time raising children or caring for relatives, other can coach community theater or direct a choir, and some  will work in an office somewhere. But not being ground to the bone, but because they love their work. Companies would have to pay less – because rent and food is taken care off – but offer attractive conditions instead of bad bosses and long hours.

    During a transitional period, many people stuck in a crappy job because of the money would need help from social workers to realize their skills and talents and wishes and then look where a job for that is.

    But in the Maslow pyramid http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow%27s_hierarchy_of_needs, the wish to do something meaningful is a powerful need.

    In practise, sadly, poor people grow up with hopelessness which translates into lethargy and lack of realization what their skills and dreams are, so a lot of potential is wasted. And, because hitting on the weakest is easiest, consie politicans have stirred up middle class resentment (and fear of going down, too) by depicting people on welfare as always lazy bums (similar to the non-existing welfare cadillac queens Reagan invented), and so the office for work has drastic rules on how often unemployed people have to show up to look for work, how many applications they have to write…

  • Demonhype

    Yes, I even had one eighteen-year-old co-worker tell me that anyone who is unemployed for more than a few months, especially if it’s over a year, are just lazy worthless bums (in a conversation about the current economic situation and how scary it would be for me to go to another state, thousands of miles away from anyone I know, and not be able to find work).  He didn’t know what to say when I told him that I had  been unemployed for two years and seasonally employed for one year before getting this non-seasonal minimum-wage part-time job.  (And believe me, I had been looking hard but after a year of that you start losing any hope.  I lost my previous non-seasonal job due to my car’s breaks going out on the way to work, just as the economic crisis blew up and jobs were non-existent.)

  • Anonymous

    I can just barely stand a two-week break for the holidays without going insane.  Actual unemployment would kill me, even if I won the lottery or something.

    As for Fred–well, I get a large percentage of my news from this blog. I trust Fred far more than the benighted “journalists” on TV.

  • Münchner Kindl

    There’s one aspect I find much more wrong than the victim-blaming – which is sadly standard procedure for way too long, but essential to bring the 99% further down. If the people actually swallow the lies that it’s their fault, they won’t rise up in bloody revolution to change the system, instead, they’ll accept wages below minimum, thus also solving the immigrant “crisis”: who needs cheap illegals if real Americans also work for a warm handshake and a sandwich?

    No, the real problem I see is that it’s now routine to have a software scanning applications. This means either that the HR managers whose job it is to screen candidates to make sure the company hires competent ones are slacking at their job; or that the economy is so bad that hundreds of people apply for every opening, which means that it’s not the applicants fault.

    Or C, both.

    The fact that companies can get away with this – that is, they don’t see that they are hurting themselves by missing out on good candidates with mechanical sieves – that shows how badly corporate thinking about wage slaves = employees has become under the worship of “only stocks and shareholders count, nothing else” mentality.

    And although the “shareholders come first” mentality http://zompist.wordpress.com/2011/12/27/shareholders-should-come-last/ has hurt not only the customers, the enviroment, the quality of product, the country, the employees, but also the companies themselves, that doesn’t seem to have caused any changes in attitude.

  • Anonymous

    Speaking of people who should be employed: Has Zompist gotten a job?

  • http://twitter.com/MarySueTwiteth Mary Sue

     I find the blog AskAManager.org to be invaluable advice on job hunting and interviewing. The latest article in the category “bad advice” is actually titled, “Another job search cliche that isn’t true: ‘looking for a job is a full time job'”.

    I’ve found her advice invaluable in polishing up my resume, and fortunately I’m working from a position of strength and stability (i.e., currently employed, but looking to make a career change). But I have been unemployed for long periods of time previously and scraping by on unemployment and the occasional temp job, so I understand the stress, frustration, and helplessness.

  • Lori

    There’s another aspect of victim blaming that;s really getting to me these days. People have very definite expectations about how you are supposed to feel when you don’t have a job. I think they’re mostly unconscious, but that doesn’t make them any less real. 

    One of the rules of unemployment is that you are supposed to get excited about every job possibility that comes your way. No matter how many times you’ve gotten your hopes up only to have them dashed, you’re supposed to be thrilled and optimistic every single time. Diligently working to put your forth your best effort when you apply is not enough. You have to be excited and upbeat and hopeful. If you’re not then there’s something wrong with you. 

    Note that I’m not talking about being positive in interviews and the like, which is obviously important. I’m talking about the subtle (or not so subtle) pressure to act like every job possibility is Christmas, Halloween and your birthday all rolled into one when you’re talking with friends and family. It’s exhausting. 

    There’s also something really shitty about denying people the right to feel like crap about having to take a job that’s way below their skill level and worse, will likely lock them out of ever getting another job in their field. Everyone talks about how you have to take any job to pay the bills, but no one wants to acknowledge that once you do virtually no HR people or hiring managers for better jobs will take you seriously. If you feel bad about watching your hopes for a better future fade away to nothing then you clearly don’t really want to work and you’re ungrateful and spoiled and lazy and just generally Undeserving. And if that in turn makes you want to scream and/or smack someone you’re clearly just evil. 

  • Sir Dook

    Good point. It reminds me of this:

    “Because when I grew up, we were force fed the idea that if we didn’t want to be ‘flipping burgers at McDonalds’ then we go to college. … And now we’ve gone to college, have degrees, can’t get a damn job, and the same people call us entitled assholes because we refuse to flip burgers!”

    http://www.cracked.com/blog/5-ways-we-ruined-occupy-wall-street-generation/

  • Demonhype

    How.  Fucking.  Offensive.

    Yes, our generation has been ruined because we are not willing to work like slaves and be paid slave wages or starve and quite possibly starve on our feet while working for slave wages, because if we are expected to work we expect to have some damn regulations to make sure we have enough jobs to go around, because we feel legislation should benefit and protect the well being of the people and not the privilege of the corporations, because when we pay as much for an education as we would for a home we expect at least some reasonable ability to get some kind of investment return such as a decent enough career to pay back that exhorbitant loan we were forced to take out because we’re not obscenely rich (tuition for which, BTW, has been costing exponentially more every year since the old-folks “day”, to the point where onlybecause when being screwed over we are kicking up a fuss instead of rolling over and allowing the rich corporate asshole to squash us flat.

    We’ve all been ruined because we aren’t content to accept the “livestock” status the upper 1% has place upon us.  How awful we are, and how badly we’ve been treating that poor Monopoly plutocrat–he’s crying into his hideous mustache.

  • Demonhype

    Sorry, missed something in there.

    “(tuition for which, BTW, has been costing exponentially more every year
    since the old-folks “day”, to the point where only the upper 1% can afford to be educated), because when being
    screwed over we are kicking up a fuss instead of rolling over and
    allowing the rich corporate asshole to squash us flat.”

    fixed.

  • Baeraad

    Meh. For someone who starts his article by saying that his apology isn’t a backhanded insult, it all reads a lot like, “it’s our fault, for raising you to be lazy, entitled bums who think that honest work is beneath you.”

    And he can stick his “file sharing has ruined the entertainment industry” hand-wringing up his ass, too. Back before digital media, artists still created art – they just didn’t get paid the big bucks for it. Then suddenly, you could record a performance once and then sit back and rake in the money from selling endless copies. Woohoo! Except now, creating new copies has gotten so easy that that clever little system doesn’t work very well anymore. Tough. Technological progress giveth, and technological progress taketh it away – so stop whineth about it.

    (now watch as I seamlessly fold my current pet peeve back into the main discussion…)

    Of course, while the difficulty in making a living from his art didn’t stop Mozart from writing wonderful music, he did die poor as a church mouse, and that’s certainly a shame. That is the exact reason why we need to move towards a “citizen salary” system, where everyone is guaranteed an above-sustenance-level income, no matter what.

    As many here have pointed out, people have a *need* to work, to be useful. Oh, there are a couple of weirdos who don’t mind being bums – enough of them so that each right-wing jerk knows or has heard of at least one that he can point to as evidence for why no one works if they don’t have to. But most of us need a purpose with the same intensity that we need food, shelter, safety and love. Giving everyone their material needs will ensure that they do what they believe to be the most meaningful thing they can, regardless of whether it is currently possible to build a business model for it.

    Fred has certainly shown that he doesn’t need to be paid as a journalist in order to report on world events. What he needs is financial safety so he isn’t distracted from doing his thing by worrying about making a living.

    (and yes, sign me up as another one who would be happy to make regular donations, as long as I have an income of my own)

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    A propos: http://imgur.com/gallery/QxtqK

    The music industry has been trying on this alarmist crap for 30 years now.

  • Anonymous

    Such repetitive futility is sometimes described as “Sisyphean,” but you come to envy Sisyphus. He never doubts his next step. He has a task at hand and knows what is required and expected of him.

    Well, now that the libertarians have co-opted Christianity and retroactively claimed Sumeria as their own, it’s time for them to have a go at classical myth.

    Sisyphus, for instance, wasn’t being punished for the hard-core punking he gave Hades. Rather, his cleverness and inventiveness at cheating death were rewarded with a permanent position in Tartartus. Similarly, Prometheus, as a trademark infringing copyright pirate, got exactly what he deserved (and anyway, he was able to trade proprietary information to Zeus to gain his freedom). Atlas was too big to fail (or the sky would fall), so he had to be turned into stone, and sure, Heracles went mad and murdered his wife and children, but did he let that hold him back? No, he didn’t, and Twelve Labors and one poison shirt later (no one said life was easy!) his mortal half burned away and he ascended to Olympus as a god in his own right.

  • Kay

    Thank you for writing this. I’m glad I’m not the only one who is frustrated and exhausted!

  • Anonymous

    Blaming the unemployed for being out of work goes back to our Calvinist/Puritan beginnings in this country.  After all, all a man had to do was go west into the frontier, clear off a section of land, kill any natives who object.  Bingo your a free holder. 

    That you were a cobbler (or cooper or a sailor) and and new next to nothing about frontier farming meant nothing.  If you failed, that was just proof of your lack of God’s Grace.

    One of the great challenges to Christians who want to live like Christians is not to take the simple answer that when a person is in trouble and needs help is to give ‘real’ help. That is very hard to do, you have to accept that responsibility to help is a not necessary an easy one, you just might actually have do something.  It is so much easier to just to give ineffectual, if well intended, advice and take comfort in that ‘you did what you could’.

  • Amanda

    Soon after I got my Master’s degree, I spent 10 months unemployed before I got my job as a part-time adjunct professor almost exactly a year ago.

    At first I did all the stuff I was supposed to do. I was on unemployment benefits, and went to all the stupid workshops they offered at the unemployment office. I signed up for monster.com and careerbulider.com and usajobs.gov and all that. I was on all these email lists that would send me these “helpful” articles and I read them all.

    I was totally doing the whole “make job searching your full time job” thing.

    At least at first. That lasted maybe a month at most. Can anyone really sustain 40 hours a week of job searching for more than a few weeks? I really did run out of stuff to do. Honest! I really wasn’t just being lazy, I swear!

    I went to all the workshops they had at the job center, and then after that they were all repeats of the same workshops I’d already been to (and they didn’t help anyway, and the lady I talked to there seemed to have no idea what to do with someone with a Master of Science degree). After I filled out my profile on all the relevant job search websites and updated my resume, what more was there to do with that? After a while I even started getting repeats of the articles that the various email lists would send. I’d start reading it and then go “wait, I’ve already read this one.”

    Sure, there was always the required minimum # of job applications to do a week to keep my unemployment benefits, but it really didn’t take long before it did NOT take 40 hours a week to apply to this week’s batch of new openings and then fill out my form saying I’d applied to all these jobs that I knew I had no hope of getting, just so I could keep getting benefits. I got it down to where I really just had one “job searching day” every week, after the new job postings came out on the major websites, and before my form was due at the unemployment office.

    So yeah, I totally did start watching a LOT of TV. I started cooking elaborate gourmet meals for my boyfriend. The house was SPOTLESS. I dug up almost the entire backyard, by hand, turning it into an organic vegetable garden. I was not spending 40 hours a week job searching.

    I would have done volunteer work, but everywhere I called that seemed like something I could do was full. They didn’t need any more volunteers. Too many other unemployed people with lots of time on their hands, I guess. The botanical gardens said they’d LOVE to hire me, if they could afford it, but the reason they can’t even take me on as a volunteer is because they need a certain amount of employees per # volunteers, and they can’t afford any more employees.

    And now I’ve spent a year working only part-time, lucky to at least have that. It’s been so long since I’ve worked a full time job, I’m not even sure if I can handle it. I’m really grateful for my part time job so that at least SOME days I have to get up at 6 am and actually put some clothes on. I can definitely understand the problem of the long-term unemployed and why some companies would be reluctant to hire them. Being unemployed for a long time really wear a person down in a multitude of ways.

  • Anonymous

    What the long term unemployed need to do is create something to do that can lead to a job.  Or something that keeps your sell able skills sharp.  Nether of these things is particularly easy but it does help keep your self-esteem intact.  Try anything that comes to mind and don’t reject something just because it seems silly.

    I speak from experience, I started my own web design business back in ’05 and was ‘killed’ by the collapse of ’09.  It is very hard for someone in their late 50’s to be taken seriously in Computers/Web so I’ve tried doing 2nd hand online sales because I had to take pictures of what was going to be sold.  I’m running two eCommerce sites for a piece of the action, but very little action so far.  Added to taking any contract job that comes my way and I can just about eat.  What I have done is teach myself PHP, HTML 5, CSS, Actionscript, Flash/Flex that has kept me up to date.  I still have my pride and I still have hope.

  • Amanda

    Oh, and as for the thing about how there are four people looking for work for each job opening, here’s the way I reasoned it out when I was at my most self-loathing about being unemployed…

    “That still means that 25% of people will be able to get a job. Those 25% of people are the cream of the crop. *I* should be one of those elite 25%. If I am not, then I’m just another one of the worthless masses.”

    Kind of a Social Darwinian thing, you see. And I actually heard a conserative or two say “high unemployment is good for business because businesses can now only hire the absolute cream of the crop and don’t have to settle for less.” When I’d get really depressed when I was unemployed, I’d have those sort of right-wing talking points playing in my head, convincing me that I’m just plain not good enough to get one of those few jobs out there.

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    There’s something else going on here. Two things, really. First, aren’t we all making the classic mistake of assuming the anticident. (begging the question) Namely:

    “Do keywords actually get you hired?”
    and
    “Will improving keywords give you a better chance, in terms of time and effort, than other actions?”

    We have to question these premises, because there are some tacit assumptions built into them. It’s certainly true that emailed or on-line submissions are pretty much the only way to apply for most jobs these days. But just because you’re using a computer to apply, that doesn’t mean your resume is going to be sifted by one. There is a certain, minimum size to an organization before it will have keyword-searching software. It’s essential if you want to work for Boeing or Microsoft or J.P. Morgan-Chase, but medium-sized and smaller organizations simply don’t have an “automated sorting algorthym” for resumes. 

    This is important to be aware of, because if you focus on polishing your resume for keywords, if you’re trying to tune a resume to be seen and noticed by large-sized, techocratic organizations, a natural side-effect is that your “field of vision” becomes similarly narrowed. If you become very efficient at filling out on-line application forms, navigating the HR-based website to submit for multiple postings, and set up pre-programmed searches and notifications, you’re going to focus your search on those areas where you feel most “efficent”, and that’s the harm. I got my current job through Craigslist, and I got more interviews at medium and smaller firms than I did through automated, on-line HR systems. (I know this is venturing into victim-blaming territory; I just have to point out that the “helpful advice” is the problem, not the job-seeker)

    The other thing that’s going on here is the message that these big companies are sending, that as a prospective employee we should be listening more closely to. If a big company has a huge website dedicated to screening out applicants, the message they’re sending is “we don’t want you to work for us!” Specifically, they’re saying “we don’t want you, a stranger on the internet, working at our company”. Your resume got killfiled before it ever saw a human being? That’s a feature, not a bug, in the company’s eyes. I know it’s a very high-minded thing to say to an unemployed person ‘are you sure you want to work for this company?’ when they’re facing a mortgage payment, but the reality is that any company who is willing to brazenly advertise “we don’t want you applying here” probably is equally mercenary in how it treats its existing employees. In the short term, ‘any job’ > ‘no job’, but some decisions shouldn’t be made exclusively in the short-term reference.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s not the late 1990s when the tech boom was going so hard McDonald’s was paying teenagers $8 an hour plus, and there was at least one story a month about someone not taking lip from their boss, walking out, and literally finding a job down the street.

    That was an accident on Greenspan’s part and the current crop of people running things are determined to make sure it doesn’t happen for another generation.

    The exclusivism on the part of companies like that is a policy that, while not controlled by a central agency, has the long-term effect of freezing out the workforce along quasifeudal lines, where favored employees are munificently bestowed a job as long as they kowtow to the boss’s every wish.

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    Not disagreeing with anything you said. I know times are tough. I was unemployed from Fall ’08 to Spring ’10. When I finally started working, it was a mix of part-time office work, temporary Census work, and delivering pizzas; I had just started my divorce and knew I’d have to pay the mortgage by myself. I was working two jobs for between 46-75 hours a week, and I was grateful as hell to have the work. I got one of my friends a job as a delivery driver; he was working four part-time jobs, and was thrilled at the job.

    The exclusivism on the part of companies like that is a policy that, while not controlled by a central agency, has the long-term effect of freezing out the workforce along quasifeudal lines, where favored employees are munificently bestowed a job as long as they kowtow to the boss’s every wish.

    Again, not disagreeing at all. I admit it’s high-minded to say “do you really want to work for a company that has contempt for job-seekers?” when unemployment is running out and the rent is due.

    But I stand by my points:
    1.) Not every company has keyword screening, only the really big ones. If you’re only paying attention to the bigger companies, you run the real risk of missing opportunities. Without strong credentials, I had better luck working the mid-sized and small companies, sharking Craigslist and looking at local business websites than I ever did with the Unemployment Department or Monster or any other big jobs website.
    2.) Part of the job search is asking the question “What kind of company do I want to work for?”, and not just asking “Where can I get hired on?” How you feel about a prospective employer and a prospecitve job matters. A fry-cook that just wants to be a fry-cook is more likely to be hired than a PhD that’s looking for something, anything to pay the bills. I’m not saying all employers want applicants to debase themselves with humility, but it’s worth noting not all applicants are subjected to keyword screening and filtering, only the anonymous ones that weren’t referred from inside.

  • Anonymous

     Without strong credentials, I had better luck working the mid-sized and small companies, sharking Craigslist and looking at local business websites than I ever did with the Unemployment Department or Monster or any other big jobs website….

    How you feel about a prospective employer and a prospecitve job matters. A fry-cook that just wants to be a fry-cook is more likely to be hired than a PhD that’s looking for something, anything to pay the bills.

    You do realize that those two statements contradict each other, at least in some circumstances, correct? That is to say, those of us WITH strong credentials (or, at least, an advanced degree) aren’t going to get jobs off of Craigslist or local business websites.

    Your advice really doesn’t help much.

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    I’m sorry I didn’t expressly state what I implied:

    “Without strong credentials, I had better luck working the mid-sized and small companies [ because if I had strong credentials, I would qualify for the large company firms, have the proper certificates and licenses and credentials that make up 75-85% of the keywords being searched for]”

    And while it’s possible for those two sentences can contradict each other, that’s because they’re addressing two totally seperate concepts:

    Concept 1: Don’t limit or even focus your search primarily to large organizations with extensive on-line application processes. Smaller organizations are less likely to use automated disqualifications, (keywords) which means your resume is more likely to be seen by a person. If you don’t have a lot of ‘keywords’, this is an advantage, but even if you do, it’s not a disadvantage.

    Concept 2: Whenever possible, do limit your search to employers you would want to work for, doing jobs you would not object to doing. I admitted (twice already, and this make three) that it’s not always possible to only apply for jobs you would want versus applying for a job you need. But it does improve your odds.

    Look, I get it. Looking for work sucks. I know, I was doing it for a very, very long time. And yes, victim-blaming does not help any, and it’s very tough to talk about “the importance of positive thinking” or “keeping an open mind” without the implication of victim-blaming.

  • Amanda

    Part of the job search is asking the question “What kind of company do I want to work for?”, and not just asking “Where can I get hired on?” How you feel about a prospective employer and a prospecitve job matters. A fry-cook that just wants to be a fry-cook is more likely to be hired than a PhD that’s looking for something, anything to pay the bills.

    Ooh, that reminds me of more unhelpful advice I would get. I was told by some people that I need to get any job possible because any job>no job (well, worse than no job, being on UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS, which you know is pretty much WELFARE!).

    So I did spend a little time working at a bakery for $8 an hour (I lied-by-omission on that one and didn’t put my Master’s degree on the application), and then I left that to work as a substitute middle school teacher, which was horrifying. I feel a little bit better about that, actually, after reading about the near-Nobel Prize winner who ended up a bus driver. At least being an adjunct professor requires an advanced degree, even though I make less money than a lot of jobs that don’t require any degree. This way at least I don’t have coworkers who hate me because they think I think I’m better than them.

  • Demonhype

    When was this magical time in the late nineties when McD’s paid teens $8 an hour?  I worked there from 1996 to early 1997, started at $4.50 and only ended up with $5.15 halfway through because the law upped the minimum wage.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    It was right near the end of the 1990s economic expansion, when unemployment fell towards 4% (2% for white people); under those conditions wages WILL rise. I don’t have comprehensive links for you but I do recall such stories beginning to show up.

  • Demonhype

    I do agree with the feudal thing though.  I’ve been saying the upper class has been trying to create a neo-feudal state in our country for a while now, and it’s great that other people are starting to use that very accurate word to describe our would-be aristocratic overlords.

  • Anonymous

    the reality is that any company who is willing to brazenly advertise “we don’t want you applying here” probably is equally mercenary in how it treats its existing employees. In the short term, ‘any job’ > ‘no job’, but some decisions shouldn’t be made exclusively in the short-term reference.

    It’s not as simple as that. The reason the companies are automatically screening people isn’t necessarily because they’re evil: it’s because they have so many applications that it’s not reasonable to read every single one. (It may also be because of elitism: a lot of companies I’ve interviewed with will admit that, on the Ph.D. level, they only seriously consider applicants from top universities.) All the fellowships I’ve been applying to have similar screening processes. (Just today I had to come up with an extremely short flashy title for my proposal.) This isn’t because they’re being evil — this is because they have a large enough pool of candidates that they can afford to be picky.

    Now, a lot of places *are* going to be equally mercenary about their existing employees, but I would argue that the places that treat employees well are probably going to be equally selective, if not more — after all, they’ve invested way more in you. (Do you know the number of applicants most tenure-track positions get?)

  • Lori

     
    (It may also be because of elitism: a lot of companies I’ve interviewed with will admit that, on the Ph.D. level, they only seriously consider applicants from top universities.) All the fellowships I’ve been applying to have similar screening processes. (Just today I had to come up with an extremely short flashy title for my proposal.) This isn’t because they’re being evil — this is because they have a large enough pool of candidates that they can afford to be picky.  

    It may not be directly evil, but it’s built on a pretty evil premise—namely that the applicant from a “top school” is automatically a better choice than one from a 2nd tier school. 

    That’s the kind of thing that can seem perfectly reasonable when you’re looking at a single case, but in the aggregate it has the effect that Invisible Neutrino was talking about of freezing the workforce along what amounts to feudal lines. 

  • Anonymous

    It may not be directly evil, but it’s built on a pretty evil premise—namely that the applicant from a “top school” is automatically a better choice than one from a 2nd tier school…. [I]n the aggregate it has the effect that Invisible Neutrino was talking about of freezing the workforce along what amounts to feudal lines.

    It’s a lot more complicated than that. Graduate school in my field is free (in fact, they pay you to attend), so it’s not as feudalistic as one might assume. The premise is also based largely on fact: the training at top-tier institutions is typically better than what you’ll find at lower ranked ones. (For example, the workload tends to be far more intense; for another, they’re better at teaching you *how* to think.)

    Also, places specialize and skill sets aren’t interchangible. At the college level, it’s reasonably safe to assume that, to some extent, a degree is a degree: people will attend most of the same classes and use a lot of the same textbooks. At the graduate level, things are very different — what one professor does isn’t necessarily the same as another, and institutions will specialize in certain fields. So, to some extent, it’s reasonable to favor applicants from one set of schools over another — and it’s definitely reasonable to favor applicants from one professor over another.

    IMHO, the problem lies not at the graduate level but at the college (and lower) levels: it’s very difficult to perform well in graduate school if one hasn’t gotten an intense college education, and that requires a good high school education. So there *is* class selectivity going on, but it’s not at the company level: it’s at the college level and below. 

  • Lori

    Fair enough. 

  • Anonymous

    Especially high schools.  I went to a charter school in which students actually took more AP courses than colleges could accept credit for, and had it drilled into our heads that we were all going to college for something and how to get into a good one (and maybe even get a scholarship).  Every now and then, I still get an ad for colleges (most often Liberty University, which baffles me) a full DECADE after my high school graduation.  We were conditioned to make ourselves irresistible to colleges.

    My mother taught at a high school in a poorer part of town, and the unspoken assumption by counselors and the administration was that few of them would even WANT to go to college.  So little, if any, information was available, and you had to actively seek it out. If your grades were good, and you actively sought it out, you could take an honors-level course. But you didn’t necessarily know about that. KLEP and AP were unheard-of.  If you didn’t know that getting ready for college starts in 10th grade, well, tough.  Maybe the local community college will let you attend, kid, but don’t expect to transfer to anyplace nice.

    I started looking at colleges the summer before senior year (if you intend to start right after high school, you pretty much have to).  We came across a young lady who’d already graduated, and didn’t realize it was late for her to start looking at colleges, because no one in her family had gone to college, and none of her counselors had bothered to explain the process to her.

    The current stratification of educational opportunity among class lines is disturbingly firmly entrenched, and definitely starts at the K-12 level. I would argue that, although it doesn’t get really nasty until high school, it starts in the early elementary years.

  • Anonymous

    The current stratification of educational opportunity among class lines is disturbingly firmly entrenched, and definitely starts at the K-12 level. I would argue that, although it doesn’t get really nasty until high school, it starts in the early elementary years.

    I think it starts a lot earlier than that — there’s a lot of educational opportunities kids will miss early on if they’re not offered them. (That’s one of the major reasons why the attempts to offer “equalize” classes by eliminating honors classes at the lower levels irritates me. That and that, until you hit the advanced courses in high school, everything is covered a thousand times: if you don’t learn it the first time, you’ll see it again in a few months or the next year. It took me several years to get adjusted to the fact that that doesn’t happen in advanced courses, and, because of that, even though I intuitively ‘get’ a lot of math, I don’t have a solid foundation in calculus (for example). Up until that point, studying didn’t *matter* that much.)

  • Anonymous

    Oh believe me, I know.  I’m not sure how much of my focus issues in school were ADHD, and how much were, “But we already learned this stuff last year!!”  Grammar especially–it was the same thing, over and over, from fourth to ninth grade.  Small wonder I didn’t learn to study until I was in college–if you have it drilled into you that many times, studying becomes a formality.

    And…like I said, it starts in the early elementary years.  In addition to what you mentioned, there’s also the problem that low-income areas generally can’t attract good teachers, and may end up with incompetents, power-trippers, etc. who DO NOT need to be in our nation’s schools at all.

    Birmingham City Schools has come under scrutiny for tazing elementary-school kids.  Bad teachers can cause all sorts of damage, especially in the early years.  (This sort of madness is why Jefferson County, AL is split into dozens of school districts–no one wants their kids schooled under JeffCo or Birmingham City.)

  • Demonhype

    Regarding top schools vs. second-tier:  Even if the top schools might have better training, that doesn’t necessitate that someone from that top school is going to be the better candidate.  Considering how many top schools are also the most expensive and how many extremely qualified students are forced to go to “inferior” schools while less qualified students get the good school on daddy’s dime–well, that doesn’t fill me with the greatest confidence that those top schools are starting with the best raw material.

    I speak as someone who had to graduate at 28 because she was working her fingers to the bone to afford to go to school while watching richer kids with a fraction of my ability getting a free ride from their parents.  And then going to my expensive private school and absolutely delighting even my gen ed teachers as one of the few interested and engaging students in a sea of dull entitled resentment (I had teachers stop in the halls the year later to tell me how wonderful it was to have me in the class, or write that on my final paper) and, in many cases, complete lack of talent with a fervent believe that having the money to buy a degree makes talent, brains or actual work unnecessary.  The teacher would try to have a discussion but few were interested in bothering.

    When I went to my other school I found myself in an environment of less-affluent students who wanted to learn and were engaged in the learning process, many of whom were paying for it themselves and so understood the value of being there.  Some had the same infuriating experience of struggling in some menial job while watching less deserving people get catapulted ahead of them only because they were born rich.  When these teachers in this school spoke, these kids listened, and when they opened up class discussion and question time they didn’t have to face a sullen privileged silence.  You can’t tell me that an eager student in a second-tier school is automatically inferior to a top school student whose only qualification (and this is putting it politely) is that he went to a top school due to daddy’s pile of money and little else.

  • Anonymous

    You can’t tell me that an eager student in a second-tier school is automatically inferior to a top school student whose only qualification (and this is putting it politely) is that he went to a top school due to daddy’s pile of money and little else.

    If you read my post, I wasn’t talking about the college level. In fact, I explicitly stated that, at the college level, most degrees in a particular field are (almost) interchangeable: virtually all universities will work from the same textbooks and follow similar curricula. There are differences, [1] but a good student from one university will be pretty similar to another.

    At the Ph.D. level in the sciences (which is where I’m at), things are very different. Graduate programs pay you to attend them. (Although there is a massive pay cut relative to going directly into private companies, there isn’t much of a pay differential between schools.) In general, the top tier universities will have accepted better graduate students (and, since the dropout rate from most Ph.D. programs is exceedingly high — something like 30-75%, depending upon the school and the professor — that means they’re going to only be graduating the best of those graduate students) [2]. Top tier universities also typically are much more demanding — you’re going to put in many more hours — and they also teach you how to *think* about science on a much more advanced level. Universities often also specialize (and professors definitely specialize), so if a company wants people with a particular skill set, it’s not unreasonable for them to favor people from a specific university or from a specific advisor.

    The system isn’t perfect: it’s very hard to get into a top-tier school, and students who aren’t prepared — no matter how smart they are — are quite likely to be overwhelmed and drop out early on. It’s also hard on people with families, people who are location dependent, or people with credit card debts or other debts that can’t be delayed until after graduate school. But the assumption that individuals from top-tier departments at the graduate level are going to be better than those from lower ranked schools is valid, to a certain extent. There are exceptions, of course, but it’s nowhere near as feudalistic as it seems. The problem emerges mostly from the early steps along one’s academic career: the quality of one’s high school and college educations basically determine whether or not it’s possible to survive at a good university.

    [1] From my experience, individuals from flagship public universities will have had exposure to more classes, particularly graduate-level classes, and almost certainly will have done research in a group composed of (trained) graduate students; on the other hand, people from smaller schools will generally have had more face time with professors and will have been exposed to a broader range of subjects.

    [2] Two points: First, the dropout rate is a feature, not a bug (basically, if you don’t cut it, the school doesn’t want to have you represent it); second, although some dropouts will be random (asshole professors, etc.), most profs will talk a good student down from the ledge or suggest that a poor student leave with a master’s.

  • http://mmycomments.blogspot.com/ mmy


    Graduate school……
    Also, places specialize and skill sets aren’t interchangible. At the college level, it’s reasonably safe to assume that, to some extent, a degree is a degree: people will attend most of the same classes and use a lot of the same textbooks. At the graduate level, things are very different — what one professor does isn’t necessarily the same as another, and institutions will specialize in certain fields.

    This, very much this. If your department has three subdisciplines (which mine did) and you are hiring someone to replace a colleague who taught (researched, was published in) one of those subdisciplines  then the person you are hiring has to be a specialist in the same subdiscipline. From outside all of those PhDs may look interchangeable but from the inside they are not. To think that they are is to think that just because someone can speak French they can teach German or because someone can code in FORTRAN they are good at different computer language.And graduate schools attended is a good (although not definitive) indicator of what subdiscipline the job applicant will be knowledgeable in.

  • Mary Kaye

    This reminds me of the “helpful” people who say that there aren’t enough tickets/seats/items/whatever, so be sure to buy early to avoid disappointment.  What on earth is this advice good for, other than leading to people lining up 24 hours before the ticket office opens?  If there aren’t enough tickets to go around, disappointment is inevitable.  All you can do is move it around, and the price of moving it around is, exactly, those 24-hour lines–or resume polishing and frenetic resume submission.

    These activities have no social value.  They do not make anyone happier, healthier, better fed, safer, better educated.  We would be collectively better off without this advice, but there is an individual temptation to listen to it in the hopes of being one of the lucky few who get access to the too-scarce resource.

    I wonder if there is any way to collectivize job-hunting?  Because that’s often the answer to Prisoner’s Dilemma type situations of this kind.

  • http://twitter.com/shay_guy Shay Guy

    Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match…

    I’ve thought about the application treadmill before. I think I heard something about the number of applications per position companies get and connected it with the number of applications job-seekers are supposed to send out, and it occurred to me: Suppose there are 40 candidates for 40 different jobs. If all of them apply for every job, that’s a lot of work on their part, and the companies have to sift through 40 resumes for each job to fill them. Now suppose they only send out 5 applications each. You’d think most of those jobs would still get filled, with an eighth of the effort. (Assuming random selection for application and acceptance and all the latter happening after all the former, what’s the expected number of remaining openings afterward? Not sure myself.)

    The result is that even in the optimal case of someone for everything and something for everyone, there’s a point of diminishing returns for society. The first 20 applications fill more jobs than the last 100.

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    The result is that even in the optimal case of someone for everything and something for everyone, there’s a point of diminishing returns for society. The first 20 applications fill more jobs than the last 100.

    Indeed! This is one of the reasons why Unemployment Insurance is a very good thing overall. It provides a safety net so job-seekers are able to apply only for jobs that are a better fit.

    And the inverse holds as well: when McDonalds had one million applicants for 40,000 positions, it was clear evidence of how bad things have gotten.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=686487617 Mark A. Denner

    Fred – I’m sorry you’re unemployed, it totally sucks.  I’m praying you get a job soon.  Good luck (better lucky than good is my motto). -Mark

  • Amanda

    Relevant Onion article: Unemployment High Because People Keep Blowing Their Job Interviews

    Reminds me of some of those job workshops I went to.

  • http://twitter.com/mattmcirvin Matt McIrvin

    I was going to go find that Onion article myself.

    My most recent bout of unemployment was the cushiest, most privileged imaginable: being laid off by a gigantic, rich software firm, which actually paid me to look for a job for two months, and provided all sorts of employment counseling, and even let me use the office until they were done shutting the place down.

    And it *still* started to drive me batty after a while.

    One thing I remember about it was that while I suddenly had plenty of time to go and exercise, somehow I couldn’t bring myself to do it.  There was something about the gnawing fear that just kicked exercise right off the radar, as emotionally beneficial as it probably would have been.  Time that I was exercising would have been time that I wasn’t working on getting a job.  Which was, you know, clicking on websites, tweaking the keywords in my resume…

  • Anonymous

    A lot of people have offered their condolences, so I figure that I can too.

    I hate piling on with the unemployment-suck anecdotes, but I’ll note that I had the good sense to finish my PhD in the fall of 2009, i.e. in the worst recession in 70 years.  I couldn’t even find adjunct work and spent ten months loading boxes in a furniture warehouse.

    I’m now a lecturer, full time with a good paycheck (if not tenure-track) but holy crud, that year in the warehouse blew.

    I’ll also note, however, that I’m very grateful to the manager who was willing to hire someone who put a PhD on an application for loading boxes in a warehouse

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Aaron-Pettit/100001993737171 Aaron Pettit

    No wonder I couldn’t get that job loading boxes in a warehouse, I only have an AA!  Stiff competition, that one….
    I’m back to being unemployed, after a brief stint of working (which was preceded by 18 months of unemployment).  The good news is I would have had to quit soon anyhow, as my continued schooling in cardiovascular technology will soon place me in an intern position at various locations around the state, making it impossible to work.  Loans are keeping me afloat till then.  hopefully, there IS work on the other side of this degree.  Fingers crossed, and good luck everyone.

  • Demonhype

    I know.  My brother and I just had a falling out because he considers me a deadbeat loser for being unemployed and living at home.  I was the only kid who took advantage of the only thing our parents could offer us to help with college:  free room and board.  And even then I had to wait until the FAFSA would no longer consider what they had and would  give me a loan, so I had to work and save my money as much as possible.  Then, after all that, I graduate in 2008, spend the next several months with my college PT weekend job while trying to find work when there were no jobs, getting fired late in the year due to brakes going out on the way to work, and spending years unemployed and unable to find work–only to find some seasonal work and then a PT min-wage job that barely allows me to cover the car gas and pay my basic bills (w/o student loan repayments, which had to go on deferment) and will never pay enough to let me leave home, and even if it did I literally couldn’t handle the hours at this job either physically or psychologically.  If I’d known I would graduate into, as you said, the worst recession in 70 years and end up still living in this hoarder house with no ray of hope in sight for even subsistence wages and hours in a menial position, I never would have left my cushy full-time office job at a pretty damned good company to attend school.

    Yeah, my brother and I are pretty much finished.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    http://picturepush.com/public/6938952

    http://picturepush.com/public/6938980

    http://picturepush.com/public/6939060

    http://picturepush.com/public/6939078

    These are about 15 years old now, but I think the basic point is clear. People want to work and will do a lot asked of them to be able to work or keep working.

    What they do not want is to be treated as ungrateful bums because they want a little color in their lives.

  • Anonymous

    People want to work and will do a lot asked of them to be able to work or keep working.  What they do not want is to be treated as ungrateful bums because they want a little color in their lives.

    Dead on.  This is a video my prof showed in his class on project management (great class, BTW).  It discusses some of the research which indicates that money is not nearly as much a driving factor as things like pride in a job well done or the ability to work at mastering a task.  It’s a bit long but worth the watch.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc

  • http://profiles.google.com/anoncollie Anon Collie

    I was fired from my teaching position at the end of last semester on December 21st.

    It wasn’t for anything I really did wrong or anything I did to a kid. I taught theology and my department chair didn’t approve of my teaching paradigm and philosophies, and despite my best efforts to reconcile our two worlds, (Bible Literalist, Franciscan Pedagogy, vs Art and Culture-based, Intellectual Jesuit Pedagogy) I was let go because “it was not working out.”

    I don’t have that many teaching years under my belt and this man has just sabotaged my future career. I don’t know what I’m going to do besides subbing just yet. I want to teach, but I just don’t know if it’ll happen again without getting a higher degree all because of this guy.

  • Anonymous

    Bible Literalist, Franciscan Pedagogy, vs Art and Culture-based, Intellectual Jesuit Pedagogy

    So which were you?  :-)

  • http://profiles.google.com/anoncollie Anon Collie

    The Latter. I wanted to make the theology intelligent and real to my students. He wanted just theory based and basics.

  • arc

     I’m sure you’ve probably thought of this, but… you do need to take a break.  Looking for work is work!  It consumes a lot of time and energy, it’s not very fun, and you’re doing it at least partly for remuneration (albeit future remuneration). 

    What else is needed before it counts as work?

    Given that it’s more tiring and soul-destroying than many forms of paid employment, it becomes even more important that you are reasonable with yourself in terms of how hard you work at it.  Civilized countries have labour laws providing for breaks if you’re working for many hours at a stretch, and 40 hours a week is usually considered a reasonable maximum that requires extra reward if you’re required to go above, so I’d certainly recommend not being any harsher than that – you don’t want to be your own slave-driving labour-exploiting boss.

    It’s also worth considering the marginal utility here.  If you’ve already done 5 hours of job-hunting work in one day, is doing another hour really increasing your chances all that much?  And how much does that increased chance cost in terms of increased tiredness and frustration?

  • Mks Mary

    Please, at the very least, put up a tip jar and link to it at the bottoms of posts for those of us who read via rss. If you can, try to come up with some “premium content” and let us buy subscriptions. Look into self publishing, but collect pledges for purchases first to make sure you’ll make back your investment. Maybe do ut as a Kickstarter project. Even think about collecting some donations for good causes other than your own… You would be an ideal person to run a politically active non-profit, and people who run charities are allowed to oay themselves out of the funds they raise.

    Pkease, monetize my eyeballs!

  • Anonymous

    What worries me, given the current administration’s complete apathy towards the poor and unemployed, is that we have enough such people to constitute an army.

    I don’t want the disenfranchised and disillusioned in this country to start another French Revolution, but the longer this drags on, the more likely such a thing becomes.  I want my country to survive, but my government seems hellbent on ensuring that she doesn’t and that the worst-case scenario comes to pass.

    I am literally terrified for democracy and the United States.

  • Demonhype

    The people orchestrating this problem intend to make this country into a replica of pre-Revolution France and hoping to avoid any pushback–at least, not until they themselves have been long dead from either old age or abject gluttony.  They see that as a utopia.  I don’t think anything short of another French Revolution will stop them, personally, and I certainly don’t want to spend much, if any, time in the nightmare they are trying to create for the rest of us.

    I am also terrified.  This is turning into a nightmare.

  • Anonymous

    I want to agree with Mks Mary.  I’d totally buy a book of essays by Fred Clark. 

  • Guest

    Sounds like “Bright-sided” : “if you were more positive and used the magic words” etc.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sue-White/1605859612 Sue White

    There’s something wrong with a world where I feel privileged because I have a steady full-time job – working at Walgreens.  Today no less than four people came into the store asking about employment opportunities.  Which we don’t have, because the store just announced a hiring freeze.

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    I know I shouldn’t come back for a second helping of commentariat-thumping, but something’s been bothering me.

    I hate “The Secret” and it’s ilk with a deep and burning passion, because a genuine, whole-hearted embrace of those kinds of philosophies contains some pretty horrible victim-blaming. Likewise, I don’t care at all things like “the power of positive thinking” or “affirmations” or “intercessionary prayer” because all of those things are forms of magical thinking, and unless they’re paired with and grounded to some reality-checks, you run the risk of creating a pretty strong self-sustaining delusion.

    At the same time, it isn’t entirely snake oil. If you start each day with your head held high, you really will see things you might not see if your eyes were lowered to the ground. It’s not magic, there’s still effort required, and you still have to take the initiative, take the action, but by changing your attitude, you will percieve the world differently, and be percieved differently. It’s a far more subtle effect than angels and trumpets (or money magically appearing in your wallet) but there does seem to be something to it.

    I don’t know how to untangle advice about attitude and perspective that doesn’t inadvertantly blame victims. It does seem that when you’ve reached the stage of thinking “I need a job, any job at all”, that’s not helping. It’s a perfectly human, perfectly reasonable reaction, but you wind up communicating the wrong things to prospective employers.

    I guess it’s a little victim-blaming to say “If what you’re doing now isn’t working, try something different”. My own arc in job searching started at “What kind of jobs are like the ones I did before?” before sliding to “what kind of jobs am I qualified for?”, moving further down to “What jobs could I reasonably be hired at?”, and at my nadir “Who will hire me?!?!” I kept ‘casting a wider net’, treating getting a job like landing a fish, and kept getting worse and worse returns.

    I’ve found that sometimes, the reason I can’t find the right answers is because I’m not always asking the right questions. After almost two years of asking “Where can I work?” and “Who would hire me?”, I tried approaching the problem with a different set of questions. “What kind of work do I really want to do? How much responsibility do I want? How large of a company do I want to work for, and doing what sort of business?”

    For me personally, changing my questions had an effect. Some of the answers I got were nothing new, but steered me away from bad choices. (I am too cowardly to start my own business or work on comission, whatever my other skills might be) Other answers were surprising and led me to consider options I hadn’t looked at, and to accept opportunities I probably would have ignored otherwise. I took temp work, even though I desperately wanted permanent employment. I took part-time work, and worked two jobs, even though all I wanted was 40 hours a week of living wage. I didn’t do these things because I had to, I did these things because while they weren’t exactly what I wanted, there were elements of those jobs that I did want.

  • darms

    After 1.5 years of unemployment I got off the application treadmill but now it’s been almost four years. Really tough to come to terms with after working & being self-supporting for over 38 years. The missus makes good money & our expenses are low (no kids ever) so I’m really lucky but all the same, I really hate that my industry here was sent to China and I really hate losing my independence. The only good news I guess is that I stopped ‘feeding the beast’, all credit cards are paid off every month, the cable company gets reamed everytime they raise my rates (when they stop reducing my bill we unplug) and if we have to buy it on credit we do not need it. Am hoping for a massive aneurysm or heart attack to step off this mortal coil as I’ve had my fill… 

  • Brad

    I was unemployed (and semi-employed – lots of temp jobs) for most of the past five years. I’ve been working at my present job since August. It’d be nice if it had benefits, but…

    When you go back to full-time work you have to make a real adjustment  – those errands, cheap movie Tuesdays, etc. are much harder to get to. I’m reading fewer books than I was just last year – spending more of my free time online.

    Also I need to get more exercise. At my most diligent I got in a half-hour of mall-walking a day; now I’m reading “Sitting Kills, Moving Heals.”

    One thing that hasn’t been mentioned is the number of career groups, where the unemployed go to compare notes, listen to guest speakers, go on mock interviews and the like. In the Dallas-Fort Worth area there are enough of these meetings that a job seeker could go to at least one a day, and each one counts as a job search activity. 

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Speaking of. You know how Stephen Harper and his buddies keep crowing about how good Canada has done over the last few years relative to other countries?

    The shine’s gone off that vehicle, all right.

  • http://twitter.com/mattmcirvin Matt McIrvin

    Hey, the pundits are celebrating because the US unemployment rate is *down* to 8.3%; Canada’s still ahead.

    (But the US rate does seem to be dropping, and it seems to be because of actual job growth, which is something.  However, I think it’s highly concentrated in a few metropolitan areas.)

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    It is still a bit unsettling to realize that for the first time since World War II, Canada’s unemployment rate has been lower than the USA’s for a while.

    Usually our unemployment rate tends to be higher, and the fact that the unemployment rates no longer track each other so precisely is indicative of some kind of fundamental change in the Canadian economy.

    One possibility is that the Auto Pact has since been dismantled, changing the nature of auto manufacturing in Ontario.

    Another is that Canada’s economy has always been a little unusual among the advanced nations; our resource extraction sector is large relative to the others, even the USA’s, and the oil price boom of the 2000s has only accentuated the resource-extraction bent of our economy. Demand for cars may boom and bust, but the world only ever needs more oil with each passing year.

    /digression.

  • Catrina_dirk

    Oh Fred, I read this post and my heart breaks for you. I don’t know why some media company can’t read your blog and hire you. You clearly have expertise, a wide following, and you are a good writer. I hope you are picking up freelance writing gigs in the meantime.


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