Another Interview, Another Rejection

I am feeling very discouraged.

I thought I was doing everything correctly, I went to college and I got a degree. I got a job, and worked hard to learn the field. I went back to school, because I wasn’t finding full-time work in my field, to gather more education and get a masters degree. I worked while going to school – and have stayed open to opportunities.

I’ve attempted to reach out multiple times to friends of relatives, my own friends, and professional contacts. Always they sound excited, always it ends in silence.

I can’t find a job. I don’t even care what field it’s in now, I just want something to do. I want to not feel like a complete and utter failure. I wish that education meant anything, that school wasn’t a complete waste of my time and energy over the years.

My younger sister has been promoted over and again at her job, a place that will not hire me, without having to get a degree or additional training. I feel like I’m going to end up working at walmart or mcdonalds for minimum wage because no where better will hire me.

I don’t understand what I’ve done to deserve this. I don’t know how to move on. I don’t know what to do at this point.

Pre-Trip Anxiety

A few posts back, I ranted a bit about thinking about traveling after I finish my degree this semester. A few weeks ago, I looked up flight times and dates, booked travel, and booked a place to stay for my first week abroad. I will be backpacking Europe from mid-May to early-July. I’m anxious, I’m scared, I’m feeling… guilty?

The anxiety began even before I put in my payment information when booking my trip. It hasn’t let up, it has only intensified. At first it was generalized anxiety about going to a different side of the planet. I’ve only been out of Texas a few times in my life, and never out of the country. So going to another continent on my own is a scary prospect. Generalized anxiety was just the first wave, however; and as I’m planning out and preparing each of the details for the trip I continue to find more and more specifically to worry about.

Weight. My weight. I’m a 6′ tall, 350lbs man. While I’m not “scooter at walmart” fat, I’m a fairly big guy who is looking to get onto a plane. I worry that I’m not going to be able to fit into the seat and that the trip will end before it even begins. Now, I don’t have trouble sitting in movie theaters, but I still worry because I’ve read that it’s a tight squeeze for even normal people to fit comfortably in an airline seat. 

The next fear I have is that I may not have enough money to really enjoy my trip. I’ll have about $7000 in cash, plus credit cards for emergency funds. For 57 days in Europe. While I’ll be staying in hostels, still I’m worried that I might not have enough money. After looking at many blogs and posts about travel to Europe and the costs associated, it seems like I do have enough… but the worry is still there. I alleviated some of that guilt when, as I was exchanging for foreign currency at the bank, I was also approved for a new credit card with no foreign transaction fees (I don’t have any credit card debt, just ones sitting at zero balance).

To top that off, today I learned that I am being passed over for an interview because they wish to hire someone immediately and my trip would interfere with that process. If the positions are still open when I return, I can still interview for them. When I read the email, my stomach sank with guilt.

I could postpone the trip (although, i’ve already given them dates of the trip… so they would know that I cancelled it or think that I was lying to get extra considerations) and try to interview for the job and potentially get it (potentially not get it, too). In doing so, I would forfeit the money I’ve already spent on the non-refunable ticket and the place to stay for a week. It’s not my entire budget being lost, sure, but it’s enough to mean that I wouldn’t be able to re-plan the trip if the job wasn’t offered to me. Basically, choosing to interview before the trip and taking a chance at the job would mean abandoning the trip idea. If I did get the job, it would be at least a year or two before I could gather the time needed for an extensive stay in Europe. 

I could also continue with my plans, go on the trip, and there is a potential (albeit small) that the position may still be open and that I could interview at that time and get the job. Interviewing and not getting the job would be a non-issue at that point, since I would have already taken the trip. If I did get the job, it would be a great thing to come home to after having relaxed and learned a bit more abroad. My only worry is that the position won’t be open any longer and that I’ll have missed out on an opportunity.

As for the job, the pay is good and the position is what I’m looking for… but it is about 30 miles from home (approximately 2 hour commute) and in a part of the DFW metroplex that I wouldn’t be excited to move to. It is not the ideal position, but it would just be a job to gain experience in and then move to the next position.

So… do I play it safe and try to interview here now, take a job that I’m not wild about and forget Europe for the time being? Or do I continue with my plans to see the world a bit before coming back and throwing myself into a job search… 

A difficult 1st quarter

2014 continues to be a hard year to focus on anything more that simple survival.

After having a great-grandmother and a grandmother both succumb to Alzheimer’s disease, and previously having lost a “second-mother” last November; this week I lost another motherly figure from my childhood (this time to a brain aneurysm) and I have a friend from childhood in ICU with liver and kidney failure as complications from a gastric bypass surgery she had a few years ago.

It’s a lot to take in, but at the same time I have to keep in mind that this is nothing compared to what the closer families are going through at this time. It’s also nothing compared to what other people in the world go through all the time in other countries. 

I’ve been blessed to have all of my grandparents and most of my great-grandparents to be alive throughout my childhood. I am grateful for that, but I do dread the coming onslaught of death that seems to be looming in my future… that seems to be coming true this year. Unfortunately, we do live in a world where people do pass on. I’m having to think a lot about my own mortality, about the mortality of others. It’s been weighing on my mind. 

Grandma’s Funeral

I have missed the last week or so of blogging. Partly this was a lack of motivation on my part. That’s not to say that I didn’t have things on my mind, but I wasn’t ready to put in print that my grandma had passed away.

It was not unexpected, as she was in the late stages of alzheimer’s for the past year. We really lost her several years ago, when she slowly lost the ability to recognize us or have a coherent conversation. So it is difficult to explain to others that while I am sad that she is no longer living, I’m not devastated because at least now she’s not struggling to understand life anymore.

I don’t mean struggling to understand life in the way that the beatnik writers struggled to understand their own existence. While it’s interesting to pose a thinking exercise comparing transient lifestyles to the struggles of Alzheimer’s, I think that the struggle to understand what a shoe is for as a matter of practicality rather than as a matter of existential thought is clearly more troubling for a fully grown adult.

The only upside to a funeral is seeing people who you would otherwise never get to see or visit with. My cousins are a great example of this. When my father was born, both his brothers were finishing high school. His nieces and nephews were born throughout his childhood and teen years – and by the time that me and my siblings were born, the rest of the cousins were growing up themselves into young adults.

All this adds up to us not having much in the way of memories with our cousins, since they lived far away and were already leading their own lives when we would visit our uncles. Now that we are grown, however, it’s nice to meet them again and find out who they really are – to have some family out there, even if I don’t really know what that means other than knowing someone that you can follow and tell stories about.

It was a nice funeral, but hopefully it will be quite some time before the next one. I’m tired (my sleep schedule is terribly messed up from the grad school/night classes, so getting in sync with everyone else means that I have to give up more and more sleep). I suppose that is all for now.

The question of travel

The question that I’ve been debating for the last three months in my head is if I should allow myself to travel to Europe for two months of backpacking at the end of my Master’s program. 

As of right now, I am unemployed, I’ve never been to another country (barely have I been outside of the state of Texas), and I haven’t really been away from friends and family for an extended period of time. Sure, I lived away from my parents – but it was always within 30 minutes of home. There was always a safe place to return to if things got rough.

The benefits of such a trip (Ireland, England, Scotland, France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain, are all on the list of possible locations to visit) would be that I would get a chance to really adjust to being done with school for awhile, that I would get to experience multiple cultures and a great deal of diversity that I can’t find locally, and that I would get to fulfill a small bit of my dream to see the world.

However, I do have my reservations about going. Being unemployed, it seems like the first priority I should have is to get a job – which would mean delaying the trip until I’ve accrued enough vacation for a lengthy stay. From a logical standpoint, leaving the country is simply out of the question if I am to be searching for a job. There is also the possibility that I might not like traveling as much as I think that I do. Maybe I can’t tough it out without friends and family within arm’s reach.

A dear friend insists that I should go and go now, while I have the time and opportunity. Things could turn out wonderful, I could learn new skills, I could develop my personality and confidence. After all, I do have the rest of my life to work – and with a degree in HR, a little travel to learn more about diversity and culture in other places really does lend itself well to adapting HR principles into the Global marketplace rather than just local business.

Maybe I should set up an online poll or something to see how many are for or against my going….

Back in action

Okay…. So as my first post on this blog indicated, I don’t have the greatest loyalty to posting my musings online. I write, I delete…. I write and I forget to post… I forget my password to the blog I created a month previously. Luckily, this one is attached to my Facebook account so I could at least look up what the name of it was. I’m back. No real apologies on my side, I wasn’t really sure what my next post should have been – but now that I’m back up and running I should at least make an effort to keep going. Once more, hopefully it’ll stick.

As I write this blog, I’m doing so on my new Macbook Air. I’ve wanted to get a new laptop for some time now, but have managed to keep putting it off. This time, I went with an Apple product rather than the Windows-based laptops I’ve grown accustomed to using. It’s an interesting change to say the least. It’s a hard change. I couldn’t find a text editor on the machine for at least an hour. It made me feel like a failure.

I did find the text editor though, so that’s a big step in the right direction and I have high hopes that it will be a continuing trend. The operating system has some very nice features that I didn’t think were available on a computer right now. It conveniently has suggested things like setting up my google mail to come directly to my desktop, having notifications pop up from certain websites, and syncing information with my mobile device all without prompting or looking for how to set it up. It’s quick, efficient, and I like it.

I’m sure that I’ll figure out something more substantial to post in the near future. Possibly tomorrow. For now, though, I have accomplished my goal of getting this website, and password, written down so that I can get to it quickly when I want to write a small blog.

 

Job Searching for Today’s Youth, Part 2

Welcome to part 2 of the 2-part series, I’m sorry for the delay in getting this out to you – but I’ve been fighting with a sinus infection of some sort and couldn’t find the energy to come back and finish this up until today.

Part 2 is a first-hand account of the job search process today and some commentary about the reasons why it may be difficult for some generations to find a job today. For those that are unfamiliar with the generational groups in today’s workforce, Part 1 is dedicated to defining the generations.

 I start this topic because I myself am currently job searching. While I might not qualify as “Today’s Youth” anymore, being 27, I feel that I’m facing the same or similar problems with my job search today as I had when I was fresh out of college; so perhaps I can pretend that I’m still part of the youth.

 My story is fairly typical. I graduated High School at the age of 18, immediately attended a 4-year university (switching majors from computer science to psychology) and graduated on schedule. During my time at the university, I had an internship as an assistant in a neuroscience lab on campus, as a senior housing assistant analyst for a local realty firm doing valuation audits, and as a human resources intern with the university’s local management group.

I graduated in May of 2008, and immediately put myself on the job market; sending out resumes and applying for positions. I was sure to find something entry-level, having a college degree had been touted as the only real necessity for finding a real-world job… so while I had very limited experience, I had what really mattered – or so I thought.

As it turns out, a college degree is not a qualification in today’s work environment. Unless you have a degree in something specific (accounting, for example); experience in often touted above education when looking at the job requirements. Moreover, “entry-level” positions often ask for 2-3 years of experience to qualify. For the newly graduated, this can be disheartening.

I came out of school at a horrible time; the economy was unstable through the summer months and then all but crashed in the fall of 2008. Companies across the board were making cuts, and getting fired was more likely than getting hired. I managed to secure a part-time position, which was lucky; but not a long-term solution. I stayed in the part-time position for nearly a year and a half. I had no benefits, was less money (partly because I was working less hours, and partly because the company would not pay a part-time worker the same hourly rate for a part-time worker… so I was compensated less for the time that I was working), and was unable to grow in the position because I was not on site enough for higher responsibilities to be given to me.

I did ultimately leave the position, and look for something full-time; hoping that the worst of the economic slip up was over. While I won’t bore you all with the details (I could just link my resume if I wanted to do that), I held other positions as an entry-level or temporary employee, but there was never room for advancement or growth, and each time it was a struggle for months just to get an interview. During the years, I’ve started and am currently finishing up my Master’s in human resources and I have had at least the minimum years of experience requested for entry level employment. Yet, in the last 6 months of job searching… I have had 2 interviews only.

The job search process today is dissimilar to the process in earlier years. In the past, much recruiting was down through ads in the paper, through word of mouth, or through job fairs.  Look through want ads, or attend a job fair today and you might learn something about positions that are open… but ultimately you are going to be directed to apply online. Even fast-food restaurants rarely accept applications in person, opting instead to require online forms.

So you have to apply online, how is that different?

First, the application process has become complicated. To apply for a position, the average company would like you to: sign up for an account to apply, upload your resume, fill out an online application including job history (sometimes up to the last 12 years…. Discouraging when you’ve only been out of school for 4-5 years), and answer a questionnaire about why you are qualified for a position.

This is drastically different than the 1 page resume or application that might have been required previously. They are requesting more and more information, and while it might be pertinent, this also raises the amount of time spent on each application.

Second, the review process has been automated. Only a small fraction of the applications that are submitted to a company actually get seen by anybody. Computers are loaded with key words and phrases, and unless you happen upon these specifically (synonyms don’t count!) – Your application is rejected before any human eyes look at it.

This might be okay, except that computers are imperfect. Often you have qualified candidates that are turned down because they don’t trick their way through the computer system. Candidates that might be close fits, were it not for specific language, are never seen and never get to show what other skills they could bring to the board in lieu of their missing attributes.

I’m trying not to make this into a whining rant, and though I’ve spent days trying to think of a better way of saying it… it still sounds like a whine when I read it back. So, perhaps I’ll just move on to reasons that jobs might not be available.

This is the part of my post that will refer to part 1. There are three topics I’d like to bring up; the retirement age, age discrimination, and automation.

Baby Boomers should be retiring, but many aren’t. Although they’ve been working their whole lives, and have often risen to the tops of their fields; many baby boomer’s have lived “beyond their means” throughout their adult lives (living on loans, credit cards, etc.) and/or do not have savings to retire upon. Part of this is due to recent economic strife, but whatever the reason; the problem remains – baby boomer’s aren’t retiring.

In a time of continuous economic growth, this might not be a problem; in today’s world, however, this means that the finite number of jobs is filled and no one is leaving. Without their retirement, the worker’s below cannot graduate to senior positions, individual contributors cannot move into management, new employees cannot be hired. This is an exaggeration, I know, but the truth is that until we see a large wave of retirement or extreme corporate growth; we won’t see a large number of hires. Even moderate corporate growth would not really affect the number of new employees being brought into the workforce, since companies today are in the mindset that any positive growth needs to be coveted and saved for an impending rainy day.

The truth is, the delay in baby boomer retirement will be felt for many generations. Today, it may mean that the younger generation may need to wait a few years to start their career; but that means that the younger generation will need to earn more in less years, or work longer. Probably both with the increase in the human lifespan. Thus, every generation could be delayed more and more.

A second issue affecting today’s youth is age discrimination. While there are laws that protect older workers from being discriminated against, no such law exists for discrimination against the young. In fact, it’s “impossible” to discriminate against someone for being too young. It certainly happens a lot for an impossibility.

As an example, I’ll take my first position out of college. I interviewed for a full-time position as an HR Assistant. I was turned down for the position, because someone with more experience was selected. Fair enough.

This individual couldn’t handle the work-load, so I was brought back and interviewed and hired for a part-time position as an HR Assistant to work along-side the other individual. Again, fair enough.

Despite working less hours, I consistently completed more work than the full-time employee. In fact, I was often called upon to teach the full-time employee new skills. However, when given reviews and salary information – I was told specifically that I would NEVER make as much or be senior to the other individual because I did not have the years of experience that they had coming into the job. Even though I had more skills and a harder work ethic, they were a better employee because they had more time.

This is where I have to say that it becomes unfair to younger workers. If we are less experienced, and therefore have less skills or knowledge than those with more experience – sure, I can see why you’d go with someone who has more. However, if the person with less experience performs better, they should be rewarded.

The final item that has reduced jobs is automation. This is pretty straight forward; automation has eliminated a large number of manual or repetitive tasks that used to be performed by low-experience workers. Mail clerks and receptionists are being replaced by cell phones and email; robots have replaced assembly lines; and even check-out lines in supermarkets are now being replaced with electronic tellers.

I know, this post wasn’t nearly as well put-together as the previous post. But I suppose I should stop here. Any thoughts?