Vincent Safuto’s Weblog

Notes and observations

Memo to the unemployed: Be picky about jobs

It’s become a fashion of late in certain circles to take the jobless to task for being, as it is said, “too picky” when it comes to employment.

Bear in mind that the criticizers of the jobless are employed, making six figures and protected by contracts that guarantee them more than you’ll make in your lifetime if they are unceremoniously dumped from employment and sent out to the tender mercies of Monster.com and the state unemployment divisions and their personnel in India.

Elected officials, too, have joined in the chorus of criticism, though there’s at least the knowledge that every few years they have to contend to keep their jobs via elections. Still, all they really have to do is get photographed at church with their current spouse and cutest kids, claim religious belief and get their photo taken with some cute underprivileged minority children and they’re good to go since so few people vote in local elections.

For the unemployed, life is not so rosy. Most of us don’t have the connections to land a six-figure job running a food bank, church charity or health organization for the poor. I know what it’s like, having endured six months of not only unemployment but also a futile search for work. Then I got really fortunate and landed a poorly paid, no benefits job in my career field, and got off unemployment ($275 a week, plus $25 more a week after President Obama took office).

I worked there 10 months and quit due to some concerns I had about its direction, but soon after landed a full-time job with benefits, albeit 165 miles from my house, so I rent out my house and rent a place near the job. Things could be worse, I know so well.

The elite make it sound so easy, like the unemployed are living the high life and just refusing jobs that are “beneath” them. Well, I don’t see many of the elite or their children taking those minimum wage, no benefit jobs advertised on Monster.com or CareerBuilder.com. You know the kind, the ones where you have to take the Unicru test and go through six interviews.

Every morning, I’d get up and hit the job sites, reading the positions. I didn’t care that much about salary or whether it was similar work to what I had before. I just wanted to get back to work. There were plenty of ads, but most were for multi-level marketing schemes, the military, private career colleges and some weren’t paid jobs but volunteer work.

I always hear people say that volunteering when you’re unemployed is a good thing, and it’s a good thing for employers who need work done but don’t want to pay for it. If you’re doing a good job, it’s not like they’ll pay you; so long as you think you might land a paid position, employers figure they’ll keep you around for no pay.

Put simply, don’t give your skills away for free!

I had signed up with countless job boards and got e-mails daily with openings. I was pretty selective despite my desperation for work but still sent out plenty of resumes and cover letters. And yes, Mr. Richie Rich, I did apply to jobs that were well below my skill and pay level.

Twice, I even got an interview. The first time was at a bowling alley, where the interviewer revealed that despite the ad, it was not a full-time job with benefits but something like eight hours a week, minimum wage, no benefits. I showed up dressed up; other applicants were in ripped jeans, dirty T-shirts and flip-flops. I didn’t get the job.

The other interview was for Wal-Mart. They needed someone to go out and get shopping carts in the parking lot. Again, I dressed up and got stuck in a terrible I-75 traffic jam. I called to say I might be late to the interview and apologized, and they said it was OK. As it turned out, I arrived exactly at the time of the interview. “Don’t call us, we’ll call you,” I was told.

I managed to land some free training in my field, journalism, through the wonderful Poynter Institute, and that kept me busy for a week in November 2008, but didn’t lead to any immediate job prospects.

The thing is, it’s frustrating and demoralizing to send resumes out into the ether and have nothing come back. The elites don’t understand that because it never happens to them. I read on the AP wires at my job about people who are down to their last dollar, and one woman described in a story how protesters would scream at her as she arrived — to get her food stamps card recharged with money – that she should get off welfare and get a job.

She was tearful as she described to the reporter how she wanted to try to reason with the people, but felt it was futile. She wanted a job more than anything so she could get off government aid.

That’s the story that motivated me to write this blog post, by the way.

I had been hired at the same time as I was hired for the job I had for 10 months to be with the Census Bureau, but I decided to go with the other job. After I left that job, I was hoping to get rehired by the Census Bureau, but in the meantime found a posting for the job I have now.

I sent in a resume, clips and cover letter, and waited. I went for an interview, and I was with some of my greatest friends ever, the Martins in Palm Beach and my cousin Angelo, when I got the call on my cell phone with the job offer. I wanted to cry, I was so happy.

The point of this long story is that while I was open to plenty of other things, including teaching and pretty much any job, including fast food, I knew that there was a lot of good copy editing and page design and journalism left in this old Vinny. I’ve only been in the news business for 15 years, so I have to have at least 30 more good years left in my brain.

Being picky and taking a journalism job was the best option for me. Had it not come up, I would have done something else.

It’s kind of an odd thing, though. On the first night of my work at the Gainesville Sun, I got a call on my cell phone. From the Census Bureau.

I told them thanks (I did work for a week for them, by the way), but I had found a job.

To the unemployed, all I can really say is that I wish them the best. It means nothing to you all to hear that, but I hope you find something and are able to get back into the economy. I feel guilty that I have a job, and so many still don’t. And I’ll do what I can to make sure our leaders know that if even one person is unemployed or underemployed, that’s one person too many.

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December 20, 2010 - Posted by | Life lessons, Living in the modern age, The jobless chronicles | , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Vinny, that was a very thoughtful article. I’m so happy to hear that you got a (good) job at last.

    It is VERY hard and you’re right, the elite (and those they brainwash) just don’t get it.

    Like you, I had a very good job up until November 2008. After two years of being unemployed, all I could get were:

    1-1099 20-hour per week 3 month contract job.
    1 – part time, 10-hour per week job
    Any freelance graphic design that comes my way (one place has been pretty regular)

    That’s it. I now work THREE part-time jobs, and my bills are sill not getting paid, as I earn less than unemployment (which ran out last month).

    The contract job is a life-saver, but I still need to keep looking as it is just not enough to live on.

    Comment by missdisplaced | December 21, 2010 | Reply


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