Seeking Out Me

Day # 66

Posted in life by Tracy on January 29, 2010

Today I had a little minor surgery. I had a (hopefully) benign lipoma taken out of my back. I figured may as well go to the doctor and get all of my stuff checked out while my old company is paying for the COBRA. It’s the least I can do to thank them for letting me go.

Luckily for me, I will have insurance from my husband’s company starting on February 1st.

Procedure was easy-peasy and only 40 minutes. Now I’m on vicodin. Good stuff. Should be up and about tomorrow and back on my feet by Saturday.

Number of resumes submitted:  still at 60, but have followed up with a number of people on LinkedIn. Yesterday I went back and looked at all of the jobs that I had applied to and tried to find anyone I knew at those places through Linkedin connections. Found a few. We shall see.

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Day #64

Posted in life by Tracy on January 27, 2010

My cell phone woke me up this morning at 8am.  Unfortunately it wasn’t a job lead. It was a call with the American Lung Association for my lung cancer advocacy work that I had scheduled and forgot to put in my calendar. Hate it when I do that. I took the call from my bed.

Following, while still on the phone with my scheduled call, my husband motions to me with his hand the number 5 and mouths five minutes. I look at the clock and suddenly realize that I agreed to drive him to work this morning because of all of the rain. Rats. Now I have to actually get out of my pj’s and get dressed.

I drop him off at work and finish up my call. Now it’s 9:15am and I debated briefly about going back to bed, but I didn’t. I sat down at my dining room table which has become my new “desk” and decided to job hunt. I started out on LinkedIn and applied for a two jobs. Then I made a call to a recruiter that I have been dealing with recently. He tells me that the job that I want is “on hold” for the next quarter. Hmmm… somehow I feel that this is a nice way of telling me we don’t want you.

After I get discouraged by the recruiter I decide to follow up with my past applications by looking up people in my network on LinkedIn that work at these places. I pinged several, we’ll see how that goes. Ugh. This is a lot of work. I think it’s actually more work than an actual job.

In the midst of all of my online job hunting (even though the EDD advises to buy a newspaper), I take a break and take a call from my BFF. She is an educator and she has been getting coaching sessions from a co-worker higher up the chain that she. She told me that today her coach told her that she needs to feed her inner spirit on the job. And what feeds her inner spirit is connecting with kids and teachers on a daily basis.

I thought about it and wondered what would it take to feed my inner spirit. I had a hard time assessing what I needed at first because all I could think of was all of the things that I didn’t want to do. In all of this time off I realized that I don’t want to do advocacy work full-time, I don’t want to work in the health care industry or the banking industry. What I didn’t realize was that within my list of don’ts was my answer to what feeds my inner spirit. Creativity. I need to have a job where I can be creative in some way, whether it’s creating documents, training, a product, a website, something and preferably in a fast paced environment.

The thing about this that I find interesting is that if you would have asked me this last year what fed my spirit I probably would have responded with lung cancer advocacy. But now, it seems that my inner spirit is in need of something else. I think that the advocacy stuff does lend itself to the creativity part of what I need to feed my inner spirit, but it also comes with a boat load of other stuff that I don’t want to sign up for long term.

Ahh, now that I have that figured out, time to find me the right job with the right company.

Day #63

Posted in Uncategorized by Tracy on January 25, 2010

Lucky me! Today I had the privilege of a mandatory meeting down at the EDD (Employment Development Department).

I got a letter about 10 days ago that said that it was mandatory that I attend the Career Link Service Workshop or my benefits would be halted.

I was prepared to stand in a long line of degenerates who make a living being unemployed and being herded like cattle into a small room and wait for my name to be called for one on one counseling.  Rather, I was  pleasantly surprised. The line was not only short, there were only 12 in the group that was herded and they weren’t degenerates, but rather hardworking professionals like myself who were just unlucky. Among us were UI Designer, an attorney, a consultant for retail financing (hmmm), a sales operations engineer and a few others.

The attorney said that over 57,000 attorneys in the Bay Area have lost their jobs because of companies going belly up.

The representative leading the workshop was very informative, but she loved to talk. Let me say that again, she LOVED to talk. She stated that the workshop lasted about one hour and fifteen minutes. Let me just tell you, she lied.

And that wasn’t the only lie she told. She said that there were many jobs available at PG&E and no sooner did she say it the girl across from me leaned over and said that she had just gotten laid off from there. Hmmmm…

After you sorted through all of her stories there were a few important and fascinating things to know:

  1. Read everything that the EDD sends you.
  2. Don’t try the dial-in #, it will be nearly impossible to get through the line.  Make an appointment and come into one of the offices.
  3. She lamented about the phone and computer systems archaic technology. She referenced an article in the SF Chronicle where it talks about the antiquated phone and computer system that the EDD runs off of (COBALT!!!). The state has had the money to upgrade the systems ($66M since 2003, but nothing has been done). Hmmmm….
  4. If you insist on using the phone line call on Thursdays.
  5. Definitely upload your resume and work experience in caljobs.gov by this Friday, 12 noon or your checks will stop coming.
  6. Caljobs.gov has a clock on it like the one in LOST. You have to reset it every 60 days (as compared to every 108 minutes). You can do this by updating your resume or performing a job search. If you don’t, an apocalypse won’t happen or anything, but you’ll be deemed inactive by the system and your checks will stop coming.
  7. Network, network, network and grease the wheels of social intercourse
  8. Your best bet for green jobs – Alameda County
  9. Your best bet at getting a job – contract work.
  10. For every job you apply for there are 6 applicants you are competing with. But in the Silicon Valley, that # drops to 2.3.

She said not to waste time with Career Builder, HotJobs or Monster. I told her that HotJobs is how I landed out here 10 years ago. She retorted that is when the market was better. (Another lie. The unemployment rate in SF county is 10.3%, compared to 2000 it was at 5%).

And perhaps the most time saving important thing she told me was that you DO NOT have to list all of the jobs you’ve applied for on the back of your unemployment survey every two weeks unless that box is already checked when you receive it. I was checking it and then filling out the back because it clearly states that if you don’t fill it out correctly in its entirety it will affect your benefits. But as it turns out, those little forms are read with a scanner. No one checks it unless your form gets flagged because it had an unidentifiable mark on it.

Yay! I just got back 30 minutes of my week not having to do that anymore.

At the end she offered up her Job Workshop and that it was only an hour long but as much as it sounded interesting, there was no way it was only going to be an hour with her leading it. I think I’ll stick to LinkedIn and the online job sites.

After that ordeal I came home, applied for 3 more jobs, followed up on an opportunity with a recruiter and tried to take advantage of a “Career Transition Benefit” offered to me by my former company. However, when I called they said that they had no record of me. They were going to have to file a request to get my file. That shouldn’t take longer than a few days or so. Groovy.

I’m up to 55 resumes submitted.

In a blog post by Sue Ludwig on Christine Kane’s blog this hit the nail on the head in terms of all of that “find your passion stuff”

There’s a lot of talk about ‘finding your passion.’  As if it is out there somewhere at the summit of our existence. As if only those with an excess of time and money have the resources to discover their passion while the rest of us live in reality and go to our ‘real jobs’ everyday.

Instead, what if it’s inside of each of us, relatively dormant until we decide to let it rise to the surface, boil, and let off steam? What if it’s really about choosing to live from a place of passion rather than assuming we are stuck with the circumstances we’ve always had?

Read the whole post here.

Until tomorrow…

Day #58

Posted in Uncategorized by Tracy on January 21, 2010

Day #58

Today I was cleaning out a pile of stuff that was long overdue. Yet another useful thing to do with my free time. In the midst of the clutter I found this quote from an old calendar that I found inspirational and relevant to my current journey:

Promise yourself to be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind. Look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true. Think only of the best, work only for the best, and expect only the best. Forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future. Give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others. Live in the faith that the whole world is on your side so long as you are true to the best that is in you! – Christian D. Larson

That kind of encapsulates how I want to feel.

I entertained myself with counting up how many jobs I’ve applied for to date. So far, I have applied for 43 jobs in the past 58 days. I have spoken to 4 recruiters and have had 6 phone interviews and 2 interviewers said that I would be hearing back from them this week or next week. Looks promising.

Day #57

Posted in Uncategorized by Tracy on January 21, 2010

Day #57

Well, the morning started off ripe. I dropped my husband off at work and on the way home I thought it would be fruitful to deposit a few checks into my nonprofit account as well as pick up a few things for dinner. So convenient that there is a bank within the supermarket. Here’s where the day starts to go awry.

I take off my glasses that I use for driving and place them in my jacket pocket. I deposit the checks and then pick up a few items and head to the check out. From there I head over to the other bank in the complex to inquire about a deposit. All is well. I step one foot outside the complex into the parking garage and reach for my car key and my glasses. But, no glasses! Somewhere in the 2000 square feet I just covered, they fell out of my pocket.

I retrace my steps very carefully, squinting to see if I can spot anything that remotely resembles my glasses. I check at the bank, the lost and found at the supermarket and the other bank. I even check with the janitor in the complex who has a dustpan and broom, but to no avail. No one has spotted or swept them up. I am so frazzled because I use these to drive.

So, angry as all hell at myself, I head to the car. I am certain I can make it the 3 or 4 blocks to my house without my glasses and hopefully not run anyone over in the process.

When I get home, I begin to search for the phone number to my eye doctor. Ordinarily these types of things would be stored in my iPhone. However,  since I used my personal phone for work sometimes, when I received my notice  that I was no longer employed, within hours my phone rebooted itself and I had to restore to factory settings. I lost everything. Except that I was smart enough to download my contacts to an excel spreadsheet prior to this happening, so I had most of my contacts but in a spreadsheet stored on a USB drive. Ugh. There was NO WAY I was going to hand type in every one of those contacts. There were thousands. Forget it. I would wait until I got a new job and do it then.

After doing some searching I finally found the phone number to the eye doctor that I went to 18 months ago. He was empathetic which is what I needed. Unfortunately, the frames would not be covered under my Cobra insurance because new frames were only covered every 2 years. The lenses however, would be covered. But that would be only if I went through my Cobra insurance and would only save me $100 in the end. The insurance process would put new glasses in my hands in mid-to-late next week. Or I could pay cash and get them in 2-3 days. Hmmm, the $100 savings weighed against being a hostage in my own home or to be able to drive again, watch movies or television, or see anything more than 10 feet away seems like a small price to pay for expediency. Screw it, even though I am unemployed, paying cash seems like a more viable option given the circumstances.

I hope this is not a sign of how my week is going to unfold.

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Day #56

Posted in Uncategorized by Tracy on January 21, 2010

Day 56

Even though I have only started my job search about 14 days ago, I have had 5 phone interviews in the past 2 weeks. Now, I know I have a lot of experience and a lot to offer to the next company I choose to work for, but this process is like being thrown out into the dating pool after being married for 20 years. Translation? No one wants to do it.

The phone interview is something I find quite interesting because depending on who you are talking to could mean the world of difference. For example, if talking to the hiring manager, there is assurance that they can make the recommendation to bring you in for a face-to-face interview and if they do decide to bring you in then they must like you. A plus for you. There is also a chance that you could talk to the recruiter for that hiring manager. If they’ve done their due diligence, they’ve already talked to the hiring manager and know what s/he is exactly looking for in a prime candidate. But if they didn’t then you are kind of left out there on your own to figure out how to dazzle them and lead the discussion. Nothing is worse than an interview made up of a bad series of interview questions.

I don’t mind the phone screen as much as I hate talking to people that have zero interviewing or hiring experience. One would think that a company would want to make sure that hiring managers knew the right questions to ask.  You would think that they would invest in some training.

Some questions I’ve received are questions that I would normally reserve for an “in person” interview. Yet, if I didn’t do that much homework on the company, I am going to blow this question. With as many applicants per job out there these days, looks like I really need to step up my game and do my homework.

But today, on day 56, I’m utilizing my new free time to go to the movies. The Oscars will be here before you know it and I like to make sure I’ve seen most of the ones that have been nominated. Makes it fun for watching it on TiVo on awards night.

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Day #50

Posted in Uncategorized by Tracy on January 21, 2010

Day 50 – appointment with surgeon

This may have been the quickest appointment in the history of doctor appointments. I walked in and my name was called within 2 minutes. I barely had a chance to warm the chair I was sitting in. I get escorted to the room and I immediately settle in to read a book on my Sony Reader because I am certain that I am going to be sitting there for at least 10-15 minutes.

But, to my amazement, no sooner did I pull out my Sony Reader and turn it on, the doctor knocked and walked in. He was ready. We go through the introductions and I tell him why I am there and then I proceed to show him. He feels my back and then within seconds concludes the same diagnosis as my referring physician.

I’m a little surprised that he can so quickly diagnose by just the touch of his hand. But he was not surprised at his skill and remained confident and poised. I decided that while I had him, I should ask what my options were. Do I leave it in there to see if it grows bigger than it already quickly has in the past 3 months? Or do I get it taken out? What was the procedure if I wanted to get it taken out? What was the healing time? He took his time in answering each question carefully with confidence. He touted that he had been a surgeon for over 40 years and had performed this type of minor surgery at least 400-500 times in his career.

That last part made me feel comfortable with him. Even though he looked like he was 70, I figured if he has done a number of these, what’s one more. After talking it over with my Dad and my husband and my brother, who unanimously thought “why in the hell wouldn’t you want to take it out now when it was small?”, I decided to get it taken out. I will call to make an appointment tomorrow.

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Day #44

Posted in Uncategorized by Tracy on January 21, 2010

Day #44

Since my old company decided to pay for 2 months of COBRA insurance, and since it is slightly better than my husband’s insurance, I decided to fill out the form and take advantage of the opportunity. However, it will only take me until the end of January, so I better get a move on all of my check-ups.

A few weeks ago I was getting out of the shower putting lotion on my back and I felt a lump just right below the left ribs. I hadn’t felt it before. It wasn’t on the other side. I thought maybe a knotted muscle. Then it dawned on me.

Back in October my masseuse was rubbing like crazy to get a knot out of my back. It didn’t feel comfortable and when I asked her what she was doing she told me that she felt a knot that she was trying to get out. But since I wasn’t hurting there, I told her to stop. It wasn’t comfortable and it woke me up out of my daze she had put me in.

So now I am making this connection about this lump in my back must be what she felt a few months ago. But I didn’t even notice that it was there. So today I made an appointment to get it checked out.

The doctor says he thinks it’s a “lipoma” and of course immediately I think cancer. But he doesn’t have that concerned or Dr. Downer look on his face so I’m confused. Turns out it is a tumor, a benign tumor made up of fatty tissue. They are very common. His father has dozens of them.

Fabulous for him. But I still don’t feel at ease with this diagnosis because the big “C” runs in my family like water in the Nile. I wanted a second opinion, but I didn’t quite know how to phrase it.  He noticed the concern on my face and thankfully offered up the idea of having a surgeon look at it if that would make me feel more comfortable. I concur.

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Seeking Out Me – a journey for the unemployed

Posted in life by Tracy on January 18, 2010

Recently, just before the Thanksgiving holiday, I received the news that would put me in a category of millions of other Americans – unemployed. After ten years of service, I was told that my job was eliminated and that there was nothing that could be done.

Ironically, on the day I got the news, I came home to find in my personal inbox an opportunity to be a local SF Examiner Career Coach. Life really does have a sick sense of humor, doesn’t it?

Shocked, angry, disappointed it took me a few days to get over it. But then I was elated. For the first time in 26 years I was actually going to have off for more than a honeymoon or wedding or extended vacation. I was really going to have some real time off.

At first it didn’t seem like time off because it was over the holidays when it’s always super busy with family and holiday parties. No time to really relax and enjoy myself. I wanted to live in the moment. But I was in holiday mode.  Couldn’t wait for the new year to come.

Alas the new year has arrived and after all of the hustle and bustle of the holidays I finally have had time to relax! Only two weeks into the new year and I am asking myself repeatedly and very seriously, what is it that I want to do with my life? I don’t think that I’ve ever had this much solitude to think about that question so seriously and thoughtfully.

I’ve had a number of suggestions and opportunities, but nothing that really strikes my fancy.  More than one person suggested that I write a grant and pay myself a salaried position for my nonprofit. But I don’t feel right doing that and even if I could get a grant to pay a salary, well, I’d hire someone else so that I had more time for the things that I really wanted to do.

Which brings me back to the million dollar question which is, what do I want to do with my life?

I remember the selection process for college. I could have cared less about it. I just wanted to move out and be on my own. So eager to see the world. No one sat down with you and talked to you about what you wanted to be and which colleges would be right for that type of career. There was a giant main frame computer in the career center that you had to make an appointment to use. It spit out information on this giant dot matrix printer that was essentially useless. I knew, or thought I knew that I wanted to be a lawyer and I knew I wanted to move away. But other then that, no direction.

But I had a friend who wanted to be a lawyer and she had visited some colleges. Perhaps that was the way to go. She handed me an application and voila! I’m admitted early. Two years into it, I changed my mind about being a lawyer and wound up graduating barely by the skin of my teeth.

So many times since graduation I thought about going back to school for something that really interested me. I saw a forensics episode on T.V. with Dr. James Baden, who became famous in the O.J. Simpson case. It was interesting that I wanted to do go back to school for it. I took some biology classes and then I took a calculus class. That was it. Over. The teacher had the thickest Hungarian accent that I had no idea what he was saying when he said what later turned out to be the word “slope”.

Later I thought I wanted to be a graphic designer so I enrolled at Moore College of Art in Philadelphia. I took two classes and then dropped it because I didn’t have a computer at home and everything I did had to be done at the computer lab on campus.

I finally got a job in the software business and I lasted there for four years. I learned a lot about software implementation, wrote software manuals, and learned how to essentially run a business.

A bad relationship and a year of living on my own and going through what I call my mid-life crisis at 29, I decided to find a job out of state. It was time to get the hell out of dodge.

In May of 2000 I found myself living in the San Francisco Bay Area working for another software company. It was great. I worked my way up the ladder to Director before getting my walking papers.

Alas, that brings me to the present.

Now that I am unemployed I need to file for unemployment. But filing for unemployment gave me angst for some reason. Not sure what it was exactly, but I am sure that it had something to do with being a statistic now; being a part of the 12.3% of Californians who are unemployed. Ugh.

So I went through the process. It’s all online now. How convenient! But mess up the online application and your application gets stuck for a very long time. My friend Lacey* who has been through the process 3 or 4 times now strongly recommended that I call the 800 number. But it’s always busy and I couldn’t be bothered dialing a number over and over again like I was trying to win a million dollar prize or something on the radio.

I finally convinced myself that since I had been paying into unemployment benefits for the past 26 years, I should probably take advantage of it before there is nothing left, like there will be of social security by the time I reach of age.

I applied successfully online and after the “holding” period I received the maximum benefit. Every two weeks I get a snail mail letter with my check that I have to fill out and send back in by the due date or else my check is delayed or worse, will not come at all. I find the form a little cumbersome because you have to hand write in everything. I have to list all of the jobs that I’ve applied for, including the name of the company, the job title, the address of the company, who I spoke to if anyone and the status. Thankfully there are only 15 spots or so on this form.  Because I have applied for a lot of jobs in the past few weeks.

I just received another unemployment letter from the EDD that says that I need to come down in person to a career counseling service on 1/25/10 or I risk losing my unemployment benefits. They don’t even say how long it is for, just that you need to be there by 9am sharp! After polling my friends I’ve learned that this is a necessary evil to attend this so I will.

In the mean time, I will continue to look for employment opportunities and figure out in all of my newly found free time what it is exactly that I want to do with my life. Now that I am grown up, what do I want to be, really?

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