Tuesday, September 30, 2008
As I've said earlier, the severance from work is now gone, and while unemployment checks continue arriving (although there was a hiccup last week), my part-time work isn't about to pay the bills. We're not in danger of foreclosure so far, but I wonder and worry about finding steady employment after seeing our checking account so low and payday for my wife not until the end of the week.
One question I've raised at the Job Connections meetings I go to and when I meet other unemployed people, is how they do it, how they keep their financial house in order. I'm sure there are daily stories out there to be told, if only a publication wanting some journalistic scrutiny and insight into these tales would pay me to tell them. I'm not talking a "Grapes of Wrath" story, but the daily life stories such as in the excellent book "Nickel and Dimed."
I'm now reading Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma" and have always found such nonfiction amazing reading. Newspapers have told some of the stories of people affected by the sour economy (Where's my bailout?), but not as much as I'd like to in a book, much like Barbara Ehrenreich has done. Now I just need to find someone to pay me to do it, because the bills keep coming.
Monday, September 29, 2008
Writing is writing, I thought. If I can write and edit concise stories for newspapers that are full of facts and analysis, I surely can do that online. It turns out to be much more than that, and I'm just starting to learn what more it entails. Along with short sentences and stories that are about half the size of a newspaper story, they should include links, video, photos, etc. Other than that, I couldn't get much of an answer out of my informational interview friend. I'm still learning.
Some job descriptions have asked for experience in Search Engine Optimization, which I'm still trying to get a handle on. It has something to do with keyword searches and how best to get search engines to find the Web page I'm writing for. One thing I was told to do was to search "How to write for the Internet," which turned up only 25 million searches, such as this. This could take years. Decades. What I'm looking for is either a class on this topic, or better, someone who does this every day and can explain it to me a lot easier and faster. I don't necessarily want to learn HTML or how to write computer coding, just some tips that could help me get a job writing for the Internet. Suggestions? Please e-mail me.
Friday, September 26, 2008
I guess I was naive or at least hopeful, but three months ago I thought I'd find something by now if I worked as hard as I could in my job search. I joined one of the biggest networking groups in the Bay Area, quickly got my resume together with the help of an HR professional, and attacked the job postings by applying for jobs I thought I was qualified for. I've since learned that my resume needs to better showcase my skills and how they apply to writing or editing for something other than a newspaper. I know in the grand scheme of things three months without work doesn't seem like much time, but time crawls.
I've heard the reality: Finding a job after losing one can take a year, six months, 18 months, whatever. It all adds up to much more than three months. A lengthy study that is at least 20 years old points out that eight months after the unemployment rate peaked during the 1981-82 recession, the mean unemployment figure reached 21.2 weeks, or five months. In October 1986, 47 months into the recovery, time spent unemployed dropped to 15.2 weeks, or almost four months. In other words, today's economy isn't near a recovery yet and I'm only at 12 weeks of unemployment, meaning another two months of looking if this recession is at its peak. So take the poll at the top of this blog and let's see how long blog followers have been out of work; or comment below.
I still want to beat the average, and even if I don't, I think the best way of finding the best job is to continue aggressively looking for a job.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
One thing I hope to show during this volunteer stint is how my journalism skills can transfer. They include not just writing and editing, but researching, analytical skills, taking complex issues and making them easy to understand, handling multiple projects on deadline, and other skills journalists have. I still believe that they're valued skills in this economy and that someone will pay me for them.
As for the lawn signs, I created a spreadsheet of maximum sign size, where they can go, where to call to complain about an illegal campaign sign, etc. While jurisdictions vary on size and how long they can stay up, they all include the basic common sense of not putting signs on public property or where they can block a driver's view. Other than that, some cities are picky about size and some allow any size sign to go up. It's a bit of an insight into how cities are run, whether they're full or red tape and limits, or free-wheeling and open.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
"Sir, I've been paying attention to your blog as an unemployed father making the most of your time w/ your daughter. I have a 1 year old and I've been home w/ him for 5 months now since being laid off. I enjoy almost every moment w/ my son, but realistically I need to get back to work. I'm not too fond of going back into corporate finance, but the bills must be paid. I hope you enjoy your time at home while you can."
Thanks for the kind thoughts. Yes, I'm enjoying the time with Emma, now 4, and do all I can to savor it. When she was 6 months old, I took about five months off from work for paternity leave, and had a great time, although it was very stressful. Not as much stress as I'm experiencing now while looking for full-time work, but being a new dad was a lot of work. I've been out of work for almost three months, which is difficult after working 22 consecutive years with the paternity leave and vacation as my only time off during those years.
The knot in my gut about paying bills, the frustrating job search and interviews that don't progress -- these slowly go away for a few hours while I take care of my daughter. And she seems to be taking it in stride, reminding me that I have a "little job" when I tell her I have to leave to go do some part-time work for United Reporting. It's a few hours a week and money I'm happy to have come into the household. And my search for more part-time work continues.
Someday I'll have to write about the great need for family leave and how America has much more catching up to do in this area with Europe. My wife recently went from working part-time to full-time so we can pay the bills during my unemployment, and when I was fully employed and she was working part-time, I thought she had the much harder job because she was home taking care of the kid all day. Being a stay-at-home mom is a full-time job that should pay much more in America, or at least as much as it does in Europe. I guess being laid off has turned into an unintended stint of paternity leave.
Monday, September 22, 2008
Saturday, September 20, 2008
I know, this has nothing to do with being unemployed and looking for work, but part of the blog's mission is to show how my job search affects her. So far I haven't talked about that, and I will in future posts. For now, only a video.
Oh, and congrats to Ryan Huff, who accepted a job as an ACE at a Colorado newspaper! I worked with Ryan at CCT and it's great to see him find a job in newspapers.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
In a well-written story by reporter Lisa P. White in today's (Sept. 19) Contra Costa Times, she reports on the need for police dispatchers in cities throughout Contra Costa County. Most cities have vacancies because they don't pay enough, unlike Pleasant Hill's Police Department, whose dispatchers earn as much as $73,884 and therefore the department doesn't have any openings.
One thing I noticed right away during my job search was the need for police dispatchers, sales people and computer engineers. All are probably high-pressure jobs, but dispatcher has to be one of the most difficult jobs around, and something I think I'd be good at, but probably not over the long haul. I do well under pressure, especially under deadline pressure, but life and death pressure is another issue.
Two potential conflicts in this post that I should point out, in case they weren't already obvious: I worked at the Contra Costa Times before being laid off in June, and I was proudly the first editor at the Times for Lisa White.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Rossmoor is a retirement community in Walnut Creek, CA, and other than the ad I'm trying to figure out a way to maybe meet with a group of people there to propose this bio idea, or get the word out in a larger way. I'm also planning to visit a few retirement homes in the area. So far, no bites on the ad, but I keep plugging away.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
I don't think I'll be pulling any strings yet at my former employer, the Contra Costa Times, but I'll offer any insights I have into newspapers and other media and how to best get the word out. I expect it will be an interesting experience and a chance to meet a lot of politically active people for the next month or so until the election.