Adventures in Job Hunting, Part 4


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Yeah, I go to the career center a lot.  It’s almost my new hangout. My third visit was to attend an Employer Panel. I thought it’d be a great way to hear what actual hiring managers look for in applicants. And it kinda was. I now know at least two local employers who are “felony friendly.” Swear to G-d, they both used that term. It made me want to go out and rob somebody. “Hey, look at me, I’m a friendly felon!”

There were four employers on the panel, which started fine. I began to get suspicious when the UPS hiring manager talked about how everyone has to start in the ever-lovin’ warehouse and work their way up. He waxed rhapsodic about how widely varied jobs at UPS are (“We have lawyers and doctors on staff! All our advertising is produced in-house!”) while making the everybody-starts-in-the-warehouse claim straight-faced. No way, buddy, no friggin’ way did your staff lawyers and doctors start out working in the warehouse. Just stop that nonsense.

Setting aside the staggering intellectual dishonesty of his warehouse claim, if everybody really does start out in the warehouse, then UPS has completely institutionalized its discrimination. If everybody starts in the warehouse doing the described physically demanding job, there are mostly buff, young, physically perfect men staffing the entirety of UPS’ global corporation. Buff because a warehouse worker has to be physically strong. Male because most (but not all) women have less upper body strength than their male counterparts. Young because after about age 40 both men and women lose muscle as a part of the natural aging process. Physically perfect because a person in a wheelchair would have difficulty picking up an oversized package from the warehouse floor and placing onto a forklift or truck bed. Certainly women can increase their strength and middle-aged humans can take steps to maintain their muscular health. But hey, the hiring manager started in the warehouse, so look what UPS got from this alleged policy. (Hint: they got a douche.)

The UPS hiring manager also fielded a question from the audience about what employers look for on resumes. His response was he never looks at resumes. He only cares about the online application and who shows up at the screening interview. He looked straight at me and said, “I never hire overqualified people. They quit after a week.”

Message received. UPS has no use for a middle-aged, college-educated woman. Got it.

I had high hopes for the hiring manager from the California Department of Agriculture. I thought certainly a state agency has office jobs. They probably do, but she was hiring seasonal workers to drive all over the state looking for certain types of insects and then killing them. She even brought flashcards with pictures of the bad bugs. Not kidding. A big stack of flashcards, too. She also assured us that the agency is now using “cleaner” pesticides (for worker safety? Dunno, she didn’t elaborate. It was creepy. Okay, creepier.).

The third employer was hiring bus drivers. I’ve already got enough road rage issues so that’s another no. The last employer was a home healthcare provider who requires all sorts of credentials I don’t have. She was also very proud of the fact that her staff always leaves the company to further their careers, and they’ve all learned something when they go. I suspect what they’ve learned is that she’s been underpaying them the whole time.

With the exception of the UPS dude, the hiring managers were all very nice. They were clear about what they’re looking for: honesty, punctuality, confidence. They also expect you to want their job, not just a job. I’m not sure how to reconcile that one. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone over the age of 6 who really wants to work with bugs. These seem like jobs you take to pay the rent this month or on the way to another career goal, not jobs that you really want to do for the rest of your life. And every single one of them was offering “McJobs.” Jobs that don’t encourage individuality, creativity, or much actual humanity. Jobs where the people performing them can be swapped out like machine parts and no one would even notice. Jobs that people leave when they can find another employer who will pay them even fifty cents an hour more.

The takeaway: don’t lie on your application; research the company and the job you’re applying for; be on time, for cryin’ out loud; and committing a felony doesn’t mean no one will ever hire you. Keep that last one in your back pocket, y’know, just in case.

Adventures in Job Hunting, Part 3


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The second required workshop at the state’s career center was called “Career Navigation” and it was a goat rope. The lead facilitator treated us like we were a class of unruly teenagers and expected the same level of computer literacy from everyone. There were about two dozen people in the large computer lab, but everyone had to sit on the same side of the room, close together.

I was seated between a middle-aged landscaper and a middle-aged electrician. I guess middle-aged folks stick together. The facilitator led us through a series of activities on bookmarked websites. Landscaper Guy was immediately out of his depth, which frustrated the hell out of the facilitator. She demanded to know why he couldn’t figure out how to click open a bookmarks tab. He (very nicely, I thought) explained that he accesses the internet with his phone and doesn’t even have a computer at home. Y’know, that’s totally legit. Whatever he needs to do online, he can do from his phone, right? When the facilitator wandered off to help someone else, I gave Landscaper Guy a crash course on using the mouse and other basics.

The first website was a personality inventory which then linked to possible jobs or careers most aligned with your personality traits. Electrician Dude muttered under his breath that he’d been a journeyman electrician for 30 years and it didn’t matter at this point in his life if his personality was well-suited to performing arts, he wasn’t in any position to run off and join the circus. Again, totally legit. Also really funny.

There’s value in learning about and honoring your personality traits as well as looking at new career options. But it’s sublimely ridiculous to point people in a completely different direction (nuclear physics! Craft beer brewing!) while simultaneously pushing them into overnight warehouse stocking jobs. Does not make sense. “Dream — but settle” seems to be the message.

I ended up helping Landscaper Guy through the four website activities, just pointing out where to click and what to write down; I didn’t grab his mouse or do it for him. He was a nice man who just wanted to get back outside and landscape stuff.

My personality came back “planner/mentor” with career suggestions in teaching and human resources. I hadn’t even thought of HR, so that was a great suggestion. I was also advised that I am both conventional and artistic and I have no idea what to do with that information.

Adventures in Job Hunting, Part 2


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Two days after the Ralphs cattle call, I went to the state-operated career center. It seems to have replaced the old unemployment office, although people must go somewhere else to file claims for actual unemployment checks. The career centers offer all the other services like workshops on resumes and job interviewing, use of computers, printers, faxes, and phones, and job fairs.

It’s a pretty smart set-up. There are tons of other social service offices in the same building; food stamps, healthcare insurance, and utilities assistance programs are available for access in one spot. If you’ve lost your job, chances are good you might need some help from other programs, too, until you find a new one. Kudos to the state for thinking this through.

The first required workshop was an introduction to all the services the center provides. Again, good idea. After that workshop, I met with a woman one-on-one for some advice on the next steps to take. And that’s where I got snagged in a web of bureaucracy.

It’s the end of their fiscal year so there’s no funding for several programs. The state’s idea of an entry-level job is vastly different than mine. After talking to the Ralphs manager I realized that I would be best suited to an office environment. So when I say entry-level, I’m thinking clerical/administrative. When the case manager says entry-level, she means positions working overnight in a warehouse. Somebody clearly needs and wants to work that warehouse job, but it’s not me. I’ve begun to realize that the career center has a bit of a “one-size fits all” mentality.

She did give me a list of workshops to attend and some other information to work through until yet another staff member calls me in two weeks to discuss more options.

I left feeling like the introduction to services workshop could’ve been a 10-minute online slide show with a quiz at the end to make sure people watched. The meeting with the case manager was futile since there’s no budget to do most of what she recommended. I did make an appointment for one-on-one resume help next week, which is critical for me to apply for the jobs I have a shot at.  This is taking on elements of kabuki theater — everyone just going through the motions to put on a good show.  Does anyone actually find a job paying a living wage through California’s career centers?

Adventures in Job Hunting


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Part 1 of what will doubtless be many.

I turned in my final class projects last Wednesday. That evening I saw a post in my Google newsfeed that Ralphs, our local Kroger affiliate, was having a huge SoCal hiring event on Saturday. I followed the link and applied. Then I was directed to an online personality assessment, which I thought was weird, but I did that, too.

I’ve thought long and hard about how to re-enter the paid workforce after a more than 20-year absence. It made sense to me to look for a part-time, minimum wage job at first so that I could establish a recent work history and prove that I’m punctual, responsible, and honest. But I wasn’t exactly excited at the prospect. It was a means to an end; a stepping stone down a longer path.

I received an email confirming receipt of my application that directed me to the local store on Saturday for a screening interview. This email specified appropriate attire as “business casual” (had to Google that). Kid #3 had some back-to-back activities on Saturday that we had to negotiate, but I was able to get to the interview.

There were at least three dozen applicants ahead of me, at least half of whom were dressed in very casual clothes. And because this is San Diego, six people showed up in shorts and sandals. Applicants were in and out of the offices fairly fast, maybe 10 minutes each. When my name was called, I went to an office where a man about my age introduced himself as the store manager. We talked for about 30 minutes. It was a really pleasant conversation. He was astute and finally remarked that he thought I might be happier in a position with more set hours, like, say, store bookkeeper. Turned out his current bookkeeper (educated as a librarian) would like to move over to a library job and her position would be opening up. I was all over that, as long as they understood I needed training.

He assured me that he would call me back for a second interview (we’ll see) and I left.

The bookkeeping job, if it materializes, isn’t perfect. The hours absolutely suck (4AM-11AM) and the pay is likely low. But it’s an option I’ll keep open. The whole apply and interview process was low stakes to me; I viewed it as a practice run. I’m terrified about getting out in the world, asking for a job, at 54. So I considered just doing it at all a major triumph.

C’est Fini


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Is that you? Oh my gosh, it is! It’s been forever — you look amazing, by the way. How’s everything? I have so much to tell you!

Remember back in the summer of 2014 when I finally put on my big girl panties and called the University? And the advisor advised that I fill out the paperwork to get my degree work evaluated, plus get my butt over to the community college for assessment? Yeah, that. So I filled out some forms and wrote a check to the Uni then took a bunch of tests and found out that whatever I might have known about algebra at one time in the distant past was gone.

I crashed a Beginning Algebra class and spent upwards of three hours a day working really hard because I felt too stupid to understand math. And ashamed. (I’ll tell you a secret…some days I even cried, that’s how hard it was.) I got a B in that class and in the Intermediate Algebra class the following semester. I got my degree evaluation indicating I needed eight classes to finish my Bachelor’s degree.

I felt overwhelmed and hopeless.

But I took African Literature (with my oldest kid!) and got an A. I talked to the English department chair and petitioned for credit on a course that the evaluator had denied — and got the credit. Suffered mightily through Statistics (another A!), dragged my rather sizable ass onto a train twice a week at 6:30am to attend The Writing of Criticism classes (jackpot, yet another A, plus the professor recommended my final research paper be included in the student research symposium).

Then I only had two classes left.

This semester I was back on the train twice a week for Literature of the Middle East and Techniques of the Novel, both taught by a visiting professor, Israeli author Assaf Gavron. It was utterly terrifying to write the required first two chapters of a novel then have them critiqued by a published novelist and an entire classroom of people. But I did it. And I survived.

At first I wasn’t terribly interested in Middle Eastern lit, but it was fascinating. The professor brought it to life and tied it to current events in a meaningful way. Plus, there are some kick-ass authors in the Middle East (Etgar Keret, Sayed Kashua, Riverbend, Suad Amiry, Leila Abouzeid, and Assaf Gavron, of course). I turned in my final projects this week. No grades yet, but I’m sure I passed.

I’m a college graduate!

To everyone who thinks something will be too hard, they’re not smart enough, are too busy, can’t find the money, it’ll never be worth all the trouble: You can do it. Whatever “it” is — you can overcome the obstacles you put in front of yourself. You decide.  Just take one step forward. Just that first step. For me it was finally picking up the phone and talking to that advisor. Graduation seemed ridiculously far away when I made that call, but whether I took the necessary classes or not, the time was still passing. Tick tock, what’s it gonna be?

I’m proud to say I no longer regret not finishing my degree. I did it. And you can, too. You really can.

Unbearable Smugness


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And for once I’m not (just) talking about cheating ex-spouses.

Kid #3 has been pretty excited about the opportunity to go on a school trip to France. She vacillated between wanting to do it Junior or Senior year and settled on Junior year. This fall.

Which meant filling out a six-page application, including writing a letter in French to the host family, finding photos of herself and family that fit certain guidelines, having me sign several places swearing to cover any medical expenses she might incur abroad, and attaching a check for $200 as a deposit.

One of the questions on my part of the application was “Can you be a host family in 2017?” There were three choices given as answers: Yes, No, Maybe. I circled “Maybe.”

Apparently, Madame was unhappy with this and sent an email to me and two other parents castigating our general shiftlessness. She wrote:

“I noticed that on the bottom of the application, when asked if you could host in 2017, you answered “NO” or “MAYBE”. I wanted to clarify that our French exchange program is exactly that, an exchange. It is not a tourist trip. The student that hosts your son or daughter in 2016 will be coming here in 2017, and ideally they will be staying with you. Unless there is a compelling reason for you not to host, it is our expectation that you will host your child’s French partner in February of 2017. An exchange works best when there is reciprocity: the French families take care of your children, and in return you take care of theirs.”

I would have liked to have gotten that whole “exchange” thing prior to writing a check for 200 bucks and having to contact Voldemort for a notarized passport form (which took two tries and about a month to handhold him through). I also could’ve better managed my kid’s expectations had I known hosting was required.

Because not every family has two parents anymore. And even in two parent families, there isn’t necessarily an adult available to run kids around on field trips during the school day, for crying out loud. I fully acknowledge that I feel defensive about the fact that I had to tell this random French teacher that I’m a single mom finishing a college degree and re-entering the workforce. That I have absolutely no idea what kind of job I’ll have in a year and may very well not be available to provide the services she’s expecting.

That’s why I circled “Maybe.” Maybe it won’t be an issue. Maybe it will be a problem. I don’t frigging know.

If hosting is a requirement to participate, why offer three choices on the application? Why not simply state the requirement and make the parent sign off on that just like parents are required to sign off on covering medical expenses?

Kid #3 is now angry and embarrassed. If her parents had managed to stay married, there would be two seemingly responsible adults to deal with these details and a 5-bedroom house for her French partner to stay in. It wouldn’t be any problem at all. Instead we’ve got anger and angst all over the place.

Plus, I don’t speak French.

Finally Cutting the Cord


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I’ve wanted to cancel my cable television service for years. Right after Voldemort moved out, I thought it would be a good time. It wasn’t. There was far too much emotional crap flying around to deal with something as mundane as the cable package.

So I didn’t.

Then I moved and had to have all the services transferred to the new house. Now, I thought, I’ll get rid of cable. But Cox offered me a good deal on a “bundle,” so I took it.

I just got the bill for December and realized that all those stupid bundle promotional prices have expired. The bill went up by almost $100 a month. And no one even watches TV anymore. The kids stream everything on their computers or other devices. I can’t handle the news (local, national, or cable) and only watch the very occasional series like Major Crimes on TNT.

No friggin’ way am I paying more than $100/month for that.

I’ve got a Netflix subscription and Amazon Prime instant video. It turns out that I can buy episodes or entire seasons of Major Crimes from Amazon to stream for a helluva lot less than the price of even one month of service from Cox. (Although the current season is pretty lackluster and I may not even bother.) All sorts of HBO series and movies are available free through Amazon Prime. And I can purchase a Showtime subscription through almighty Amazon for less than $10 a month. Sheesh, why does anyone pay for premium channels through the cable company anymore?

I didn’t think I’d be able to get any reception without the cable box, but after disconnecting it I found that I still get cable on the downstairs TV which never had a cable box. No clue why that is. If it changes, I may buy an antenna and set that up for local stations. Or I may not. We honestly watch TV so rarely it probably isn’t worth the trouble. I’ll keep the option open and see how this goes.

Cable companies just don’t seem to care how most people are choosing to get their television entertainment now. Cox tried to charge me $75 just for “expanded” services, which included about 200 channels, many of which were music (radio stations on your TV!). Then there were charges for equipment, premium channels I didn’t ask for but were included in the “bundle,” and a slew of taxes and fees. When I told the rep to cancel all the TV services, he found another bundle that would save me a few dollars compared to their street rate, but there was no flexibility to drop premium channels I didn’t want. And I would still be paying almost $50/month more than my previous bundle. It’s crazy-making.

I just said no thanks to the whole convoluted con.

Eventually cable companies will feel enough pain from people cancelling TV services to make the reasonable and necessary changes their market is demanding. Right now, though, they’re desperate to hang on to the huge profits they’ve generated over the past decades. Greed is the bottom line. As usual.

If you’ve got any tips on antennas or essential subscriptions for replacing cable, please share! I’ve wandered around dozens of blogs over the years gathering the courage to cut the cord. It’s awesome when other people share ways to make the process less intimidating. So far it’s been painless.

Condoms for Credit Cards?


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In the past 60 days, both of my credit cards have been used online to make unauthorized purchases. My Visa was used on Groupon to purchase several iPads and some kind of Samsung tablet. My Kohls card was used to purchase a fancy coffeemaker.

Fortunately, I saw the charges within an hour of the purchases (thank God I got emails) and took action. Unfortunately, it seems retailers have taken a Wild West approach to fraud.

Groupon ignored my customer service request and has never responded to my emails. But Visa shut that shit down so the dude in Scranton, Pennsylvania won’t be receiving his stolen iPads.

And I’ll never shop Groupon again as long as I live.

Kohls was even worse. I both called and online chatted to report the fraud. Both reps assured me that the order had been cancelled and I cancelled my charge card as well. Two days later, I got an email that my Kohls order had shipped. Called again. Got read the riot act by the Fraud Department as if I should’ve called their direct line as soon as I saw the unauthorized charge.

Um, no, asshats, I called Customer Service — and they should’ve been trained well enough to transfer me to Fraud. Now there’s an investigation opened and they’ll let me know if they determine the charge was fraudulent in the next 60 days.

Huh, really? I didn’t order a coffeemaker as a gift for Jamison Morrison on Olive Street in Los Angeles, so YEAH, it’s fraud.

I’m not paying that $200 charge.

I’m also never shopping at again in my life.

Seriously, since when is it the consumer’s responsibility to make sure a major retailer’s servers are secure?

Lesson learned.

Use MasterCard or Visa online.

Check your Master Card or Visa charges at least weekly.

Don’t bother with store charge cards. Their liability policies pale in comparison to Visa and MasterCard.

Maybe buy gift cards (with cash) to then use online, which is a pain in the ass and can probably be hacked as well. God knows you can’t use a credit card in an actual store anymore, that data gets hacked and sold to creeps online all the time, too.

Welcome to the holiday shopping season. Watch your friggin’ wallet…wherever it is.

It’s Weird, Right?


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I’m a long way from my x’s abandonment and the drawn-out divorce. I’m close to not giving a damn about Voldemort and whatever-the-hell he does.


Kid #1 saw Voldemort a couple of months ago and reported that his dad had bought a house with his girlfriend. Of course, Voldemort offered #1 a place to “crash,” emphasizing that his girlfriend shared the space. This was the first time Voldemort actually owned the fact that he’s hooked up, but whatever.

Then the support check arrived this week with a new return address. A rather familiar address. He bought a teeny, tiny, overpriced house across the street from the condo we lived in when #1 and #2 were born. Seriously. Right across the street. When he first left, he moved to a place within a mile of our previous home, where we lived when #3 was born. Now he lives literally across the street from another previous home.

San Diego’s not a small town. There are dozens of neighborhoods where he could live, but he’s doing a marital home greatest hits tour.

That’s weird, right?

He got exactly what he said he wanted — OUT. So why live in places we lived together? We never lived at the beach, or in the mountains, or downtown, or Mid-City, or really, I could go on and on. How ‘bout ya try those?

I’m thinking of offering the girlfriend my old clothes and shoes. Y’know, since she’s got my old husband and neighborhoods.

The Math’s The Easy Part


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I’m taking my last college math class, Social Science Statistics, this semester at my local community college (cheaper than SDSU where I’m taking my major classes). I had been told that Statistics is all word problems and being a word problem savant, figured it would be right up my alley.

Kinda yes, kinda no.

The math is fairly straightforward. So far it’s all dictated by formulas which make the calculations easier. And as a bonus, the professor allows each student one full page of notes to use in exams. Sweet.

Unfortunately, this professor is incredibly careless in her explanations. For example, when explaining how to calculate range, she said, “Subtract the highest score from the lowest score.” Well, wait. Range expressed as a negative number? That’s not what the textbook explained.

When several students expressed confusion, she reiterated the incorrect formula until finally yelling at us, “Simply subtract the lowest score from the highest score!” Yeah, that’s what we thought, but that’s not what you said. Sheesh.

I almost came to blows with her over order of operations. I pissed her off so much that she told me to ask a math professor. “Sure,” I responded. “No problem.” (I have a great relationship with my former algebra instructor.) Guess that was the wrong thing to say because her response was, “No. I will ask a math professor.”

Yeah, okay, but order of operations is still Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, Subtraction (PEMDAS). Doesn’t matter which one of us asks a math professor.

I feel like the students are all teaching ourselves statistics at this point. It’s frustrating to try to follow a lecture given by a person who doesn’t listen to her own words. Nobody expects her to be perfect; we all misspeak, but she doesn’t realize what she’s said and then gets mad when we’re confused.

Oh yeah, she lapses into Spanish about a third of the time, so that’s not helpful.

Somehow, some way, I’ve clawed my way to the top of the class, though.  I’m bound and determined to get through this class.

Thank God it’s my last math class. I really can’t hold it together much past next week. My give-a-damn is completely worn out.