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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?

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