Filling the Gap


For a lot of people struggling in this economy, there are gaps. Gaps between the monthly paycheck and the monthly rent. Gaps between what we’d like to spend and what we are able to spend. Gaps created by too few hours and too low salaries. Gaps between the lives we want and the lives we have.

Now some of these gaps can be lessened by the adjustment of expectations. Goodness knows I’ve done my fair share of wants vs. needs charts; downsizing in favor of a more reasonable lifestyle, but at a certain point I
can’t cut back on the needs column any more (i.e. bills, food, good books…).

In my continued searches through a frustrating job market, I have noted the presence of some interesting opportunities to ‘fill the gap.’ Ways to make that extra bit of money finish out the month; or if you’re like me,
ways to make some money instead of none.

The most obvious of these fillers has been employed (pun intended) by workers of all types for years—the part-time job.

Whether it’s bartending nights or selling shoes on Saturdays, a part-time job is a good way to fill the gap. Scheduling is flexible, And it can also be a nice way to do something different a few days a week, in case your real job (or non-job) drives you bananas. As previously mentioned, I have been searching for a few part-time gigs to fill out my weeks and amp up my bank account. A few days ago I applied to a bakery in my neighborhood, so fingers crossed on that one.

Another ‘filler’ that suits me in particular are sites like gather.com or skyword.com, where writers can contribute articles with limited time pressure and be paid based on how the contribution draws in readers—more readers, more cash. This is especially helpful because it lends even more freedom from scheduling constraints, so if my free time is at 3am then that’s the time I use to get paid for writing. There’s also a relatively uncapped earning potential depending on the number and popularity of articles written. If I have lots of time to write a bunch of really engaging articles, I can earn quite a bit.

For those who are slightly less journalistically inclined I have also recently discovered a site called taskrabbit.com, a nifty idea that allows people with extra time to run errands for those without it. Need your groceries picked up, or you house cleaned, hire a task rabbit; a whole range of tasks for people with varied skills and extra time looking to turn those assets into cash. I don’t know about anyone else but I love this
idea. I signed up to be a task rabbit yesterday and am waiting to be approved sI can choose my first assignment. Perhaps someone out there needs me to make hem tea and read them a book…

My final source for odd jobs is the ever trusty craigslist. They have a section labeled ‘gigs’ that ijust bursting with small, one-time/ temporary jobs waiting for people with the time, talent, and inclination to get them done. If I remember correctly, that is how I found out about and started writing for this blog. It’s at least
worth a look.

These are the opportunities I’ve happened upon so far in my search but I’m sure this isn’t the end of the list. Someone before me discovered that sometimes people end up with more free time than they know what to do with and is out there trying to help us make use of these idle hands. To help fill the gaps, as it were. At the moment all I have is gap so hopefully using these strategies will help me keep my head above water as the real search continues.

Part Four: Summer 2011


PART ONE
PART TWO
PART THREE

This article was written by guest writer, Miss. Stefie.

I started at the library in the middle of March. For the rest of the month and for all of April, I am holding down five jobs (to recap: library, zoo, retail, modeling, work for dad), working at least 60 hours per week with no days off. I often work 12-14 hour days, bouncing between two or three jobs a day. I live with my boyfriend, but I never see him. Wake up, go to work, go to sleep, repeat. Then all of a sudden, the semester is winding down, the art classes have no more need for models. Around the same time, my dad actually hires someone to work with him, and I am free of that job as well. As April ends and I am filling out my day planner with May work schedules, I see it: a blank day. I triple-check my schedules, but it’s not a mistake, it’s really there. It’s a Thursday, and it is a day off for the first time in almost two months.

My day off is glorious. I wake up at 7, as I do every day, but I don’t get out of bed. I check my e-mail (unanswered for the past week), check facebook (untouched for the past month), wander through neglected messages and unvisited sites. It’s barely 10:00AM before I decide I need more days off. Even a few hours off. I still hardly ever see my boyfriend. I need to quit Bargaintopia.

My next Bargaintopia shift, I begin planting the seeds of my departure. I’m lamenting my return to work, raving about my day off. My co-workers know I have not had one in quite a while, and are excited for me. They’re all trying to find different jobs, and are mostly baffled as to why I continue to work there when I already have two jobs. I find the manager that likes me most and tell him I think it’s a bit too stressful holding down three jobs at once, and I realized that yesterday when I had a whole day to myself. He says, “Oh, that’s understandable. I wouldn’t want to work that much. But you’re not leaving us before inventory, right? We need you.” I agree to stay on for inventory, but could he please give me fewer hours? I’m sure other people would appreciate some extra shifts.

I am busy, but not unbearably busy, through June. I’m only working 40-50 hors per week, trading away many of my Bargaintopia shifts, waiting for my last day, July 7, inventory day. Finally, it arrives. The shift is from 6PM-2AM, I have to be at work at 8AM the next day. I manage to not fall asleep in the store or at the zoo or library the next day.

For the rest of the summer, I work 15 hours at the library and 15-30 hours at the zoo, depending on how busy the schedule is. I have Sundays off every week. Sometimes I have other days off as well. I adore the library. It has lived up to my expectations, and I can’t believe I didn’t realize earlier that this is what I want to do for the rest of forever. The only snag is, to be a full librarian, I need a Masters in library science. Until then, I can’t work more than 15 hour per week. Some sort of labor law. So now I know what needs to happen. It’s fun working at the zoo, but next fall, I’ll be a student again, working toward librarianship.

I think back to this time last year, having just moved, John dropping out of school. I’ll need a scholarship, or loans, or some kind of help. But I’m prepared to do whatever it takes. I’ve been scouting schools with distance programs lately. I am determined not to move again. I keep thinking that it’s about time for something to go terribly, terribly wrong. It’s strange, I feel the exact opposite of what I felt a year ago: happy, and hopeful, like I have a future waiting for me.

Asking Questions


I’ve always been the quiet one—the one who stands on the sidelines, the one who goes with the flow, and most importantly the one who doesn’t ask questions.  For a long time this stance on life has treated me well, and kept me out of trouble.

But ever since I spent two months travelling around the backwoods of Arizona with a group of people – unafraid to ask for anything and everything – I’ve considered altering my quiet persona.

From mid-March to mid-May of this past year I was on assignment working for Arizona State Parks. I was traveling in a fifteen-passenger van packed with everything from trail tools to camping supplies; plus enough clothing and personal gear to keep eleven people functioning and happy no matter what the trip threw at us. Our weather conditions varied from hundred degree work days to twenty degree frost-covered mornings as we travelled through ten different state parks in the Arizona park system. The work, the travel, and the stress were a rollercoaster worthy of even the most dedicated thrill seeker.

But the ten people riding along with me were of an indomitable spirit. They took what could have been a very rough experience for all of us and made the two month project an amazing and unforgettable journey, all through the cunning use of questions.

“Can I have that?”

“Can we have some?”

Unabashedly, my co-workers used these phrases and other like them to get us an overwhelming collection of free stuff. From t-shirts to food, to walking sticks, to hats; if our travelling van hadn’t seemed laden down when we started, it certainly was bulging at the seams when we returned. Every new location provided new opportunities to my ambitious team. And it didn’t stop at the stuff.

The questions branched into “Are we allowed to…?” and “Can you show us?” which opened the door to tours and plane rides and undisclosed hiking trails, all of which we happily explored to our hearts content. Once they got people talking, the folks we encountered were always happy to point us in the direction of fun and exploration. It seemed like we were trading our service time for insider secrets on the best places to see and visit in the small towns surrounding the parks we worked in.

The last set of questions I heard with regularity surprised me every time. “What’s your story?” and “Will you teach us?” No matter how many new characters we met during our travels, my team never seemed to lose interest in the stories. We’d sit and listen or explain what we were doing in the parks, ever content so long as the exchange of information continued, the questions flowing. They laughed, they learned, and they weren’t afraid to reap the rewards gained through their never ending litany of questions.

At the time my appreciation for their questions was limited, my predominant reaction being annoyance. The stream was really never-ending. But with the proper distance and reflection, I’ve come around. Present-day-job-searching-me is now reconsidering the potential of this seemingly inconsequential communication device.

The question, in all its shapes and forms, is a very important and somewhat underrated networking tool. Its many uses can include promoting conversation, opening doors, projecting interest and curiosity, making connections. I have been trying to employ it more and more in my daily life.

Even if a store doesn’t have a ‘now hiring’ sign up it can’t hurt to ask, right? Maybe they haven’t had the chance to put an ad out. Maybe they know someone else who is hiring.

From what I’ve gathered about networking (though I’ve never really gotten the hang of it), the idea is to put out feelers. To ask questions that can help me identify connections I was previously unaware of and use those
connections to find the hiring manager in charge of my dream job.  Asking questions helps me to put my foot in the door and let people know that I have arrived. Or at least that I’d like to arrive sometime in the near future.

Now if only there was a guidebook to help me find the right questions…

Finding the Right Job Opening


By Nicole Hosette

Becoming employed is a multi-step process. First you have to locate open positions; then comes the tasks of writing a cover letter, updating your resume, and hopefully preparing for the interview. Everyone puts a lot of emphasis on the application and interview steps – as they should. Your resume shows employers what you can do, and the interview proves what an awesome addition you would be to their organization. These steps are super important, so there are a ton of websites all over the Internet dedicated to helping you excel with them.

But before you can write that cover letter, you need an open position. Online job boards make it easy to search for that perfect job from home. Do a quick Google search for “jobs” and you get over 2 billion hits of job boards and more. Narrow that search down to include your location and you’ll still get a couple hundred million sites.

While Google is awesome for finding openings, it doesn’t mean you won’t have to sort through some pretty awful websites to find anything decent. When it comes to job postings, there are so many variables – industry, experience, location, application deadline, etc. And not all job boards are created equal.

I’ve become pretty well acquainted with a number of job boards recently, and I spend a lot of time on them. I figured I’d be helpful this post instead of just whining about being unemployed. So here’s a quick list of a few of my favorite places to look for jobs online:

1. Indeed.com
You might be familiar with this one. When you do that Google search I mentioned earlier, this will be one of the first hits. The great thing about Indeed is that it aggregates listings from all over the web, so the selection is great. Plus, it has an option to look at the average salaries and trends for whatever position you’re checking out.

2. Idealist.org
This website is actually a platform for non-profit organizations to post events, volunteer opportunities, and jobs, among other things. If you’re interested in working for a non-profit, the job board on Idealist.org is great place to look. Depending on your preferences, you can search by either job title or by cause. So if you really want to work for a group that works for LGBT rights, animal welfare, or education, you can find the groups that are hiring in your area. If you’re not picky about the cause, you can search for the position you’re looking for instead.

3. Craigslist.com
This one is really hit or miss. I like it because it has options for writing “gigs” as well as writing “jobs”. Here you’re much more likely to find something like a small start-up or blog that isn’t able to pay you, but if you’re looking for clips or experience, it’s a good place to start. This is also a good place to find part-time or service jobs to help pay the bills. You do have to be careful – watch out for the sketchy looking ones, and remember that listings with credible links are always a good thing.

4. Journalismjobs.com

Unless you’re looking for a job in journalism/PR/marketing, this one probably won’t do you any good. But the problem with journalism jobs is that they often don’t fit into “major” job boards, like Monster or Indeed. So boards like Journalism Jobs, Media Bistro, and Mediagigs.net are great resources for a job seekers who have a specific skill set and don’t want to search through the many, many listings on general boards that want employees with “great communication skills.”

These sites are my favorites, and they have what I’m looking for, but every job search is different and I get that they might not work for you. If you have a favorite place to look for jobs, please feel free to mention it in the comments!

Deadline Oriented


By Katherine Shaye

In my last post I noted that it is difficult for me to set my own deadlines. A friend of mine read this and remarked teasingly that I shouldn’t tell this to any future employers. This confused me. Yes, it made sense that no employer would want a worker who couldn’t meet deadlines, but I had never had this problem at work.

In fact I’ve been rather good at meeting work or school deadlines. My track record has been clean, showing up on time, turning in assignments, getting things done. I never asked for extensions or ignored due dates. But this was all in my work persona. For some reason those traits and habits aren’t translating into my day-to-day life.

Continuing my self-examination, I started wondering why this is. What are the conditions of a deadline that make it concrete in my mind?  Andhow can I make the goals I set for myself better fit this criteria? As always I have spent some time sitting with these thoughts and come up with a few answers that might help me understand the issue.

Expectation of completion – the first criteria jumped out immediately, an authority figure. Someone I respect who holds the expectation that I will get done whatever job they’ve asked. It gives me a sense of accountability that I have been tasked with something and that someone will know how and when I get it done.

So when it’s just me how can I set up that same sense of expectation? One strategy I’ve devised is to share my goals with other people. To write them down, say them out loud, post them in a blog, whatever. Some way to let at least one other person know and increase that pressure of expectation.

Dependence on completion- this was an especially important motivation for me at my last job, where ten people depended on me to keep my deadlines , so that their housing, food, and work schedules stayed in order. If not turning in my report meant someone in the office couldn’t get their work done on time that motivated me. If not grocery shopping meant putting strain on the food availability for my team that motivated me. Now, if I don’t apply for that job today, I’m the only one affected. I am more likely to make exceptions, procrastinate.

A possible solution to this might be to envision the longer chain of effects meeting or not meeting my deadlines might have. Sure if I don’t apply for a job today the sun will probably still rise tomorrow but if I don’t apply for jobs then I won’t get a job and without a paycheck I can’t make
rent. That would certainly affect my eleven housemates. And not in a good way.

Commitment to completion – Often times I find that when I set personal goals I either set the bar super low so that if I ignore it I can make up for it later or crazy high so that if I don’t reach it I won’t feel bad because it was a stretch in the first place. I can’t say that this is a healthy way to approach goal setting. I’m already making room for myself to blow it off or fail. I haven’t committed to my own success.

Now that sounds like a self-help-book line if I’ve ever heard one but unfortunately I think it’s the truth. Getting over this particular hurdle in goal making will require more than just a casual reassessment of my goal setting tendencies. In essence it will require me to start putting stock in myself and taking my own deadlines quite a bit more seriously.

Though these tactics may not be bulletproof and I still may spend some days wrapped up reading a good book rather than writing my own, I think that they will help me change my thinking around setting goals for myself.

So in the spirit of honoring my own deadlines I will now return to working on the book manuscript I aim to have finished by the end of this year, Imaginary Me. And anyone reading this can feel free to help hold me to it.

Part Three: Spring 2011


PART ONE

PART TWO

This article was written by guest writer, Miss. Stefie.

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. But not only who you personally know—also who your parents know, who your friends know, who your previous employers or coworkers know, and so on.

After six long months, I was once again living in the same area as my parents and most of my friends. It was awesome. After a few days to get settled in, I began calling my previous jobs to see if they had any openings. In the meantime, I did some work for my father. A week after my return to the area, I picked up my old part-time modeling job at the community college and another gig at the arts center a couple of towns over. A week after that, I was re-hired as a part-time sales associate at “Bargaintopia”. Two weeks later, I was working two days a week at the Utica Zoo, as though I had never left. All the while, I was holding out for my dream job. The four aforementioned jobs were nice to have, but what I really wanted to do was work in a library. Perhaps a short explanation is in order:

My father loves to talk about my future. Every few months he delivers what I have dubbed the “YOUR FUTURE” speech. In the most recent “YOUR FUTURE” speeches, he had decided that I should go to grad school (didn’t happen), get a good job in Glens Falls (didn’t happen), consider moving back home after John left his school program (happened, but several months after the fact), maybe you can see a pattern forming here. In any case, it was about time he had a suggestion that was both sensible and feasible. It was on his advice I took a series of online career tests.

For the most part, online career tests are a waste of time and a big scam to get you to pay for your results after having spent an hour to take the test. But if you take enough of them and read enough personality mumbo-jumbo, sometimes they are not completely and utterly useless. It was in this fashion that I decided I wanted to try librarianship.

While scouring the online job boards for public service work, I finally found the perfect position: Library Assistant – Youth Services. I read through the job description. I was still interested. Read through the qualifications, and in an incredible stroke of good fortune, I was qualified. I must apply for this job! Scroll all the way down to the bottom, “If interested, please fill out this application and e-mail along with your resume to…” Do I know that name? That name is familiar! How do I know that person?

I often get the impression that my parents are somehow acquainted with everyone in the county. Time to call my dad. “Of course you know her! That’s Bob’s wife. You know her from church and from the blues trio. Didn’t you know she’s the director of the library?” I am beside myself with excitement. After attempting to download the application and receiving only a blank document, I call the library and ask for the director. She answers, recognizes my name, is happy to hear from me, seems excited to have me apply for the job, makes sure I know it’s competitive, asks if I’m qualified, no she didn’t know I was moving back to the area, it’s so good to hear from me…

A month after moving, I get a phone call from the library. I have an interview. I see the library director a few times before then, she is very friendly and says nothing about my potential future job. I go in for the interview, meet with her and the children’s librarian, answer all their questions, and eave feeling hopeful. They said they’re interviewing for the rest of this week and the next week, and they’ll make their decision about a week after that. Whenever I see the director in church, I want so badly to ask how far they are from a decision. She gives no indication of my standing. The three weeks pass. I get a phone call. It’s her. She wants to offer me the job if I’m still interested. Of course I’m still interested! I go in at the end of the week to fill out paperwork. I am elated.

Back up for a moment. Look at that second paragraph. This job at the library will be 15 hours per week. I can’t abandon the job at the zoo, they need me those two days per week, at least until they hire someone new. That’s 18 hours per week. Bargaintopia was very good to hire me back, I can’t just leave after a month and a half of working for them again, I’ll stay on for a while longer, at least until inventory is over, the hours are mostly different anyway. 15 hours per week. I can’t leave the community college in the lurch, they don’t have many other dependable models. 12 hours per week. And I can’t just up and quit on my dad, he’s my dad! 5 hours per week. If you’ve been keeping up, that amounts to about 65 hours per week. Okay, I can do this.

And I do. I keep it together with the help of my day planner. I’m hardly ever home, I sometimes have to skip meals to make it everywhere on time, but I’m doing it. It’s about a month before I start losing my mind.

CHECK BACK THIS WEEKEND FOR THE CONCLUSION!

The Ups and Downs of Finding a Job


In response to my last post, where I claimed I was finally feeling settled into my new home, the universe decided to take me down a notch.

Up until now, my job search has been pretty relaxed. I sift through the postings on all of the job boards I can find, trying to find something remotely related to what I want to do. When I see something, I apply. My boyfriend is very supportive, and our savings are healthy enough that we’re not financially desperate yet, so I feel like I have a little bit of time to put into finding the right job for me.

I spent six years working in the service industry, all through high school and college. I worked as a dishwasher for a nunnery, a caller for market research, a grocery store cashier, and more. I know better than to expect to land my dream job right away, but after all of the jobs I’ve had so far, I’d be happy now with a position that allows me to grow professionally and doesn’t make me dread going to work every day. I want a career, not just a job.

I’ve faced a few problems. First, there aren’t a lot of journalism jobs. The pool becomes even smaller with the fact that I’m not willing to move away from my partner for a job (insert cliché about love here). I’ve tried to get around this by looking for any position that wants someone with great communication skills or knowledge of public relations. But this leads to the second problem: nearly every job, even the “entry level” ones, wants someone with at least a year’s worth of experience.

After four weeks of looking and several rejections, I came across a job that was as close to perfect as I could hope. It was a reporting job with a weekly newspaper for a nearby community, and they encouraged everyone to apply. So I fixed up my resume, wrote one of my best cover letters to date, attached two writing samples and sent it all along.

Less than a week later, I got a call for an interview. It was for a reporting job at a different publication within the same media company. The office was further away than the original position I had applied for, but it didn’t matter. Reporting jobs are hard to come by, so I was elated that I had earned an interview at all, and I felt confident that by showing up well prepared I could sell myself as a great employee.

For 24 hours, I was a delightful wreck. I was nervous and excited and anxious and eager.

The night before the interview, I received a call saying that it had been cancelled. I tried not to let my disappointment show in my voice as the hiring manager explained that the company had decided not to fill the position at this time. He reassured me he would call me when the company changed its mind, and I thanked him sincerely.

After we hung up, my boyfriend asked me who had called. I felt stupid for starting to cry while answering him, but I couldn’t stop myself. It had been such a high getting that first call and it was heartbreaking to get the second.

Starting your career is hard. It means not only knowing what you want, but knowing where to look to find it. It means getting very comfortable writing cover letters. It means having a dozen different versions of your resume saved to your computer. It means being patient but not lazy. It means getting used to rejection. It means not getting your hopes too high while not losing hope all together.

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