Monthly Archives: September 2011

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.

Clearing a Workspace to Fit My Head Space


To empathize with my last work environment I would ask you to close your eyes. Imagine yourself sitting in a
small apartment at a tiny table in front of a malfunctioning laptop, with deadlines on the horizon. You’re body is dead from the day’s manual labor and tomorrow promises more of the same. Dinner still isn’t made. And to top off all these calming factors, dump in ten children running, screaming, asking questions, and breaking shit. The perfect recipe for getting work done.

Now, was I actually working with young children? No, but some days I was hard pressed to see the difference between my 18-24 year olds and a kindergarten class. The questions ‘What time is lunch?’ and ‘What should I do if I forgot my pants?’ were not uncommon. The most valuable skill I attained last year was the zen-like ability to quiet everything outside and empty a spot in my mind to focus. A good pair of head phones and the occasional eye-twitching glare at passersby helped immensely.

I learned through necessity to accomplish my goals even when stress abounded and everything in my immediate environment served to distract and annoy. Some things just needed to get done.

In stark contrast to that is the situation is the one I have now—oodles of time, peace and quiet, and most importantly no overwhelming deadlines. In theory I should be more productive than ever before.

Instead I have found it almost impossible to accomplish anything. Removed from the obligations of deadlines and dependents, my motivation level is stuck on empty.

Conundrum.

I’ve considered this issue of my unproductivity at home for quite some time and discovered some interesting things about myself.

The first is that I have trouble setting my own deadlines. Even when I wake up in the morning and say okay this is what I’m going to get done today and these are the healthy lifestyle choices I’m going to make, there’s about an 86% chance that I’ll ignore that directive and waste my day with a pint of ice cream and a good book.

The second, which I believe ties heavily into the first, is that I cannot work from home. Everything is just a little too easy, too immediate. My chair is too comfy. Snacks, television, and internet are too readily available. And the biggest issue of all, everything is too familiar. There’s nothing around me to challenge, or inspire me, both of which are necessary elements for me to do work. Or at least get inspired enough to search for it.

Now all this might speak more of an inability to decorate on my part, but not having the energy to master the art of feng shui, I’ve found that a big piece of my success lies in just getting out of the house. To leave the comfort and security of home and just explore. It amazes me the difference this little act has made on my mood alone.

My recent explorations have led me to a café called Diesel in Davis Square, and for me it is a perfect mix of eclectic atmosphere and quirky vibes. It’s also a great place to satisfy my people watching urges.

In my hours spent here, I have felt the inspiration of a writing muse that’s been eluding me for quite some time. She, the muse, and I have done some great work recently. There is something about being in that crowded space, about the energy of people around me living and breathing and moving. It reminds me that I’m alive and must continue to move around too.

I never thought I’d miss the hectic over-crowdedness of my last job, but alas here I am seeking it out to find my inspiration. It is increasingly apparent to me that my physical environment has a profound effect on my mental workspace and hopefully this realization puts me one step closer towards figuring it all out.

READ KATHERINE SHAYE OFTEN? CHECK OUT THESE MONEYLESS ENTERPRISES, REFERENCED IN HER LAST POST, Unemployment.edu

Samara – a yoga studio with a work study program similar to the one from the dance complex that I mentioned last week.
Time Trade Circle  – a community group trying to connect people with varied skills to trade labor for labor based on hours in a ‘time’ bank.

Unemployment.edu


By Katherine Shaye

Time and money.

Those are the two things I am able to trade for the goods and services I’ve come to depend on in my daily life. In some cases, those two forms of payment are interchangeable. Pay for a taxi or wait for the bus. Hire a handy man or fix it yourself. Buy it at the store or craft it at home. Most of us make these decisions everyday based on our current allotment of time vs. money. For me, with my net income dwindling in the negative I am investigating life based solely on time currency. If I have learned anything from unemployment so far, it’s that I have a lot of time on my hands, and I might as well put it to good use.

Something I seem to be running across more and more in my efforts to live my life with minimum expenses are businesses that take money out of the equation. They take direct manpower for their services, allowing people like me, who have a surplus of time, to trade work for all the other things I need/want. Back in Denver, I heard of a restaurant called Café 180 where you can “pay” for lunch by either giving what you can or trading an hour of volunteer work. Here in Boston there is a dance studio where you can trade an hour of
work for an hour of dance class. Then there’s WWOOF or World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, where people have travelled the world exchanging their labor for a place to stay and some food.

With all these options, I sometimes think I may never need another job. In a way, money is just a way to keep track of previous investments of time. Then again, the convenience and versatility of cash money is not something I could give up lightly.

Another helpful use of time that has benefitted me in the past is volunteering in general. I’ve gained a number of both obscure and sometimes useful skills from offering up my relatively unskilled labor. In high
school, I learned to use a cash register volunteering at the local resale store then later was able to apply to be a cashier in a grocery store. Not big on the scale of life skills but it certainly got me the job over several of my other unskilled colleagues.  Now I am hoping to volunteer some time with either my local library and/ or the nearby Planned Parenthood office with the hopes that my time investment will help me get paid to be in these industries at a later date.

The last and arguably most fun use I have found for my time in unemployment land is learning. In the past week, I have learned how to do laughter yoga, how to make tomato zucchini fritters and how to make chai tea
from scratch. I’ve learned to play telephone Pictionary and seen “The Wire” for the first time. I’ve discovered two new restaurants and a great bookstore in my neighborhood. And I’ve met four new people, two of whom offered to keep an eye out for a job for me.

Now while I can’t be sure that any of these things will lead to a job or help me develop a marketable skill, they do encourage me to continue working on myself while nor otherwise working. I could research skills to gain that would give my resume more of a competitive edge, or look for classes that could help me hone the talents I already have. Either way I’d like to start thinking of my unemployment as a workshop— a time dedicated to self-development, self-discovery, and who knows what else. Hopefully, this change in thinking will help brighten the next few unknown months ahead of me.

A Situation Only a Journalist Could Dream Of Part 1


By Bryan Lawver

I have my first graduate class this week, but before I start talking about grad school, I would like to talk about what I did after finishing my undergraduate classes. Not the relentless job hunt, or the angst, but what I did right after graduating; the not-necessarily-productive part. The “this is just for me” part.

There are a lot of opinions floating around about what to do between undergraduate and graduate school. Some people say that you should get a job, or an internship, or spend time honing your craft – whatever it may be.

I went to Iceland.

The plan felt more like it formed around me, rather than I had an authorial hand in it. It started with a tax return, an unexpected call from a sibling, and a fondness for Icelandic rock music, and in the beginning of May 2010, as my classmates were walking across an auditorium in caps and gowns, I was – along with a friend – boarding a jet owned by Icelandair.

Our timing was fortuitous. A volcano beneath Eyjafjallajokull, a glacier seemingly named by a cat walking across a keyboard, erupted that spring. It covering acres of Iceland in ash, and stranded hundred of international travelers; generally making life even more difficult for a lot of people already living in a particularly forbidding landscape.

Okay, fortuitous might not be the right word. In the end it may have been a bit sociopathic. But that’s how it felt to us. I was a writer, and my companion was a photographer. This would be a great chance for us to cover something momentous, something unique; something that might get noticed. We ran the idea by a professor from our school – who was also a contributor for a local newspaper – who said that he would pass it along to his editor.

And then off we went. If this all sounds rushed and ill-planned, that is simply because it was. We went, despite the myriad of ways that we expressed and explained and excused ourselves to friends and family. We had the idea in our heads and we were determined to have fun.

The first thing I noticed about Iceland was that we were about to crash into it.

At least that’s how it looked. We descended slowly, painfully slowly, through what I assumed to be a layer of clouds. I was looking straight down out the window, waiting to break through so that I could see the island from above and watch our approach. What I saw instead, the instant that we broke through, was the ground just feet below us.

I jumped, not even having enough time to register my own fear, and then realized that what we had been passing through was a thick blanket of fog.

The same sheet of gray cotton lay over the countryside in the cab that we took from the airport to Reykjavik, trying to make small talk with our cab driver. He spoke English, but not well. I was disappointed to realize that I could not use him as a source for my article.

Upon arriving in Reykjavik, I was relieved to find that the man’s unfamiliarity with English was not the norm. Nearly everyone under 50, I was later told, spoke English fluently; and I saw evidence of this everywhere. Signs and menus in English, clerks effortlessly switching languages when they realized that my companion and I suffered the mono-lingual handicap. I thought about the imperialism of English, and what this meant for the culture of Iceland – usually isolated from the world by its physical solitude and the inscrutable mindset that seems to pervade island nations. I asked a lot of Icelanders about this, and no one seemed to care much. There has always been Icelandic music and literature and film, and there always will be, I was told.  Some things are expressed better in Icelandic, and they will continue to be.

Damn, I thought, another dead-end topic.

We trudged on, moving from a hostel to the house of a group of students whom we had agreed to stay with. We bounced along, visiting cafes by day and bars by night, having a good time, but always on the lookout for a good subject, a photo opportunity, a striking detail to open my article.

I probably would have gone on this way, perpetually disappointed, if we hadn’t rented a car and driven into the country.

CHECK BACK NEXT TUESDAY FOR PART TWO!

One Month Anniversary


By Nicole Hosette

September 1st officially marked the end of my first month in Massachusetts. A few days before I left Iowa, I spent a night saying goodbye to one of my best friends. Having followed her fiancé across the country a few years earlier when he joined the Navy, she knew what I would expect. She told me I would probably be miserable for a while, but that after a few weeks, I could fake it. She warned me that it might take a few months for me to be completely comfortable in my new surroundings.

These are things that no one else came out and told me when we made our decision to move. I just assumed that there would be things that I miss about my old home, and that it would take time to adjust. But she was the first and only person who plainly said, “Yeah, it’s going to suck for a while.”

And for the most part, she was right. My parents helped us move out here and spent a day helping us to get settled. The first few days after they left were the worst. I was constantly on the verge of tears and couldn’t force myself to help my boyfriend unpack. I felt that the boxes were like a safety net – all of my things were still packed up, so in theory I could still change my mind. I found myself looking at flight schedules constantly.

During the first week or two, I cried out most of my fears. Peter sat patiently with me and listened to all of my doubts, countering each one as they came up until I had calmed down again. We repeated this cycle over and over, and the space between my panics grew longer. We found ways to keep busy – unpacking, making plans for our new space, exploring the area.

What helped me the most was a visit from Peter’s parents. His dad was given the chance to take his boss’s place at a conference in Boston, so both he and Peter’s mom came for a 6-day visit. It helped me immensely to spend time with someone besides Peter at a place that wasn’t our apartment. They wanted to make the most of their visit, so we ate at some great restaurants all over the city and took in some interesting attractions. They gave us a reason to see parts of our new home that we hadn’t seen before, and my affection for this new place grew with the more that I saw.

The past seven days since their departure have been busy. Our weekend was wasted preparing for a hurricane that barely showed up (here, at least, as I know other places got hit pretty hard). Following that was the anticipation and culmination of my birthday on Tuesday, which was immediately followed by Peter’s first day of grad school on Wednesday.

At this point, I’d like to say I’m past faking it. I really do like it here, and every day it seems more and more like home. My friend’s advice was helpful, and I’m glad that someone told me honestly what to expect.

So this is me, honestly telling you what to expect. Hopefully you’re a more stable person than I am and get through it quicker. Hopefully you have someone to help you through it. Because as awesome as it can be to start your post-grad life, it’s not always instantly comfortable. But a month makes all of the difference.

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