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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Pondering What to do Next about my Unemployment Situation

I’ve been out of work for three going on four years now.

The more I think about my job situation the more frustrated I get. I’m a smart man. But I can’t figure out how to get hired. That keeps me up nights. It makes me anxious. It depresses me sometimes. I run down everything I do over and over again looking for an answer and still come up with nothing.

In the aftermath of the whole three year CUNY/Civil Service disaster I’ve just been regrouping this past few months. Pondering what to do next and how I’ll make my next move.

Lately friends and family have been giving me advice. The same advice I got from them that hasn’t worked since September of 1994.

Some suggest I temp. I’ve done the temp agency thing since 1992. Most times I don’t get past the application stage. After I graduated high school I had to deal with rude temp agency people who didn’t want to give me a job because I had no experience.

Then I graduated college and the same people STILL didn’t want to offer me temp work. Mind you, most of the temp jobs were retail minimum wage positions or entry-level office positions, jobs perfect for someone with no experience.

But they didn’t want to hire me. In fact, when I went to register for a few temp agencies in 2001, it was the same story. No work available. And this was with proficiency in Microsoft Office and a year of experience at STRIVE’s Americaorps*VISTA program.

Personally, when it comes to work at temp agencies I just think it’s plain old racism that keeps me from getting work there. Many of the people there won’t say it but I know employees at temp agencies don’t like hiring Black men for jobs. A lot of the White people who work at these places still believe old stereotypes about Black men being lazy, incompetent or unprofessional and do things to discourage Black men from looking for work there.

That’s why since 2001, I’ve avoided temping like a plague.

Right now on paper I’d probably be someone they could use for a variety of assignments. Over fifteen years of experience, an expert with Microsoft Office and Adobe software on Windows and Macintosh, (I installed XP on my Mac using Parallells) Experienced in publishing and screenwriting, a skilled organizer and coordinator who has led multiple projects to completion.

But considering my past decade of bad experiences with most temp agencies I know it’d be a waste of time applying there.

Others suggest I take a job at a retail establishment like Target or K-Mart. Something to have some money in my pocket.

I’ve been trying to get that job since 1990. All anyone says is that they’ll call me after I fill out the application.

With my savings declining, I’d love to take a job in retail. Unfortunately, if you have anything lower than a GED your chances of getting hired in retail are slim to none. Most stores don’t like hiring college graduates. They’re afraid of that big U- Union.

 Moreover, they’re scared of hiring anyone who has an actual work ethic or wants to make a commitment in retail. Most retail jobs are designed to make someone fail, and to increase the chances of someone failing, retailers hire the rudest, surliest and most unprofessional people for customer service and sales jobs to make the environment on the sales floor as hostile as possible. Senior Management wants people to quit after six to eight months to keep their overhead costs low. That keeps them from having to pay unemployment compensation to workers.

Then there’s the stigma of taking a retail job as it relates to my long-term job prospects. Some of the more snottier job interviewers I’ve run into tend to think a person taking a retail job to pay bills as a bad thing. They don’t see it as a testament to someone’s character to take any work to pay their bills.

A few suggest I volunteer. I did the whole volunteer thing for STRIVE in 2000 for Americorps*VISTA. I gave my all in that position, going above and beyond. I was commended for helping STRIVE out during a crisis. While employees were resigning left and right and taking jobs elsewhere, I kept my project on course. Because of my leadership, there were rumors I was to be hired for a full-time position.

But when I met with the Vice President of the organization for lunch to discuss my future there he told me he didn’t have a place for me in the organization.

But he had a place for his Ivy League buddy who had been traveling in Spain for two years.

Since then I’ve soured on volunteering. I feel it’s one big screwjob. From personal experience I know you can give your all to an organization and instead of supporting and rewarding the people who commit to it, they hire cronies and friends.

So I want nothing to do with volunteering or non-profits. They’re just one big con.

Others suggest I go back to school. While I graduated with a 3.95 GPA at Monroe College I don’t feel more education will change my situation. The same people who were ignoring me with a high school diploma and a college degree will be the same ones to ignore me if I get another degree. I just feel they’ll just come up with another excuse not to hire me.

On top of it I’ll just wind up in a bunch of debt. Debt I won’t be able to pay once I graduate. I don’t want to jack up my credit rating by defaulting on loans. My good credit is one of the few things I have going for me, and I don’t want to risk it.

Looking at the kids occupying Wall Street, getting another degree will do me about as much good as a roll of toilet paper.

I’m tired of the job hunting merry-go-round. I feel that going around in circles doing the exact same things over and over and over again and expecting a different result is just insane. I feel it’s time to try something different.

I just wish I could figure whatever that was.

I’ve made more progress in self-publishing in four years than in the job market over the past two decades. Since 2009, I’ve gained more experience working for myself than I did at any of the paying jobs I had. In fact, I’ve gained so many skills I actually teach others about self-publishing.

I wish I could just make as much money as I did working full-time.

Figuring out the publishing was actually easier than figuring out the job market. And this is after working a year at the leading job readiness program in the country.

The more I look at the job market, the more I realize it’s not about education. It’s not about experience.

It’s about values. Those intangible social variables that attract individuals to each other. Those ideas and beliefs people have that are similar.  It’s those things in common that make people more likely to favor those like themselves. And because they share something in common with them on some level, they hire people who are just like themselves.

Regardless of education or experience.

Part of Human nature is that people who are alike gravitate towards each other. People who share similar values and beliefs tend to relate to each other. They tend to identify and relate to each other’s experiences. And because they relate to each other they trust each other in the workplace.

Maybe the problem is that I haven’t found those in my social circle. Maybe I need to find those like myself. Maybe there I’ll finally get that full-time job or get the big break that will enable me to finally take my career to the next level.

But until I can sell enough books to pay my bills, I need a new full-time job. And I need a new approach to finding one. Because the doing the same old things over and over again is getting me nowhere.

There’s got to be an answer to this conundrum. I’m just hoping I can figure it out before my savings run out. 


  1. First thing, Shawn, you never give up. Neveer. Never. I happen to know that you're a man of God, and so He has your back. Many people have suffered what you're going through and come out ahead. I want to suggest that you focus primarily on your marvelous writing talents at least as much as on your job search. After all, this is where your God-given talents lie so beautifully.

    I wish you well, Shawn, because I know your talents. The haters will always be with us. We have to remember that something made them that way. Bear with them, for their way is harder than any of us want to believe.

    You have so much to sustain you. A loving family, a major talent for writing, the ability to make friends, and what I should have put first: a strong belief in God.

    You will win in the end. Believe this absolutely and never fail to pray. Success is already yours in good measure. The rest will come.

  2. Maybe your bitterness shows in everything you do. There's a reason every job sector you try to enter rejects you. It ain't them it's you.
    ~ Gigi

  3. Try the medical field. There are alot of BA TO Nursing program. Move to califonia and make $45/hour easily. Dont like nursing, get the nursing degree apply to a nurse practitioner program and make easily 120k/year.
    We are black, the office life were never meant for us.