Fourteen. What an anniversary. Fourteen months of applying, hoping, re-evaluating, trying other venues, updating resumes, trying to remember passwords for dozens of job sites, and following leads with a blend of enthusiasm and restraint. What’s an aerospace engineer, consultant, entrepreneur, and volunteer to do?
“Do… or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back
Let’s check what I’ve done and see what I should do.
What I’ve done is partly that long list in the opening paragraph’s longest sentence. The details are in the previous months’ job reports. (See links below.) Looking for jobs isn’t simply filling out forms and waiting for offers. Job sites make job searches sound methodical. Companies, insert your requirements here. Applicants, insert your qualifications here. Stand back while we sort through millions of database records and match up jobs with people. Maybe it works that way somewhere, but everyone I know that’s found a job got help by gaming the system or getting help from a person. Job searches rely far less on fancy stationery and interview suits, but they continue to rely on conforming, networking, perseverance, and luck. Hey, I’m flexible, have a broad community of friends, and am known for persistence; am I only lacking luck? Of course, maybe the luck I had was bad and life will improve as the good luck arrives.
When you keep trying the same thing and it doesn’t have the desired effect, do something different. So, I rewrote my resume (Links below.) starting with a blank file and suggestions from friends, commenters on the blog, and the reddit community. One friend was nice enough to post My Jobs Report Month 13 on reddit, which spiked my traffic to record levels, and produced a very public review of my resume. Two things were apparent. One, I have an impressive career history. Two, readers had to sort through a lot to make sense of it. Now my resume headlines my three main careers: aerospace engineer, consultant, and entrepreneur; and adds a slice of my volunteer work. Maybe they’re right. Maybe shifting the words around the page will somehow make a difference to the resume bots or the Personnel people. Maybe simply making my plight and resume public will produce results.
The main thing that hasn’t happened has been getting positive responses from companies. That’s one step before getting a phone interview, which is one step before getting an onsite interview, which is possibly many steps before getting a job offer and a paycheck. In fourteen months I’ve only had one interview for a full time job. I was called in because they were impressed with my resume and wanted to meet someone like me. They were pretty sure I couldn’t do the specific job they wanted to talk about, but they thought it would be interesting to meet me. Thanks for the compliment? At least I got in the door that time.
All of the other interviews have been for part-time work, none of which included benefits or would pay enough to keep my house and pay my bills. I live frugally and, until I voluntarily resigned to spend more time looking for a paying job, was Board Secretary for a non-profit personal finance foundation (New Road Map, aka FinancialIntegrity.org). I know money, can get by on very little, and marvel at how anyone can be expected to live comfortably in America at entry wages. Some of the jobs I’m looking at now pay about the same as I made as a part-time general laborer in a steel mill outside Pittsburgh in 1977. Last time I checked we went through a bit of inflation in the last 35 years.
Political commentaries talk jobs and economy. I’ve had people on both sides try to convince me to vote their way because of what their party can do for me. What they can do for me is nothing. Any jobs legislation, stimulus package, or financial support is probably a year away if the parties decide to act mature. Extrapolating my declining net worth crosses the axis long before that, possibly right around the Inauguration. People in crisis don’t need legislation. Legislation during this crisis aids people in the next crisis. The only relief I’ve witnessed was the comic relief of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.
Conventional wisdom was that a person should have six months of living expenses saved in case they lost their means of making money and had to find a job. Until August 2011, I considered myself semi-retired because I had about eight or ten years of living expenses, and had reason to believe that I’d soon have enough to consider myself retired. Frugal living and long term investing have their benefits. But bad luck happens, and again, and again, and again. In August 2011 I watched my net worth drop 50%. After that it dropped again and again, while I also had to sell stock to pay bills. Six stocks in my portfolio are down 80%-90% and attrition from paying bills means my portfolio is down over 95%. It’s hard for a portfolio to recover from such a drop, but I’m an optimist. Granted, that optimism has been tested and my expectations diminished, but some optimism remains.
Imagine how many people didn’t have such reserves and encountered bad luck. My bad luck was financial. Others have had accidents, foreclosures, medical emergencies, all the injustices of life. They’re probably not waiting on election results either.
I continue to apply for jobs, and I also continue to pursue other plans. I think I listed about a half-dozen in a previous post. (Links below.) One plan shows up as two elements in my resume: consultant and entrepreneur. My passion for people and ideas may become that “job that I’d be willing to do for free if I didn’t need the money.” The same can be said for aerospace, fostering innovation, facilitating major projects, or getting to work with fun people; but, it may turn out that the job that hires me is the job that I create. So far it hasn’t succeeded in making a mortgage payment, but it could. So far applying for jobs hasn’t succeeded either. So far I’ve had savings and a credit card to help me get through. But so far can only go on so long.
For now, the sun is shining. The room is warming without burning propane. After I post this I’ll start cooking a chicken soup from a chicken broth I made last night. In an odd quirk of frugality, rather than buy box wine I’m opening the bottles that I bought years ago for special events. Last night I opened a Trimbach Pinot Gris from 2002. I’ve always wondered if there’s a family connection. Maybe a long lost rich relative needs to hire a consultant for a few weeks. The winery is in Alsace in France. I could do that.
Here’s the collected links. I decided to group them here in case anyone wants to pass along the main text without hyperlinks. It’s worth a try.