My own boss – unemployment logs

And the quest of the unemployed continues. Every day is like a product life cycle chart – it starts off slow, with the cold feeling of winter in my lungs, the foreign feel of the rug underneath my soles and the oh so unpleasant feeling of numbness in my joints and back. Yes, good morning. It is yet again past 8:30 and i am at home, guiding my feet one by one to the kitchen, where i make myself a cup of coffee with milk. My piggie slippers then slowly move back towards my place of procrastination –  my work desk. Or just desk, in the last days weeks.unemployment-benefits

Being unemployed kinda means you are your own boss –  you give yourself tasks, you set your own deadlines and you check your own results. And this is probably what makes unemployment  not a vacation –  it is hard enough to do one of these jobs, let alone both of them. Especially when the results  –  interviews or offers – are late to appear.

Yes, being unemployed does mean a lot of free time. Lots of freedom and flexibility. Not so many financial resources. Lots of wasted moments and lots of regrets for the days that have gone by. Little or no satisfaction. For me, it felt something like the work of Sisifus –  day in and day out, i had to go through the same steps: check out the new job postings, read the requirements, sort out the ones i wished to apply for, check the CV and draft a motivation letter describing how much i want to be part of the X culture and Y business methods. And at the end of the day, there was little or even no satisfaction whatsoever… there is not much to show for your day other than the inbox crowded with thank you for your interest in our company emails. In between the latter, the  unfortunately, your application has not been successful, but we wish you luck in your future endeavors  sting a little bit, but are still better than the lack of response. At least the latter made me more or less aware of whether i should check my e-mail on an hourly/30 minute basis or not, what e-mails to expect in the future, what chances i have, and whether it was time to lower my standards and start applying for another category of jobs altogether.

My official unemployment began on the 19th of October 2013 –  but i did take some time to rest and to get my thoughts in order before getting on the job applications rollercoaster. Also, i had this weird feeling that everything was going to be ok, that i would be fine, that there is nothing to worry about… Maybe it was the fact that i had some money saved up; maybe it was my  living at home and thus no looming rents or bills for me to pay. Maybe it was my confidence in my own value as a job candidate, maybe it was my intuition… or maybe it was just plain irresponsible of me.

Because in the end, everything did indeed turn out ok. Just as i was about to start panicking that my CV and candidature is becoming more and more obsolete with each day.

Week number 1 of unemployment was pretty productive in the sense of  By that time i had planned a trip to Italy, with a short stay in Serbia, so it was really like taking a vacation… from the vacation i had already taken.images

 

At first, i did not know how to be unemployed. I took a small vacation at the beginning –  right after my contract with the BlueCo ended. i got together with  friends and family, i met new people, took on a challenge here and there, got back in touch with myself and just rested and enjoyed the late October weather. And then the early November one. And then the late November one. I was lightly sending applications here and there, i had been to a few interviews, but i was not too stressed out. I figured i still had time –  i had given myself a deadline, a period of light activity and just nosing around different job markets and areas.

Till it hit me. It was already the 1st of December, 30 days before my deadline, after which i had promised myself that i would lower my standards and apply for all kinds of jobs. I was so close to that deadline, the day when i had to stop aiming high.  And i did not want to stop. Because i had not aimed hard enough before. I had not aimed carefully enough. I had not aimed well enough.

So i extended my deadline till March. But that is when i started to aggressively aim aim aim. 

Too bad i was aiming all over the place and the arrows were coming back to bite me in the behind. I found myself always feeling guilty for not doing more, not sending out more, not reading more, not preparing more, not working more etc. I felt the constant need to be doing something, reading something,  indifferent of the hour, so in the end, there was no free time, because technically, all the time was free time, right?  I had no boundary between aiming  time and me time, so i was constantly in a rush from here to there, procrastinating and feeling guilty at the same time, sending out applications in a hurry, hungry for more more more, for higher higher higher.

And as my arrow bag became empty, it hit me : i had to relax. Looking for a job is a full time job –  and i needed to treat it like that. I had to take breaks. Lunch breaks, evening breaks, emotional breaks. And i had to enjoy the little time i had left in  unemployment.  It was a job, but after all,  i was my own boss. And it did not have to be 9-6. It could be 8-5. Or 12 – 9, depending on the activities of the previous evening.  But strictly had to be 8 hours. Ok, sometimes it could be 7. Other times, 6.  But only on weekdays. Maybe sometimes not even on all of them. Sometimes, when an urgent matter appeared, i would send out applications on weekends as well. But not on too many weekends. Because otherwise, when was i going to have the time to do all those things there is no time for when employed? When would i have had time to enjoy the sun, read a book, drink coffee with my friends at noon, start writing on my blog again?

Too bad my unemployment period hit in the winter, and thus i had to spend most of it inside. Although i am glad that it did not spill into another season, and that it only lasted 4 months on the dot : when i got the liberating offer i let out a sigh and looked around my room, not believing that there would be

NO MORE APPLICATIONS AND COVER LETTERS !

And just like that, a new category was created : Journal of an Employee.

Looks, clothes, perceptions and whatnot

images“Dress for the job you want, and not the one you have”

I think I understood what that means just now…  Dress for the job you want, and you will feel like the person you want to be, doing what you want to be doing.

Dress for what you want to be doing.

My mom told me this case of this philosopher that would dress up every time he sat down at his desk to write. He would put on his best underwear, socks and suit; he would even put on a tie. And only then would he start to write his philosophical thoughts. He felt like a great thinker, thus he must be one, right? And he might have been, or not, but the idea here is that it worked. He worked. He wrote.

The question that I encountered a few days earlier was why are people that work from home generally less productive than the ones who work out of an office? Especially this question is valid in cases when the person in case is working on personal projects, projects they are supposedly passionate about. They do what they love – then how come they get  so little done?

Of course there are the exceptions ( see LifeHacker and This is how I work section). And then there is me.

Right now, I am unemployed, and I have been for some time. Looking for a job is a full time job, so I can qualify in the category of people that work from home. Also, getting a job is a priority for me right now, so that truly qualifies as something I am passionate about at the moment, right?

But then, why do I find myself demotivated and on most days? Why am I totally unproductive, why do I procrastinate and put off job applications till the last moment? Why am I no longer the energetic, optimistic and efficient individual that I remember and that I keep describing in my motivation letters?

Because it is hard for me to see myself as that individual.  I do not feel like that individual.  And I do not do what that individual  does.  Or did.

What I do is this. I get up at around 9, on the good days. On days like today, my too expensive phone decides to shut down on its own and thus the alarm does not ring, leaving me to sleep for 10 hours and a half. Well, there goes one part of the motto from my blog header.

Then  I go on to make myself a cup of coffee, with milk, and I drink it while I indulge in a fat  dairy dessert product. But it is ok, right? After all, I have a full day of work ahead, and I need my energy. The problem is that I finish my breakfast in about 15 minutes, with calm, while the TV show episode that I am watching has another 25 minutes left. And as I am not the type of person to leave things half done, I finish the episode.

After it is done, i quickly glance at the time and I decide that it is still early/I am still sleepy/I do not feel inspired/whatever other excuse I find and I thus procrastinate my real work for another hour or so.

By that time, I get hungry again, so I go into the kitchen looking for a snack. I spot the dirty dishes and I decide that ok, it would be nice of me to do them, so that mother gets home to a nice pleasant kitchen. Of course, by the time I am done with the dishes, I am even hungrier, and thus I decide to put together a meal, which I, of course, devour in front of my computer, watching another TV Show episode.

All this time, I am in my old room, with the same old high-school scribblings on my desk, with the same uncomfortable chair and the same dim lighting – even during the sunniest morning. I am wearing the clothes that have been downgraded from street wear to house wear, meaning that they are still in good shape but they are just too old or outdated to be seen in outside the family circle. And in my case, as I like to wear bright colored clothes, all the clothes that i have on in the house are different shades of red/pink. Needless to say, it is a bit cold and drafty in the apartment, so in addition to looking completely fashion ignorant and ridiculous, I also have a large blanket around me, making me feel like a giant whale. And somewhere underneath all that, I am supposed to find the highly efficient and energetic individual.  I have to say that I need to look pretty hard.

I have not been out of the house in 2 days –  there is no real reason for me to go through all that trouble of getting dressed to go out in such a cold weather ( some -5 degrees outside, but it actually got warmer these days, when compared to the -17 degrees that we had last week). Also, truth be told, I did not shower in these last 2 days either.

So is it surprising that I do not feel like a young motivated professional with ambitious career goals? I guess not, given that I do not look like (and smell like) one at all.

So, as Barney Stinson would say, Suit up!

Jobs Jobs Jobs….

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…. and i do not mean Steve.

Last year, i used to make minimum changes to the cover letters that i sent to companies abroad,  and no, that did not turn out to well for me. So this year  i have become quite the writer.

I still think that cover letters are a complete waste of time for both the job applicant and the recruiter… I do not accurately show  what recruiters want to find out. So yes, my only justification for asking for a cover letter is the fact that this way, the company can see  the amount of effort you have put into the application … and whether you are a good liar writer. Of course, i may be wrong –  here i am, unemployed, but opinionated. And maybe my motivation letters stink. 

After reading the job description i try to write a letter that uses more or less the same tone, that is in line with the requirements and that feels right. However, even if i do add/delete/ change passages, some phrases remain the same, because after all, i am still the same  person with the same experience, no matter in how many ways i can say that. And thus a lot of the times, there really isn’t much to add/delete/change.

And each time i finish a letter and i re-read it, with all the praise for the target company and the ideal position, with all the optimism and positivism and all the energy towards  that perfect perfect program , i put myself in the shoes of the recruiter and i can almost hear them say Awwh, that is a nice thing to say…. But i think you say that to everybody. 

And they are right. I do.

 

The perfect Curriculum

There are days when the bed is just too comfortable, when the air in the room is just to cold, when the alarm rang too early, when the weather outside is too dull and when your drive is at its below minimum point. In those days, i procrastinate, i tell  myself that  today is an exception  and that  i am not actually this lazy/irresponsible/pessimistic/demotivated  and that  tomorrow i will surely get up early and i will compensate for today and i will rise to the the picture i paint of myself in my cover letters. 

Well, today was not one of those days.

Today started normally –  it was a bit cold, there was no sun, i was not feeling to rested …  But i decided i would get up and i would have coffee and breakfast and i would start browsing the job portals and i would have a great day!

But guess what.

A CV should reflect one’s personality, and my CV is BORING.  And i may be many things, but boring is not one of them. So i started working on it.

One page, two pages, only relevant information, all information because if i only add what is relevant i end up with half a page, table form, text form, bold, no bold but italic, colors, UPPERCASE, small font, bigger font, photo, no photo…    And, two and a half hours later, i found myself completely demotivated, hungry and going back to the CV format i started with in the first place.

Great.

But at least i did not waste time doing something completely unnecessary and brain zombi-fying all morning, right? Yet somehow, that argument fails to make me feel better…

TV Show addiction or Unemployment,Day -2

I was a bit confused:  is day1 of unemployment the Monday after the last day of work, or is it the Saturday after, given that as the following Monday is not a workday, the weekend loses from its importance? I guess thinking about the latter –  now that i am unemployed, i have more time to think about useless stuff – i decided that this weekend is part of the past workweek, and thus today is unemployment day-2.

Now, i will finally have time to do all those things that i always say i have no time for… like working out, improve my analytical skills, reading, blogging and, of course, applying for jobs. Yep, it sounds like i have it covered. As i got home today, i felt kinda motivated and i downloaded some weight tracking applications, i found some online aerobics videos and i actually  promised myself that i would work out today. Well, here i am, wrapped up in a blanket, watching the local  The Voice.  And no, i did not exercise.

The apps that i downloaded were supposed to motivate me to get off my ass and actually lose those 5,3 kg that i plan to not see on the scale in about a month. But then, something happened. Something bad, something drew me onto the chair, the sunflower seeds and the 2 cups of tea.

A TV Show.

So i guess it is time for me to admit, once again, that i am addicted to TV Shows. But who isn’t, right? After all, they are such a fun pass time, when there is not enough time to watch a movie, when you want some quick leisure without having to pass through the  get to know the characters and the story phase. Also, they are a great ice breaker and make for good conversation, because yes, everybody watches  at least one TV Show.  If the latter is positive and funny, we can even borrow some humor, we get into a better mood and we press play. Again and again. We lose track of our own lives, we spend hours and hours watching  what we want to see. Fiction, drama, crime, sitcom –  there is something for every taste, every mood, every occasion.

And they are endless. If one series ends, rest assured that there is another one somewhere, with a similar topic, idea, actor or whatever drew you to the show in the first place.

Well, i am not as bad as described in this article from the Thought Catalog, but i know i have a problem.

I worked  from home, and it is easy to fall into this trap when there is nobody around, when the bed is so inviting, or when you can prolong your lunch break for more than 1 hour. But yes, those are excuses.

Now that i am unemployed, everything is so much more grave. So yes, i have to get off my ass and stop watching TV Shows. Or at least i have to do something useful while i watch :)

P.S.This article is really fun  :)

The coin has fallen

……   and it is the 1st time that i receive a phone rejection.

It was very nice of her to tell me personally that my interviews had gone really well, but that unfortunately they had to go for a more qualified candidate. It was also nice of her to let me down easy, and to tell me that they would like to keep my details on file and contact me in case there was any other open position.

Of course, i am disappointed, but i’ll live :)  

As seen below, i was actually hoping for heads, and not tails. Oh well, i guess i am turning my tail to Europe and going home for good. f her to call me and to let me know that a more suitable candidate was found for the position, but that my interview had gone very well and that they would like to keep my details on file and thus contact me in the future if any other position arises.

Rather than whining about my confidence levels and my looming unemployment, i guess i should really start thinking about why  i got 3 rejections in the past month, and for 2 out or 3 positions, i actually  thought  i was qualified.

True what they say, winners are losers that do not give up. And yes, rejection stings. A lot.

Waiting for the coin to fall

Flip a coin for it, they say. And while the coin is in the air, you will know, deep inside, how you wish it would land. And there you would have it –  the decision.

Well , for me, the coin is in the air right now.

A couple of months ago, after i signed a brand new but short term contract with the BlueCo, i started looking for another placement, for “security” beyond September –  as i called it in my talks with my supervisor; i was ” exploring my professional options”, as i was writing in my motivation letters and i was ” looking for new career possibilities”, as i termed it during my [two] interviews. However, i was not doing all that i could –  i was applying for the jobs that came my way, while not seeking any myself. I was “searching for the right fit” in large companies, although i know that is not where my place is, and i was concentrated on only three of them: the BlueCo (in another country –  coffee is great here it Italy, but i am looking to “expand my horizons”), the GreyCo, in some countries, and the EveryoneWantsToWorkThereCo, from which of course i have not had a single reply. The BlueCo is also ignoring my CV, even if its own name is the proud star of my CV. The GreyCo, however, has answered one of my prayers-i mean applications-, and has offered me an interview for not really the job i applied for, but for a job nontheless. It is long term, it offers acceptable rewards, it is within a new young team and it is in Ireland. The job is very close to what i am doing right now, so i wouldn’t really be “exploring new areas”, but i am qualified for that position and the GreyCo is a really nice name to add to my CV. So i went for it. 

The interviews with the GreyCo coincided with the interviews for another company, which i interviewed with but in the end, they went for someone with more experience. This is the ButtonsCo, and i will mention it more at large in another post. Suffice to say that i was a bit distracted at the beginning, having to deal with the interview process for 2 different companies, but at least they were both in the e-services business, so my motivational speech had some common points.  However, i guess that fact made me more confident ( and less desperate) – after all, i was feeling a bit on top of the hill,  with not one,  but 2 companies wanting me.

And then only one remained.

The GreyCo likes talking to me on the phone. However, the latter has presented with a lot of issues :  first of all,  in August i was vacationing at home, and after 1 call my roaming ate all my credit and thus my Italian number was out. I gave the GreyCo another number, but the phone i was using was not really top of the class. Second of all, when i came back to Italy, i started going to the office every day in an attempt to get rid  some of the habits i had developed while working at home…  However, here, within the walls of the BlueCo, there is no reception. So yes, i had to set up  call meetings  with the GreyCo and go outside, in order to take those calls. And, as expected, just a few steps away from the company walls, at all times, there are some other 20 people talking on the phone, obviously having the same connectivity issues.

I was invited to an onsite interview, but unfortunately, they could not offer me reimbursement for travel costs. As i was about to refuse continuing the selection process, i was offered the opportunity to carry on 3 phone interviews instead. I accepted.

On the said day, i was awaiting the calls at home, in my usual office attire : the pajamas. All 3 calls went smoothly –  or so i think –  as i found common language with the persons at the other end of the line, we discussed my credentials, do’s and dont’s in different situations, results and solutions to specific problems. But there is no way to know for sure in this cases, and so i waited.

In the meantime, and even before the final interviews, close people around me were asking me whether i want a positive answer. I did not really have an answer, but right now, as i mention at the beginning of this post, the coin is in the air. I have scheduled a call in about 34 minutes ( i have to go outside) , and i will know then whether i am in or not.

So now, what do i want said to me, with a very charming Irish accent?

On one side, here i am, already imagining how i will be searching for an apartment and how i would like to live alone; i am already thinking what things i will have to take with me, and what first impression i would like to make…. This job would certainly offer me some of the stability and the certainty that i am so desperately looking for. It would be difficult, but i would be building a brighter future for me, i would meet new people, i would learn new things… It would be a new, clean, fresh start. A second ( or third, or whatever) chance.

But on the other side, it would be all i say i want to avoid… I would be far far away from home again, all on my own, in a foreign country ( where, on top of it all, it rains a lot), starting over yet again.

As i was writing the above, i realize that these are just excuses –  my fears of the unknown, of being back into the pit of lions again. Well, i escaped it once, and i will do it again. After all, i am supposedly wiser now than i was about a year ago, when the BlueCo lions were out to get me. And all in all, this is a great opportunity, and yes, it might be hard, but it sure is worth it.

So yes, the coin is still in the air, but i want it to be heads. A heads up for the future to come.

And now that i know i want this job, i have to wait and see. Are they calling to congratulate me? Or are they going to tell me they are sorry, but they went for someone else? Either way, it has been a nice trip.