Barnes and Noble is such a happy place, with its melon colored walls and matte polka-dot wallpaper. Soft blue, yellow, beige, periwinkle. Ahhh. So relaxing. Almost enough to make you forget the woman in the chair next to you speaking on her cell phone as if she’s in her own private office with the door closed. Honestly. These walls are also pacifying enough to help you forget that you might be under the constant scrutiny of the unemployment office.
I had my monthly appointment with unemployment today, a follow up to make sure I’m actively pursuing a new job. Seems the message I can’t get across is that I am actively looking for work and it is a full time job and I am showing up for this new job every day. Every. Single. Day. But they keep sending me letters and I keep calling the phone number provided in the letter, but most times no one answers and I’ll spend a good forty-five to fifty minutes navigated a voice messaging system, only to be told they are experiencing a high call volume and cannot take my call. “Goodbye.” That’s the sound of unemployment hanging up on me. It feels as if they inherently do not trust the people they serve.
Simply stepping foot into the unemployment office is an experience. I walked through two smokers and another patron who was vaping. Yep, sucking on a hand held vapor pipe cupped between the palms of his hands. What? Vaping in front of the unemployment office?
“Did you submit an application to start your business with the Self Employment Assistance Program?” my unemployment case rep. asked me.
“I did!” I was happy to confirm.
“You already know what to do. You’re on your way. You could probably teach one of the entrepreneurial classes they offer.”
There are so many people in need. I am one of them. I’m grateful for the weekly direct deposit check. Although it is neither weekly nor consistent, as I am forever trying to defend my work search efforts. That said, the $ are just enough to help me stay afloat, barely. I have never been in this position before. I have worked my whole life, sometimes two or three jobs at a time. I feel vulnerable, without value. I am so grateful to have J’s support. I’m just not sure where I would be without it. It makes me realize that the slide from employed with a decent car and a roof over my head—> to living out of one’s car and struggling to find a place to shower—> it’s all a slight of hand and a sliver of a step sideways. We are all closer to the brink than we think. Without supports, either from family or friends, without someone to reach out a philanthropic hand and steady us before we fall into the abyss, well, the descent is instant and all encompassing. You can lose it all infinitely more quickly than the time in which it took to accumulate.
Admittedly, I feel at once adrift and empowered. There’s a certain excitement in the unknown. In theory I could go anywhere. In theory I could do anything. What will it be? I’m taking an inventory of all of my skills, writing them down on paper, taking online courses, networking with friends and former colleagues, writing letters, researching new jobs I’d never considered before.
Today I contacted a resume-writing expert named Renee. She was unable to meet with me until the end of next week, but very nicely spent twenty-minutes on the phone offering suggested edits to my resume.
“ …instead of ‘Academic,’ title this section ‘Education’ and move it to the top, right after professional experience. Add a section for ‘Technology.’ IT expertise is more important than ever. Include specifics: how many people did you manage? How many volunteers? What kind of donors did you work with…?”
Then she offered to review my resume again after I incorporated her suggested edits.
“Email it to me. I’m a big advocate of people getting comfortable editing their own resume,” she continued. “Send me your updated draft and I’ll take a look.”
I felt blessed. I offered to compensate her in some way. She said, maybe at some point down the road if you need my full services, we can work up a quote then. “I enjoy helping people.” It’s as if I am wide open these days, no shame, just grit. I will call you I will email you I will show up early for our appointment. I will overdress for the occasion. I feel deathly afraid, yet free. I feel alone, yet surrounded by supporters of only I’d reach out (which is sometimes very difficult to do. Very difficult.)
Renee, you just gave me a much needed boost. Thank you.