Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Not sure what you want to work in next?

My hubby passed on today's video link.

I thought it was hilarious and also drives the point home of how competitive its getting out there. There are way too many of us looking for work. And way too many of us looking for the "right" job.

I recently completed a search engine optimization (SEM) course through the UCSD Extension program. In our class there were no full-time students and with little exception, most everyone was unemployed. Everyone had at least an undergraduate degree.

Next to me sat someone with an MBA. In front of me was a Vice-President of IT! (Isn't this the line of work that supposedly is growing even in this climate?) Most of the attendees had notable work experience. I was amazed and saddened that we were all in the same boat.

Some classmates seemed lost. Not necessarily in the coursework at hand, but rather what they really wanted to do next in terms of work. They were taking the class in hopes of updating and adding to their skill set. That line of work would most surely be in a marketing or information systems industry. But they seemed to be going forward with that industry focus because it logically would pay them the most for their experience but not because it is what they wanted to do. And they seemed to resent it.

Me? I've been gone from the marcom scene for a bit so I count myself amongst the eager ones to work in this realm. But for these classmates, they seemed not so much burnt out but more like disillusioned about marcom and corporate America in general. As I see it, a positive outlook on being unemployed is the opportunity to try a new type of job. But I'm aware I am fortunate to have a working spouse to support that outlook.


My dad was a blue-collar worker his whole life. He recently pointed out that he was unemployed when unemployment numbers were this high during Jimmy Carter's administration. He also reminded me that at various times in his life he worked two jobs for quite a bit to reach a family goal. My mom set up a daycare and at times rented out rooms in our house to reach that goal too. He recalled others doing the same.

I don't recall him or my mom ever talking about what they would LIKE to do for work. They worked hard and they did what they had to do not to just pay the bills but to actually get ahead. They didn't complain that they hadn't gotten a chance to work some dream job. They were glad to have a job. Any and all jobs.

Today my folks are retired and thanks to saving and a conservative approach to investments for decades they are sitting pretty. NOW they talk about what they LIKE to do and go do it. It is a wonderful security in the back of my mind, to know that they are well. Heck, they're in a better position to help me than I am to help them.

There's life's lesson for today.

So I will continue to look for work in marcom but I will be happy to find work period. And if I can find two jobs, maybe I'll take them both and make dear old dad proud.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Disabled and returning to the workforce...

Sorry for the delay in a new post. My family and I are recent corporate relos with the job my husband accepted here in San Diego, and I've been consumed by the home buying process in this short-sale real estate market, but that's another blog altogether...

I want to thank those who have left comments on this blog. I really appreciate it. I have also received some comments on my Facebook page with regard to this blog, so gracias for that too.

Of the Facebook comments, one former high school classmate of mine stood out in particular as he took great effort to share his experience in trying to find work. He was in a motorcycle accident a few years after school, and has been in a wheelchair ever since. He re-trained for a career in auto cad design after the accident but had the toughest time landing work even in Seattle, where he lives - a city that is considered on many accounts progressive and more accepting of differences than the norm.

He mentioned instances where employers would invite to interview despite the business building not having wheelchair access or the job ultimately not being able to accommodate a wheelchair-bound employee. Remember, this is auto-cad: a desk job by all accounts. In other instances, the hiring goal was geared more toward enhancing the company's community involvement effort, i.e. the position was a token effort to include a disabled person amongst its ranks for the sake of business' HR image. And of course, the disabled have to overcome the almost subconscious perceptions that the disabled are more a burden than what they contribute. Physical limitations connote less productivity for the salary for all kinds of reasons: missed days of work for medical issues, potentially costly at-work accommodations, a walking-on-eggshells co-worker empathy, etc...

Many of those perceptions are built from an ignorant glance that the disabled don't want to work full-time and long-term. It is not that simple. For those who are physically-challenged but able to re-train and work, they must also weigh-in the pros and cons of returning to work at all. Sounds like a no-brainer. If you can work, then you should. But for the disabled, there is another layer to contend with. State and community assistance - for therapy, medical equipment/technological devices, transportation and additional supports usually have the eligibility requirement that the consumer have little to no income and/or assets in order to qualify. It's downright poverty. In California, to qualify for many if not most state developmental services, a consumer cannot have more than $2,000 in total assets. In other words, you cannot own a car, have a savings account to speak of, own property of any kind.

If you work, then you should have health insurance and income and should not get subsidized community assistance is the knee-jerk thought that comes to a reader's mind. But the disability related costs for those areas of support and need most certainly in the majority of cases outspend the average joe's income under the best of circumstances. It's the middle class squeeze raised exponentially. Too rich to qualify for help, to poor to pay for it privately. So many work, in a perpetual hope that their health needs don't outweigh their ability to earn a living to pay for it. But many do not, because if they work they will be penalized for wanting to help themselves as much as possible.

I know this blog is about returning to the workforce and for most of us it's a matter of updating or getting new skills, polish the resume writing and interview skills and hitting the proverbial pavement of job searching and networking until something sticks. But for some among us, there is even more to contend with. Just a sidebar thought if you will.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

LinkedIn: I'm going in...

I've stuck my big toe into LinkedIn this week. Wow! Thank the powers that be for that site. For someone like myself who had lost contact with so many good connections during my eight years at home, LinkedIn is a real godsend. I've only begun the first basic steps of participating - filling out a preliminary profile, etc.. but I can see all the potential. It's huge!

The GROUPS section looks really promising. Every niche you can think of is in there and for the most part, their members look like they are actively participating with regular frequency.

I've only just begun, but the site has really made it easy to reach out to those I used to work with. This will definitely be a post topic "To be continued..."

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Please fill in... the * indicates a required field.

They say when you're out of a job, your full-time work IS finding a job. Boy, is that the truth! Those of you who have been on the search are all too familiar.

The minimal standard in looking for work is posting your resume on the major job boards and setting up searches there with parameters that match your skills and needs. No biggie. You spend some time filling in the info that is already in your resume into their templates -- and still you'll copy and paste your entire cover letter and resume. Smart auto-fill-in templates still need some tweaking and in many instances the transferred resume needs realignment.

And you go through this on every job board you want to be on. Major ones and industry/skill specific job board sites. Have you googled that lately? The choices are aplenty when you get industry specific: engineering, medical, etc... It will take a lot of time to "get started". But it will be worth it right? It's a streamlined way of finding job listings. Great! When a promising one appears, I'll click on "apply" and should be able to just tweak my resume and cover letter on the major board and shoot it off, right?

No. The principal job board links you to another job board -- maybe it's that of the company who has the opening. It could also be another job board that has the listing. And guess what? In either case, they don't have all that minutiae you spent hours filling-in on those other templates.

You have to fill out their own version of those same templates and yet again past your resume and cover letter and tweak again. Now think of how many job postings you are averaging before you get a bite to have an interview in some fashion (email, phone, dare I say, in person?). No idea? I'll bet its a few dozens, if not over a hundred, at the very least. This for the end result that your application will go into a black hole, with the smallest of probabilities that you'll ever hear more of a follow-up then an auto-reply confirming "we've received your resume....and will contact you if there is a match....".

I get the feeling those major job boards are having me give them all my 411 -- more for their benefit than mine. Certainly some programmers can stop the redundancy -- and make their sites a happier place to go through. No?

No wonder your best bet for the next job is your personal network. See my first post for my experience on that front.

Ok. So this post is a total buzzkill, but if I can't vent...uh, I mean provide a "personal perspective" on the subject, then 'what's it all about Alfie?'

I'll try to come back when I have some wisdom to spread or something hopeful, motivational, positive, an uplifting story, an anecdote,...all that jazz.

Cheerio for now!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Ok. So as I see the job postings that are out there, the old chicken/egg dilemma comes to mind.

I need a job where I can get real experience working with social media and the like - not just the theory from the coursework I am taking. BUT I can't get that job, because they want me to have working experience in that area in order to work in it.

I know, I know. How do you traditionally get work experience in your career interest? You do an internship. That was more of a possibility when I was finishing college. Single, no debt, maybe even still living in the dorms. I could work the internship and a part-time job and still get by. Given my endless energy and lack of committments back then, I worked unpaid internships and a swing shift full-time job.

Now? It's safe to assume that a good number of us in the returning back to work mode - have mortgages, kids, a working spouse and we don't have the luxury of working for free.

It actually costs us A LOT to work for free. Don't forget daycare/after-school care costs money. Not to mention gas, lunch, career attire, and the additional take-out dinners that are sure to be part of the scene where both parents work.

Yeah. Unpaid internships = undue hardships for the stereotypical "seasoned" intern.

So what to do? I'm open to ideas that can actually be applied and probable....anyone?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Back to the future


This is starting out as an assignment for my new media marketing class, but who knows - maybe it'll continue way after the course is over. I took FOREVER to decide on what the blog should be about:


Families' perspectives on the current crummy economy?

IS being 40 years old the new 30? REALLY?

I finally zoned in on what's keeping me up at night these days: How does someone get back into the workforce?

My last paid corporate job was the position of Corporate Communications Manager for the cornerstone company of the biotech industry. It was my dream job. I managed internal staff and external vendors, multiple employee events ranging from the weekly traditions to milestone events, company newsletters and intranet content, media releases and corporate contributions. The company was very progressive and it was a pleasure to go to work. I was genuinely saddened the day I had to resign.

I left my job because our four year old son Mateo was displaying increasingly odd behaviors and developmental regressions at home and at our corporate daycare and we needed to know what was happening. (Less than thirty days later, he was formally diagnosed by a state regional center as Autistic.)

For the next eight years, I managed my son's physical and mental therapies, state developmental disability individual program plans and special individual education plans and health insurance coverage issues. We've had 40 hours a week of in-home early interventions for a few years, over 260 assessments, thousands of miles and hours logged for resource meetings, conferences, experimental therapies, and support group activities. I don't even want to recall how much we've spent on advocates, attorneys and private experts in our continual fight to get our son the help he needs and the equal opportunities he's entitled to by law and common sense.

But Mateo is now eleven and we are veteran knights in the quest for the holy grail that is learning to live and grow with autism. Our second child, Maya, is four and she is jumping at the bit to be in school. We have relocated from northern California to San Diego and we all love it here. I was really good at marcom. And I can go back to work now.


I've read all the 'helpful' articles and after cutting away at some of the more flimsy points, they all seem to agree on the following:

1. Keep up your project management skills with volunteer work. (check)

2. Stay abreast of the current office software programs. (check)

3. Revamp your resume with buzzwords. (check)

4. Post your resume and create searches on the major job posting websites. (check)

5. Join the local chapter of your industry's professional association. (check)

6. Update/freshen your skills with some industry classess or seminars. (check)

AND what seems critical:

7. Keep in touch with your professional network, after you leave the workplace. Surveys show that your best probability for getting that "back into the game" job would be from a personal contact/referral from a professional colleague.

I did try to stay in touch with my professional contacts after I stopped working. At first, it was easy. For the first couple of years the majority were curious about our son's diagnosis and development and the empathy was broad because it was a fresh revelation. Autism awareness and knowledge in 2001 was nowhere near what it is today. We kept in touch with the occasional email, the annual Xmas family newsletter, and many times even a lunch.

After that, notification of new email addresses and new cell phone numbers and even physical addresses started to languish ever increasingly. Now its become a few remote connections with a couple of loose threads from what once was a large, thriving web of contacts. Let's face it, most people stay professionally networked with you when you have something to barter with -- business opportunities, industry gossip and at the very least, your professional recommendation would be worth something.

Back to the overall subject of returning to the workplace: THE OTHER ELEMENTS

* It's a horrible economy, companies are laying off - not hiring.

* You are competing with the young who are savvy and more likely to be unencumbered with families, who are willing to work for less.

* Because of all the current corporate downsizing, there is a lot more than usual competition from your comparable experienced professional peers - and they've been working up until recently.

I know - bummer. But I haven't given up - I'm taking this new media class (and others), aren't I?

I'd be interested in seeing posts from folks in similar situations. Heck, the topic reaches beyond moms returning to work.

What about those who are switching careers? How can you make ends meet with entry-level pay?

Even if you are working, if you are an older* worker (*I'll leave that age-range vague on purpose), what's your take on the young technology-comfortable turks that you are working with (and competing with) for the high-visibility opportunities?

If you are disabled, but able to work, your challenges are exponentially harder (my guess) when it comes to competing for a job. Please share.

And we can't ignore the issue of men vs. women and families. Unless you are a widowed single father with sole custody of your children, men usually don't have to try to convince would-be employers that their family life will not interfere with their ability to excel at their job. There, I said it.

So more observations and updates on the getting back to the office will be forthcoming. Ciao for now.