Monday, February 15, 2010

112 job applications and counting

It’s tough out here for job seekers. Trust me.

As part of the 15 million estimated unemployed in the U.S. -- which converts into an 11 percent official unemployment figure in Alabama – I can testify.

Most people now know multiple folks who have lost a job. In some cases, there is power in numbers. In the unemployment, job-searching case, numbers just mean more competition for the jobs that are out there. And, I can testify that the job market is crazy competitive, and I have the numbers to prove it.

During the 547-plus days of the continuing job search begun when I learned in mid-2008 that my job was one of 1,500 being eliminated by my former employer, I’ve applied for more than 110 positions.

Actually, as of today, when I applied for a media assistant position, the official tally of jobs applied for is at 112. That doesn’t count cold calls or cold e-mail pitches to companies around Birmingham that have corporate communications or public affairs departments. That doesn’t count completed, multiple tests to get on the state jobs register. That doesn’t count the job fairs or the registrations and job alerts set up on countless employer and job search websites ( is a good one). That doesn’t count attending how-to-get-hired seminars or the endless networking or pursuing contacts with friends or friends of friends or friends of my husband or friends of my aunt….friends of whoever offers a lead. Bless their hearts.

The 112 tally -- counted up on my trusty job matrix document (now 18 pages long) begun when I started this process -- counts just those jobs that I officially applied for. Sure, I made it to the interview stage for some of these and was a finalist for others. Some applications, I never heard from again (and that’s a subject of another posting). For some, I received automated regret e-mails. Some rejections came the old-fashioned way – written letters.

Regardless, there are many more mes out there, many people who look and look and look. I know and correspond with two other writers/former reporters/public relations professionals, friends, who were laid off and now looking for work in Birmingham, too. Often, we apply for the same, few jobs and wish each other luck.

Proof of the fierce competition for jobs in this tough economy comes not just in statistics but is backed by evidence. I’ve talked to human resources folks who say they receive so many applications for an advertised position that sometimes they have to cut them off before the deadline. In one case, the HR person in charge just took the best of the first 100 and went from there. The other two hundred applicants either got the automated “we regret” e-mail or no word at all.

In my previous position, I had a “big job” as a multi-state public affairs manager. And, now, as I apply for anything from entry level to “experienced manager” positions, I suspect I am sometimes painted with the overqualified brush, just based on my resume, accomplishments and years of experience. There are worse things, I suppose.

And, I won’t even talk about the challenge of an “experienced” and ”seasoned” professional like me (see older…) competing with eager, early-in-career writers and public relations graduates (see younger…). It’s a fact, Jack.

But, I also know that out there, somewhere, are employers who want the experience, knowledge and skills that come with “seasoned.”

I’m not whining here. Well, maybe I am a little bit. But, it is a whine of solidarity with my unemployed brothers and sisters. And, for me, it is a whine tempered with several “at leasts.”

At least, I have unemployment benefits still, but unless I qualify for some targeted, emergency benefits I’ve researched and will try, that small stipend (earned during my 30 years in the work force, thank you) will end soon. Congress: Want to help the unemployed? Extend benefits again, please.

At least, I am a writer and have this blog where I can do what I do and sometimes get props for it. This is thanks to my family, friends and associates (and I hope some others who have found this blog and just enjoy it). The self-imposed obligation to post something new each week helps motivate and keeps those creative writing synapses popping.

At least, being downsized (which hurts more than that euphemism implies) prompted me, as a writer, to write that novel all we writers say we want to write one day. I know writing it doesn’t mean publishing it, but the work, research and hard digging that have gone into the 75,000-words and counting that will become my first novel provide a purpose and determination invaluable to anyone struggling to deal with the changes and uncertainties that accompany losing a job.

At least, (and not least) I have a husband with a job whose patience, love and guidance have been essential and two adult children home and fighting their own job-and-economic battles while helping me in more ways than any of us can fully appreciate or articulate.

So, as I mark off job application number 112, I also have to mark off some positives about living as an unemployment statistic. I write, therefore I am….still viable and creating. I apply for jobs, therefore I am…going to keep applying and adding to my job matrix until I find a job and leave the crowded ranks of the determined and time-tested job seekers.

Song of the day:
Working on a Dream, Bruce Springsteen

“The cards I've drawn's a rough hand darlin'
I straighten my back and I'm working on a dream
I'm working on a dream
I'm working on a dream
Though sometimes it feels so far away
I'm working on a dream
And how it will be mine someday.”

Picture of the day:
Two male cardinals pose in the bare trees during last Friday's snow. Photo by me, taken off our back porch in Birmingham.

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