Tag Archives: unemployment

Unemployment: Month Two Begins

Where did August go? This is a question I ask EVERY August, but this August the disappearance of the month had more significance than the typical summer conclusion. As you know if you’re a returning reader, I lost my job the first week of August this year. I showed up at work one day and was told it just isn’t working out, was given a month’s severance, an amicable parting, and I was one of the 6.2% of Americans out of a job. Going through the five phases of unemployment has been challenging for me as I sit and apply to job after job with nothing panning out yet.

I’m still keeping my chin up… after all, it has only been a month… but looking at my bills piling up and my measly unemployment check I know I have to find work stat. The way unemployment works where it penalizes you if you get a temp job that pays less than your previous job is really unfortunate. In fact, instead of encouraging unemployed individuals to work part time while seeking full time work, it effectively says that you will lose your benefits if you take on any work that isn’t equal to what you were doing before, at least in terms of pay.

That said, $1800 a month, pre-tax, is not going to cover my fancy lifestyle… you know, the one where I pay 1/2 of a $2350 one bedroom, 850 square foot apartment in the Silicon Valley suburbs… and $400 for COBRA… and $100 for car insurance… well, there goes all of the unemployment money and then some. In many regions unemployment income at least covers all the basics, but here it barely covers my rent. I really need work, stat.

Unlike last time I was unemployed many years ago, just a few years out of college, this time around at least I’m landing interviews. But they aren’t going anywhere. I am struggling to get past that interview stage, mostly because my experience isn’t focused enough. I’m really not sure what to do – other than keep applying. I’d like to freelance and build a consulting career – but to do this I will basically have to give up my unemployment income and likely earn less w/ self-employment tax and such on a few small gigs until I can get enough work to support myself.

In order to freelance successfully I’d need to bill $150 per hour and work 40 hours per week, with a little wiggle room for weeks without 40 hours of work. That actually is somewhat doable – I can bill $100 per hour to start and raise it as I build my portfolio of happy clients. I’m currently designing two friend’s small business websites (for free) to get some samples for a portfolio to show both my copywriting and design chops. But basically I’d want to get to the point where I was making $100 – $150/hr and working 40+ hours per week. If I could do that life would be perfect.

However, right now I’m focused on applying to FT jobs and seeing if I can land any that I’d want to do… all while building up a portfolio of design and copy work so perhaps I can get some actual paid clients when my unemployment runs out, if I don’t have a real office job by then.

Which Way to Go? The Career Ladder is a Maze

Throughout the last 10 years of my career, give or take, I’ve basically just gone where the wind blows. Each job I’ve obtained was the only option I had at the time. I’m not being overly dramatic here. I would interview for dozens and dozens of positions and finally when someone gave me an offer I’d take it. I didn’t really have the luxury of deciding what to do or weigh two or more offers against each other. I either accepted the offer presented or I waited weeks – months – years – more to get another offer. Waiting just wasn’t worth it.

All of that has left me in a career which — while I’ve been able to earn and save money — hasn’t shaped up to be a good foundation for whoever it is I want to be. It also hasn’t provided the experience needed to put me in that much of a better position each time I’m back on the market. That’s finally starting to change, but I still have yet to land an offer.

Right now, I’m extremely confused about what I should do next. I’m interviewing for very, very different positions in companies ranging from 25 people to 1000. Some of the roles have the potential of a VP titles, other director, and others manager. Part of me says “go for the VP role now” while the rational part says “you are not ready to be a VP and this is the time in your life when you should invest in being a manager for a larger, stable company to learn how to do this stuff right and/or broaden your skillset without everything being on fire all. the. time.”

I don’t have any offers yet, but I know that part of getting an offer is really wanting the role and pushing for it. Right now I’m interviewing for three positions and I just can’t make up my mind which one I would want. The VP role not only is a very senior position, but it also is with a company that is doing something really interesting and that excites me. But being a VP in a small company and having to build out an entire team while also executing on the day-to-day is probably too much for me right now. All I really want is the chance to focus on something (partially due and partially what I’ve done before) and do it well while learning how to do it better. A VP position will not provide that opportunity. I just don’t want to waltz into another failure. I have ideas of what I could do in order to do a good job, but I can see myself getting overwhelmed again.

But on the other end of the spectrum I could be very bored at a slower moving, larger company. Right now I think slower moving would be a good thing for me, but I’m not sure how long of that I’d be able to thrive in. I tend to do well in fast-moving environments, just ones where I don’t have to manage, build teams and execute all at the same time.

Then there’s the question of whether I stay in my specific area of my field or move into a tangential one, if I can get such an opportunity. I’m torn about that as well, although I’m comfortable admitting that I want to be closer to the product vs the more buzz side of marketing. Getting new customers is a useful skill but it’s a never-ending and impossible-to-win game. Meanwhile, figuring out what a market wants and determining how to tell the story of a product is at least intellectually stimulating and offers new challenges vs the same ones each quarter only bigger.

I mean I value this area of marketing a lot but I do not want to spend the rest of my life praying night and day that a reporter will decide to write about my company or testing the color of a button on a website to see – not if a product would be able to be used better – but if a few more people would fill out a form to contact a sales team. Again, I highly value the people who do that but I do not want to spend the rest of my life doing it. I’d rather be working in product but that’s a challenge given I don’t know how to code, so the next best thing is product marketing. That’s an area I can see myself really excelling in. And I’m looking to take a lower-level role in an organization to focus on just that. Yes, it also includes a lot of the less exciting dirty work (making dozens of datasheets for different industries, et al) but at least you get to be part of defining the story of a product and why its new features are valuable. You don’t just rehash the messaging someone else came up with. That’s the mind-numbing part of PR.. you’re a professional megaphone, and I don’t want to be a professional megaphone the rest of my life.

That said, I don’t have any offers yet, and eventually I might have to revert to megaphonism if that’s the only role I can get.

 

Is it Impostor Syndrome or Just ADHD Reality?

Another interview, another scrunching up my face in horror at something all too honest that I say as I’m asked about my experience and weaknesses. But let’s be real – if I were a hiring manager for most of these jobs I would not hire me. The few that don’t see this during the interview process – the only ones who would ever offer me an opportunity – are inexperienced in hiring or somehow unable to see the truth. It’s not just impostor syndrome, I’m just not that intelligent or reliable. Occasionally I have a brilliant idea and execute well, but most of the time I just get super anxious and waste time because I’m too scared to make decisions. Sometimes I come to work late because I’m depressed and have trouble getting out of bed. I can’t multi-task because having too many things to do at once and too many decisions to make equals one very stressed out and unproductive me. This thread really says it all.

So how am I supposed to convince anyone to hire me? I just look around at all of my peers in the business world and most of them just have their shit together. Some are really smart and able to get stuff done like superheros. Others are just able to execute really well, communicate goals and exceed them. All of this, others say, one can learn to do. Anyone can be on top of their shit. Anyone can learn process and get stuff done. Anyone can make decisions, test ideas and pick the best ones to continue with. Anyone can do this – except I can’t. I just can’t.

I don’t know where to go from here. Even starter interviews for junior-level positions somehow seem to end with “you’re not experienced enough.” That is after 10 years in the workforce. I’m not making this up. And it’s true — I have such a smattering of experiences but no one solid skillset that fits any job description. Ultimately it doesn’t matter anyway because if I did get a job I’d just end up disappointing them. I really don’t know what to do.

I am fortunate in that I have a good amount of savings to survive on for a little while, but eventually I need to get a job. Junior level roles, if I could get one, often require more of the detail-oriented work that I’m bad at due to my ADHD. But senior level roles still require the ability to be detail-oriented and set bigger picture strategy while ensuring the day-to-day gets done.

Interviewing is awful. I’m sure it’s wonderful for people like my friend who are just so good at what they do and know it. Everyone who interviews him falls in hiring love because he’s just professionally perfect, from his Ivy degree to his experience and contributions to all his companies along the way. I’m happy for him, and for my other friends who are doing well professionally, but also jealous, jealous because that will never be me. I can maybe fake it for a month or two but it won’t last.

This is why I think I really should leave business… but I’m not sure what else out there I can do. I feel like somehow I have a bit of intelligence inside my crazy distracted head but that’s worthless with all of this anxiety and inability to execute. To whom this may concern, please don’t hire me, I’m a hot mess.

 

Phases of Unemployment Mourning

Much like one goes through phases of mourning, there are phases of unemployment. And they’re quite similar. I’m experiencing them right now.

1. Shock

When you lose your job, even if you expected it coming to some extent, the first phase you go through will be shock. You will never be ready to hear the words that you weren’t quite cut out for the position, or that you’re being replaced, or a thousand other reasons why it’s time that you and the company are no longer one. You won’t know what to say or who to say it to. You’ll be in complete and utter shock.

2. Horror

Then reality will sink in and you’ll enter the horror phase. What are you going to do? What will you tell your friends and family? How will you survive on unemployment pay? How will you get another job now that you have this dirty little stamp on your record? Who will want you? Your entire world has been shaken up and you have to figure out what you’re going to do tomorrow, the next day, the day after that, and so on.

3. Excitement

For a short while then you may experience a brief period of excitement. You have so much time on your hands now to do all those things you’ve been putting off! Clean the house. Read a book. Redesign your blog. Go for a run in the middle of the day. See your friends who have young kids and are stay-at-home moms for the time being. You have all the time in the world. And maybe this will work out. Maybe this all happened for a reason.

4. Depression

This is the period you sink into once the excitement phase ends. It could happen very quickly or it could take a while to get here, but as long as you haven’t landed another position in a few weeks, you’ll probably get to this phase. This is the phase where you end up in bed all day, or sitting on the couch flipping through bad daytime television. You’ll watch one too many Price is Right episodes (thank god I don’t have cable.) You’ll apply for hundreds of jobs and go on a few interviews but nothing will pan out. You’ll feel utterly hopeless.

5. Renewal

Maybe suddenly you have a job offer or a few really good potentials. You feel like you’re finally on the right track. The renewal period is the time when you are getting prepared for the next phase of your life. You’re ready to say goodbye to days of applying to jobs and waiting for the world around you to end. You’ll feel inspired again and thrilled to return to the work world!

Mental Health Care: Expensive even with insurance

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I suffer with a mishmash of mental illnesses. For those who don’t — my list of diagnosed errors of the brain includes major depression, bipolar (II) disorder, generalized anxiety, ADHD, social anxiety, narcissistic personality disorder, among other, non-diagnosed yet still symptomatic crazies. Despite wanting to get through life without help for years, I’ve been in and out of therapy. Also, due to these illnesses and disorders, I’ve been in and out of jobs – which makes spending a ton on mental health treatment not the wisest.

This year I thought I had the good fortune of health coverage that would actually cover a reasonable amount of my weekly psychotherapy sessions. It would still be expensive, mind you, but after hitting the $500 deductible (that’s less than a month of weekly sessions) my outpatient therapist would cost just 30% of her total billing rate. Except, it turns out, that’s not true at all. It would be impossible to know this in advance of submitting a claim based on the way the health insurance benefits are explained. Apparently only $77 is considered a reasonable cost for a therapist visit, and the other $53 per appointment doesn’t even count towards the deductible. Continue reading

Nervous About Selecting a New Job

When I look back on my last position, I know full well that I should have never accepted a job at the company. It was not at all a cultural fit as everyone was serious and not big on collaboration, or at least not the type of collaboration I’m used to. While the role was extremely awesome — in terms of responsibility and growth — I was set up for failure from the start, neither having the right experience to success, nor the passion to relentlessly promote the specific subject matter, nor the mental state to persevere through the challenge.

In the end, I got too caught up in my income to focus on what was more important – the job itself. I felt that the actual position I was hired to do was being underpaid, yet my performance was being overpaid. So I was both bitter and guilty at the same time, spending way too much of my days worrying about one thing or another, and not enough trying to keep my head above water. The end was in sight before I even got to the start. My own fault largely, I’ll admit it, but the past is past and I just don’t want to do that again. Ever again.

This happened once before in my career… I was in a job that was going ok but felt like there was no growth opportunities unless I left. Without a lot of potentials I jumped at the first impressive thing that came along, despite being terrified of the actual job. That lasted three months. I was able to recover and switch directions to a whole different career. I was making $55,000 a year out of college which in the Bay Area even then was not that much. This time around it’s a completely different story however as I’m much further along in my career and switching directions would take me from a potential $125k++ figure salary back to $60k-$70k. It’s definitely not as easy of a move.

That said, there are some really good potentials in my field that would, I expect, come with a package over the $150k mark. In total there are two potentials right now — both which I still need to work hard to impress folks in interviews to get offers for — but two real exciting opportunities which, if I choose to stay in my field, could be amazing. But the biggest challenge for my field is that my social anxiety holds me back. I always like to pretend I can just ignore the anxiety but it grates at me day in and day out. I’d prefer a career where I can work form home and only occasionally have to be in an environment with others. I most certainly do not perform well in office environments. Yet even with some special permissions to work off site I begin to worry what everyone else is thinking and fall victim of my own neuroticism, over and over again.

The smart thing to do right now is focus on getting a job. Here is what I should do — get a job for a start date of October 1 at the soonest. Once the job is secured split September between spending time on the east coast with my family AND studying up on all of the tools and techniques available to do this job well. By Oct 1 I should be ready AND refreshed enough from my time off to thrive. If I don’t have a job by Oct 1 I think I’ll start to lose it.

Even though it still isn’t easy to get a job (a lot of hiring folks see that my experience is lacking for what they need) there are still a few who like what I have to offer and will give me a chance. It will get much, much harder once I have to admit in interviews to having lost a job. At least for now I get to play the card of that I’m still gainfully employed in a relatively new position and it’s just not a fit but I’m not going to jump unless something really exciting comes along. It’s a good position to be in as I have the time to really prepare for interviews, impress my suitors, and still get to negotiate based on the concept that I’m employed. Come October it’s going to be a lot harder to tell that story. At some point I’ll just have to look for jobs as an unemployed person. That is a heck of a lot more challenging.

So I know that I need to push for one of these two opps to come through. Both are exciting to me and in fact I can’t really decide which one I’m not enthusiastic about. One may be VP level, but the commute to work would be about an hour-and-a-half (though I could move closer once my lease is up in March.) That one might be jumping back into the fire as the head of a department that I’m really not ready to run, though the subject matter of the company is much more up my alley and something I could see enjoying talking about on a regular basis. The other opportunity is just awesome, but I’m not sure if I have the skills or experience to actually secure the role. They do want to meet me in person so that’s a start, but the job is with a company that I’m sure tons of people would love to work for — I can’t imagine they’d pick me above the others. In any case, I’m going to give it my best shot. I think that gig — a 30 min train ride from my house at a level that isn’t quite as senior as the other position – and with an experiencing boss in my field to report to — could be a better move. They’re just two very different positions and I’m not sure which one I really want more. The more senior level one is actually something that I’d be more likely to get given connections into the company, but I don’t want to set myself up for failure again. I’m really not sure what to do.

Beyond those two opps there is a recruiter who has put me in touch with a CEO who really wants to talk to me. There are so many jobs out there which my experience theoretically would have me fit, yet a lot of them are at companies where I know I’d be bored to death talking about their technology. I realize in my last job I did well because there were so many different angles to talk about the specific product and there were also a lot of different types of buyers so the stories were varied. I also really enjoyed my coworkers who were smart, funny, creative and collaborative. We had a great culture there and I miss it. The culture was supportive and while I worked my ass off I was able to get a lot of great work done. I didn’t realize how much company culture matters but working at a company with a lot of people in their 20s and 30s who want to spend time together and be more like a family vs one where everyone is, well, old, and doesn’t really want to socialize is a huge difference. Maybe one day I’ll want the second kind but for now I need the social experience (didn’t I just say I don’t want a social company? Well, I like it if I get along with the people I work with. If they’re quirky and/or passionate about their work.)

So. I guess what I’m coming to is that I feel like I need to get one of these two jobs. I’m spending this weekend putting together a presentation to impress one of them hopefully at our meeting filled with a plan for what I would do in the role. I’m going to make sure that the plan is actually reasonable and something I can succeed doing. For the other opportunity I might have a face-to-face meeting sooner than later with a senior exec, so I’ll see how that goes. If neither work out well then neither work out, but I just am already getting tired of the time off and want to get back to work. I’ll want time off when I have a kid one day in the near future, or when I want to go on a honeymoon, but not now. Now I’m definitely willing and able to work. Someone for the love of god hire me.

My Life on Unemployment Budget

Going from $6k a month after tax to $1.8k pre-tax takes some major adjusting in spending habits. Lucky for me I don’t have kids and while my rent is high I don’t have a mortgage or house to worry about losing. My goal while on unemployment (other than to find a job that suits me and that I can succeed in) is to – with the exception of stock market fluctuations – maintain my networth as much as possible. This means no more frivolous trips to Sephora (in fact I’m returning about $100 in items I purchased prior to losing my job) and no more adventures to the outlet mall. Spending now is limited to basic necessities until I find another job and remain employed for a period of over three months for stability insurance.

Current Networth: $284,000 (Goal do not dip below $280k before end of 2014. Save $70k in 2015)

September Budget

Income: $1800 – 35% taxes =  $1170

Rent: $1350
Car Insurance: $104.69
Health Insurance: TBD ($250?)
Food: $200
Bridesmaid (flight, bridal shower split contrib): $500
Phone Bill: $100
Other Bills: $75 (estimate)
======================
$2579 Spend
$284k-$1479 = $282k Sept Networth End

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October Budget

Income: $1800 – 35% taxes =  $1170

Rent: $1350
Car Insurance: $104.69
Health Insurance: TBD ($250?)
Food: $200
Bridesmaid (flight, bachlorette party): $1000
Phone Bill: $100
Other Bills: $75 (estimate)
——————————————————–
$3079 Spend
$282k-$1909 = $280k Oct Networth End

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November Budget

Income: $1800 – 35% taxes =  $1170

Rent: $1350
Car Insurance: $104.69
Health Insurance: TBD ($250?)
Food: $200
Bridesmaid (flight, hotel, wedding gift): $1000
Phone Bill: $100
Other Bills: $75 (estimate)
——————————————————–
$3079 Spend
$280k-$1909 = $278k Nov Networth End

… and if I don’t have a job by December 1st that pays more than $1800 a month, then things start to get ugly. That said, I’m keeping about $7000 in my liquid bank account right now to tied me over until December. This just isn’t looking good. I wish my rent wasn’t so damn high. It’s my own fault. I talked to my bf about reassessing our split (I pay $1350 and he pays $1000 based on an agreement we had when we signed the lease — which was a fair percentage of our income — but obviously that has changed. I informally ran the idea by him to adjust it back to to a 50/50 split for the time being, but in reality I don’t think it’s fair of me to change what I agreed to and I do have the funds to make up for it while I look for a job. If we’re getting married soon anyway it doesn’t really matter. I know if I continue to pay my agreed on portion of the rent he will feel less bothered by any length of time I spend out of work. Though paying $1175 each would be a big help for now. :/ I think if I don’t have a job by Nov 1 I’ll push on splitting 50/50 for the remainder of our lease, or until I get another job.

The good news is that in December I can return to a reasonable “Frugal” lifestyle (no more bridesmaid duties) which looks more like this…

———————–

November Budget

Income: $1800 – 35% taxes =  $1170

Rent: $1350
Car Insurance: $104.69
Health Insurance: TBD ($250?)
Food: $200
Phone Bill: $100
Other Bills: $75 (estimate)
——————————————————–
$2080 Spend
$278k-$910= $277k Nov Networth End

In other words… if by December I still don’t have a job (eeeks) then I should be able to start spending at an operating loss of $1000 per month, vs over $2000.  But then again if I don’t have a job by then I have other more serious problems on my hands.

 

 

 

It’s Been One Week Since I Lost My Job.

In terms of sharing the news that I lost my job, so far I’ve only told a few close friends, and of course all my anonymous readers here (whoever you are, hi.) This morning I’m glad I had a dentist appointment scheduled at 8am so I got out bright and early, got my teeth cleaned, then walked a few miles home while stopping for a quick bite to eat. I also – and probably shouldn’t have – treated myself to a manicure, pedicure – mostly because my nail were a hot mess and I needed to get the gel polish professionally removed. I spent $80 on my nails, which was probably a terrible idea unemployed, but if I’m going on job interviews (and I am) having good looking nails is important. That’s my justification for my bad decision.

The colors I chose for my nails are bright and happy. I have a beautiful fuchsia on my fingernails and an orange pink with glitter on my toes. I know you’re all not interested in what color my nails are but my point is that things like the color of my nails can significantly impact my mood – and right now I need all the help I can get to keep myself from falling into a depression like last time I was unemployed.

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Filing for Unemployment Benefits

I finally sucked it up and filed my unemployment claim. The process is quick but confusing, especially if you’ve had more than one employer in the last 18 months. The most confusing part is figuring out your exact gross pay for periods that lasted less than a quarter and then determining your hourly rate if you’re a salaried worker. I hope the data I submitted was correct. If not it will put off receiving my unemployment benefits even longer.

Did you know that every state has a different amount paid out to workers on unemployment? You’d think in California where cost of living is so high the unemployment benefits would be among the highest, but not so. In CA the max unemployment benefit is $450 per week, or $1800 per month. Given my portion of my rent in my 825 square feet one bedroom apartment is $1350, that doesn’t leave a whole lot for health insurance, car insurance, gas and food. And in reality that money is taxed so I won’t actually get the full amount. Luckily I have an emergency fund so I will be ok. However, if I lived in another state that pays more – say – Massachusetts – I’d get $653 per week on unemployment, or $2612 per month pre-tax. Since cost of living in most other states is lower, that amount would go a lot further if needed.

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Unemployment Day Three

Today was a somewhat busy day of unemployment. I didn’t do a ton of anything in the morning despite being up at 7am. I met with my former head of HR for lunch to hand over my “separation” paperwork and close out a few other odds and ends. As much as it sucks for this position to have not worked out I have to say it probably was about the best possibly way to part with a company as they seem to still like me and wish me the best (and I honestly believe they’re not just saying that, we all just realize I’m not ready yet for such a large leadership function.)

After lunch I came home to find my boyfriend futzing with his new giant air conditioner which now features two terrifying tubes that wind around like worm monsters before making it out of our kitchen window. Then after he dropped his laptop on my already-massively-cracked iPhone and cracking it somehow even more so that now a big chunk of glass is actually missing from the screen (*it is actually his iphone that I borrowed since mine was stolen on a trip so I can’t complain that much) I got myself out of the house and to the train to head up to the city…

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