Sunday, March 7, 2010

Hello, my name is Class Factotum and I`m unemployed

posted Fri, 24 Feb 2006

I’ve started my official job search. I met with the outplacement firm at the end of January. It was supposed to be a quick, pick up the information meeting – 15 minutes. It ended up being a two-hour gabfest – the career counselor, the office manager and me. What on earth did we talk about? Not looking for a job, that’s for sure, but shoes, chocolate, and how to fix the rotten city of Memphis. The rotten city government, that is.

They have a whole process you do – a series of classes and teleconferences, workbooks, meetings. At first, I thought, “I don’t need this! I’ve looked for a job a million times! (OK, three.) I’m a pro!”

It took me a year and a half to find a job after I finished my stint in the Peace Corps. Despite five years in corporate America, an MBA from a top 20 school and great results with my Peace Corps project, I think recruiters saw “Peace Corps” and expected this or dreadlocks. (And then I ended up in corporate finance. Ugh.)

But a friend of mine who went through this last year advised me to follow all the steps. I decided it couldn’t hurt. What do I have to lose? I’ve got the time. I don’t have to pay the agency – it’s part of my severance. And the last time I was unemployed, it did take me 18 months to find a job. I’m not that good at it.

I have done two of the teleconferences already. I have learned that I need to put together an “exit statement” – an explanation of why I am not employed – and that it’s better not to say something like, “my position was eliminated because my not-so-bright boss didn’t have a clue about what I actually did but I’m not bitter, really I’m not.”

Instead, I should say something like, “There have been four rounds of layoffs in the past five years at International Paper. This fall, they cut 10% of the salaried workforce. Over 300 people in Memphis lost their jobs, including me. Now I am excited about finding a new industry where I can use my operations and project management experience.”

So it’s already been useful.

The one thing that I worry about is Peace Corps on my resume. At least this time it’s not my most recent work history, but still. I did a great job in the Peace Corps, but there are some volunteers who give the rest of us a bad name.

Like Mitch, Steve’s roommate in Chad. Mitch had to leave MIT his freshman year – I think because of a nervous breakdown. He ended up slumming it at RPI, graduating with a math degree. He was supposed to be a teacher in Chad, but the teachers in their area went on strike the month after he got to his site, so he didn’t have anything to do. They kept saying the strike would be over soon, but it wasn’t. And wasn’t. And wasn’t.

So he spent his spare time – and there was a lot of it – getting high.

On nutmeg. Probably on other things, too, but a lot of the time on nutmeg. I had no idea you could get high on nutmeg, but apparently this is the case if you eat enough of it. Steve said Mitch would eat it whole, cut it into quarters, grind it up – eat it in a variety of ways. But he would eat a lot of it. The guy must have smelled like a bakery.

He spent two years doing that – eating nutmeg and drinking beer.

Meanwhile, those of us who actually went to work every day and got great results are being tarred with the same brush. Thanks a lot, Mitch.

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