Tag Archives: NJ

Why Do Calls for Volunteers Go Unanswered?

When I lost my job, I knew I did not want to waste my time on the couch, watching TV and regretting that I didn’t do more with my time off. I had been unemployed before and regretted not taking advantaged of the time that I had when not  looking for a job or taking care of things I otherwise didn’t have time to while I was working.

Immediately, I decided to volunteer. After working at a non-profit, especially one that depended so heavily on volunteers, I knew that there was a great need at so many organizations for people like myself. I could do more than just answer phones and stuff envelopes, I could help develop strategic plans, write press releases, build media lists, create collateral materials; the list was hefty with communications and public relations experience. And I would even stuff envelopes and answer phones. I just knew that I could and wanted to give back.

I began by applying at places that I interested me; places that I would like to work if I had chance, but since I couldn’t, at least could be a part of the team in a voluntary role. My interests varied, so there was a lot to choose from. Unfortunately, no one was answering my calls, emails or applications.

I must have applied to at least 10 non-profits in the last five months. I applied at the YMCA, the Jubliee Center, the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, the Innocence Project, Hoboken University Medical Center, and others, throughout Hoboken, Manhattan and surrounding northern New Jersey towns, but no one got back to me. My husband even applied to a non-profit or two and no one got back to him either.

I understand that many non-profits are probably bogged down with unemployed people who are interested in giving back while they are looking for their next career move, but what I don’t get is how these organizations advertise and beg for volunteers yet don’t answer when people heed their call.  I know that some volunteers only want to do something related to their field, but at least call them back. Maybe they’d be willing to do something else or contribute in another way that you never thought possible. Non-profits are losing many valuable people by not returning calls and emails of those who are willing to help. It creates a false sense of urgency for your causes and your needs. And by not developing these relationships, non-profits are losing more than just those who can help, but those who can help foster their mission.

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What’s Up with the NJ State Department of Labor?

It’s only noon and I have already had one of those days…

 

Just today, I went to a scheduled unemployment orientation order by the State of NJ Department of Labor. I called to confirm my appointment a few weeks, as I had received two different dates in the mail. I was told by a staffer that I must attend both or I would lose my benefits. Seemed odd to me, since it was the same class, but hey, when the government says they’ll take away your money if you don’t do something, you do it. When I got to the office, it was closed and the class was cancelled. Apparently furloughs have taken effect and I wasn’t the only person who didn’t get notified. If I hadn’t shown up though, would they have cancelled my benefits? 

 

To top off this pleasant experience, I was recently informed that my social security number, among other personal information (which I have worked hard to protect), has been potentially compromised due to errors at the Department of Labor. It may have been sent to employers that really weren’t my employers. Seriously? My state government can’t even keep records straight and private?

 

What do I pay taxes for? 

 

 

Can the Swine Flu Disappear Before I Leave for Cabo? In Seven Days!

With the way 2009 is shaping up, I shouldn’t be surprised that the swine flu is hitting Mexico during the exact time that I am supposed to land in beautiful Cabo San Lucas…seven days from now.

After my husband lost his job, I lost my job, I got another job and lost that before I even started it, I decided to jump at the chance to go away with two of my best girlfriends to their recently acquired timeshare in Cabo. They had planned the trip for a few months before I got on board, and this seemed as good a time as any to get away, relax with my friends, sip margaritas and work on my tan. Boy, did I need this vacation more than ever.

We have talked about this trip for the last six weeks. We’ve been so excited for the food, the drinks, the sun, escaping New Jersey and our everyday lives. Going away on vacation together was something we had always wanted to do and until now, something we had never made happen.

Then came the swine flu. When I first heard the news on Saturday afternoon, I didn’t think too much about it. It seemed to be isolated in or around Mexico City and that was nowhere near Cabo. Then it started spreading – New York, Kansas, California, New Zealand; it was like you named a city or country and it had been affected by the swine flu. Even though there were numerous accounts of infestation popping up left and right, I was confident my trip would not be affected. I checked the World Health Organization and CDC websites and there was nothing on there about Cabo San Lucas; I searched online through news reports about traveling to the luxurious resort area and still found nothing. While I am obsessed with the news, I slowly found myself distancing away from the television set.

By Monday, the news got worse and I couldn’t escape it . The CDC recommended non-essential travel to Mexico be canceled. My mom was calling to tell me that she didn’t think I should go to Cabo. I wasn’t too surprised; if I was a mom, I would probably advise my son or daughter the same thing. I checked in with my girlfriends and they said until there was a mandate against going to Mexico, they were going to go. One of them is a nurse, so she knows the dangers of this virus. They said they completed understood if I wanted to back out given the circumstances. But I don’t want to back out. I also don’t want to explore this gorgeous city with face masks.

Today, Tuesday, has been the worst day thus far of “Deciding Whether to Go to Cabo with Swine Flu Swirling Around Mexico.” Friends are sending emails, news reports are getting worse; I even heard something about restaurants not letting patrons eat in their establishments, they can only take orders to-go.

That is not the vacation I want to have – walking into bars with face masks or wondering if the maid who cleaned my room just infected my bed with swine flu. But I don’t want to cancel just yet. What if it slows down by the time I leave? Is that even possible?  I have a call into my doctor for his opinion and the airline will honor my ticket at a later date. I’ll probably make my decision at the 11th hour, see how it all plays out until then.

This was the one thing I was looking forward to given the fact that everything else has gone downhill since the beginning of the year. How much worse can 2009 get? I fear that by saying that, I am just setting myself up for the next hit.

Lost My Job Too, But Worrying Less

Since my last posting, I too lost my job. I wrote my last piece back in early February and  about four weeks later, I became a casualty of the workforce. I wasn’t all that surprised. 

I worked for one of the nation’s most recognized non-profit disaster relief organizations.  I handled their communications for the northern New Jersey region. Most recently, I had dealt with large scale fires in areas like Hoboken, Paterson, Newark and Jersey City, as well as the aviation disasters that hit my region, including US Airways Flight 1549 and Continental Airlines Flight 3407. It was a tough job when disasters hit, both mentally and physically. I could tell I was being phased out though. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out. Our CEO was instructing folks to find volunteers to do portions of my job and had consultants come in left and right to do other facets of communications. When I confronted him, he lied straight to my face. I understand if you can’t tell employees that they are going to lose their job in a few weeks, but note to upper management: don’t lie to your employees, you lose more credibility than you’ll ever imagine. 

Back to my story. So I lost my job and my husband and I became a married couple with no positive cash flow coming in, despite some severance packages and accrued vacation time. Surprisingly enough, I never felt better. I felt so trapped at my job that when I lost it, it felt as if a 20 pound weight had been lifted from me. All the anxiety about whether or not I might lose my job, the low employee morale and the way that things were handled at the organization were no longer weighing on my shoulders. It was such a release. While I had a huge burden to deal with, which included finding health insurance, signing up for unemployment and assuring my husband we’d be okay, I felt better than I had in months. 

In the interim, I had been applying for jobs for some time. As I mentioned, I wasn’t blown away by the fact that I let go, so I tried to keep one step ahead and beat job loss to the punch. A little over a week after losing my job, I was offered a position at a small public relations agency managing their staff and accounts. I was so excited. It seemed like a great growth opportunity and a perfect fit between my last job at an agency and my most recent job with a non-profit. It also took away the fear of having both my husband and I unemployed at the same time. It almost seemed too good to be true…

And so it was. About five days after accepting the position, the agency rescinded the offer. What? Are you kidding me? I know, I thought the same thing. The long and the short of it is that the company lost a major account and now could not afford to bring me on. It was like a TV show. I went from losing my job to getting a job to losing it all within about 10 days! All I could do was laugh. 

I’m a worrier. I worry about everything. I worry about my parents driving home after dinner from a night out with me in Hoboken; I worry about my brother traveling through Australia; I worry about my socks not matching! Through this whole situation, I have probably had the most positive attitude of my whole life. I don’t know why I am not worried. I don’t know why I am not angry about what happened at my last job or about what happened to me with the job I had for about 96 hours, but I’m not. 

At the end of the day, I have my husband and he has me. While I may have to give up some of my vices over the next few months if things don’t come together on employment front, I can do that. The world won’t end. I know I am better off than I was at the non-profit or if I joined the agency that thought I would be starting work with soon.    Maybe public relations and communications isn’t for me. Maybe this is a new chapter that is opening up for me and I just have to figure it out. Maybe this is my chance to really make a difference. The possibilities are endless. While so many doors have closed, no they’ve actually slammed in my face over the three weeks, new ones will open and I’ll be there with a smile. 

How the Economic Crisis Changed my Marriage

I am one of millions of Americans dealing with the unemployment crisis, only I have not lost my job. Recently, my husband lost his job and our world has dramatically changed. Not so much because we are changing the way we operate our finances or dealing with new health insurance carriers, and all that goes along with a job loss, but our roles in our marriage have taken a drastic leap.

I am a media junkie. I work in public relations so maybe that is why I am constantly glued to all things news. Whether I am watching local or cable news, reading the paper or surfing the net, I am always plugged in. But in all the coverage on this unemployment crisis, I have seen nothing about the changing roles in marriages that take affect when a man loses his job.

My husband was the promotions director for the number one classic rock station in New York City . He worked there for 10 years; a third of his life. Working his way up the ladder, he met celebrities, went to hundreds of concerts and received lots of perks, but worked harder than anyone I knew. He had survived layoffs at this company before, but this time, it was a massacre. Nearly 90 people from his New York office were let go and over 1,800 nationwide.

Having lost jobs myself, I knew what my husband was about to experience. There would be many ups and downs, a roller coaster of emotions were awaiting him. He would soon feel angry, depressed, lost, alone, invaluable, scared; the list goes on. Anyone who has lost a job, no matter what the reason, knows what I am talking about.

When my husband called me to tell me he had lost his job, I ended up taking a personal day and left my own job to be with him. While he didn’t ask me to, I knew that he would not know what to do with himself after things slowly started to settle in.

I helped him sign up for unemployment and contact his now former employer about his contract and bonuses he had yet to receive. I made him lunch and stroked his hair and told him everything would be alright. I also told him that he’d have to be patient as he started looking for a new job. Forget the fact that it’s hard enough to find a new job, but in this economy, with this many people out of work, especially in the New York City market, there were a lot of odds stacked against him. My husband has a lot of patience with me and for friends and family, but when it comes to personal goals and ambition, he becomes restless quite quickly.

Aside from all the sadness and anger about losing his job, we also came to the realization that we would be losing a home that we were in the middle of purchasing. We had been approved for a mortgage, our bid had been accepted and we were in the process of setting up the inspection when this all happened. We knew we had to throw in the towel on our dream home when there was only one income supporting us, despite a severance package. I was fine with this, as I was not 100% ready to move, but it broke my husband’s heart in a million different pieces that this was happening at the same time that he lost his job.

I hate to admit it, but I am a bit of a needy person. I don’t handle being sick very well or making decisions on my own. While I like to think I am an independent woman, I do depend on my husband for so much. Suddenly, I had to step up and be this entire support system, something that my husband had never needed in this fashion. Don’t get me wrong, I have been there for him whenever he has needed me, but usually, I need him more than he needs me. Not only did I have to help him, I had to deal with my own emotions and fears about my husband, the breadwinner, the rock of our unit, losing his job and how that would affect us.

It’s been a roller coaster for us both, but I can’t share my peaks and valleys with him right now; not that he wouldn’t be open to hearing what is on my mind, but I don’t want to add that stress to his plate. He is up at 7:00 a.m. every morning looking for jobs, even on weekends! One Sunday morning, I told him, “It’s Sunday, a day of rest, give yourself a break!” It breaks my heart knowing what he is going through as a person and as a man; a man who feels he should be supporting his wife through a paycheck and not unemployment. Don’t even get me started on that one!

It has been more than an emotional ride that I have taken through this whole transition, and that is what I think people forget when they talk about this economic crisis. We hear about the families and how they may not be able to put food on their tables or the educations that may suffer. There is constant chatter about struggling two income families not being able to make ends meet to pay the rent or car insurance, but no one talks about the generation who doesn’t have children to feed or put through school, but still has the same challenges and struggles. I am one of those people.

Since my husband lost his job, I feel I have lost a part of him. A piece of his spirit is gone. And while that may not make a great news story on CNN next to the family who can’t buy milk and eggs for their family of six, it makes headlines in my house. I also have lost things through this life change. I used to relish in my time alone. My husband may have worked late or had an event or went out with friends or colleagues after a long day and I had some “Michelle Time” as I like to call it. There is less “Michelle Time” these days. I would never tell my husband that, because he spends his days looking for work and then looking forward to me coming home. He spends most of his days in front of a computer or on the phone; networking, emailing, job searching. Sometimes I want to come home and just do some personal things on my own and I feel a sense of obligation to be with him since he has been alone all day. We are no longer playing on an equal playing field and sadly, it’s not by choice.

I know my husband will find a job, and while it might take longer than he would like, it will likely be better than his previous gig. I know we will find a house when the time is right and it will be even greater than the one we originally found. This job loss won’t define us, but it will help us learn more about each other and grow stronger. It would just be nice if mainstream America and the media remembered that there are others who have been affected by this terrible economic downturn in our country.