Tag Archives: unemployed

Bah Humbug! Beware of Scammers Preying on Unemployed This Holiday Season

I love gift wrapping. My dad is a bit of a freak about it and I think I followed in his footsteps. So imagine my excitement when I received an email from Best Buy telling me about a gift wrapping job opportunity available during the holiday season. Look, I’m unemployed…any opportunity involving something I like even a little bit excites me!

This email didn’t go into my spam box, but I wasn’t foolish enough to think “Richard Miller” was reaching out to me and only me. I am sure “Director of Communications” didn’t scream gift wrapper when he poached my email from some career website database. But I didn’t let it bring me down. It was the holidays and this seemed like a cool way to make some extra cash and kill some free time, so I emailed him back for some more info. “A new Best Buy just opened up in Jersey City,” I thought to myself. I know so many unemployed people, maybe we can do this together and make a thing of it!

How many of you are laughing at me right now? Don’t feel bad, because I’m laughing at myself as I write this. The email fails to send ( he had a Best Buy domain – I’m not that bad!), so I call the number Richard provided for me in his correspondence. I’m directly connected to “Welcome to HR department” and some elevator music. No Best Buy, not even the HR department, just HR Department. Now my senses are peaked. Could this be a scam?

I waited on hold for maybe 3 minutes. “Everyone probably got this email all at once,” I’m thinking. “The lines are bum-rushed.”

Finally, I throw in the towel, accepting defeat, realizing there is no Richard Miller, no Best Buy gift wrapping holiday temp job, just gullible me.

What I didn’t understand was what kind of scam this could be. Did they want to get my social security number or other personal information if I filled out a job application? Rob or carjack me when I showed up somewhere to wrap all these gifts? No, not even close. When I did a little research, I found out that this was a “wrap from home scheme.” What these people do is send you stolen merchandise and pay to have it shipped across the globe, then disappear and never pay you.

Usually I am smarter than this. Maybe I should lay off the egg nog! Happy holidays!

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Help! My Portfolio Has Been Hijacked by City Hall

In September, I interviewed for what I thought was an amazing job. It was for the public information officer position in my hometown of Hoboken.  I met with our interim mayor at the last-minute, over a holiday weekend, and thought it went fabulously. She took my portfolio and asked for my references.

She said the position needed to be filled immediately, but weeks went by and there was no follow-up. When I checked in, I was told interviews were still being conducted. I was cool with that. The job market has changed drastically and it’s not the same finding a gig today as it used to be. Whereas two years ago, you may have gone on one or two interviews within two weeks, these days, you may go through three to five over a two month period.

As the weeks progressed, I heard nothing. Ok, I thought, maybe the position was on hold while she was running for permanent office; maybe it was canceled due to lack of funding; or perhaps it was filled internally. Whatever the case, it would have been nice to have received a follow-up, but better yet, to have gotten my work back.

I called and emailed the mayor’s office for weeks with no response. The mayor had given me her personal email but my attempts proved unsuccessful.  I left messages with people in her office who promised they would relay my concern about my portfolio but still no movement. I reached out to the mayor’s aide who at one point said he’d get me my stuff by the end of the week, only to be forgotten about.

HELP! My press portfolio is being hijacked in city hall! Ok, I am being a bit dramatic here, but seriously, I brought great samples of my work to this interview because it was something I wanted; I truly wanted to impress. In this economy, it’s sin that anyone would ignore repeated attempts to get someone’s work back. Being too busy is not an acceptable reason. I’m a resident (an unemployed one at that!) of your community; please, show me a little respect!

I shouldn’t have to write a blog to get my work back, but maybe it will work.

Stuck in Neutral

Right now, I’m stuck in neutral. I’m not quite moving forward, not quite moving backward, just kind stuck in the middle, not quite moving at all. My best friend told me this one day, and I have used the term ever since. Too bad it’s gone on for the last six months.

Believe it or not, I think a lot of us are stuck in neutral, which isn’t a bad thing, but it’s not a good thing either. I guess it’s kind of like being content when you analyze it like this.

While not working right now has curbed me from doing things I’d like to do, such as see more of the world or buy a house, I haven’t hit rock bottom where I am living off my savings or wondering where my next meal is coming from. I feel a little like Goldilocks – everything is just fine, but nothing is really being accomplished.

For some it isn’t being unemployed, it’s being stuck at a dead end job they know they can’t leave (for one reason or another), for others, it’s being in a relationship that isn’t going anywhere.

For all the things that don’t happen in a good way, bad things aren’t happening either, so you count your lucky stars. But it’s OK to be selfish and want those good things. Sooner or later, you figure that you’ll move up the ladder because we all have to make room for the next person. In the meantime, I’ll be here in neutral until the gas pedal is ready for me to give it a go.

The Curse of the Internal Candidate

Have you ever been the internal candidate? You know who I’m talking about…the employee who is in line for a promotion or moving on the next level at their company. It’s really great for staff morale when companies promote from within; it shows a sense of loyalty and commitment to employees, but it really sucks for the folks that are applying for those same jobs and have no idea the gig has already been promised to someone else.

I completely understand hiring someone from the inside for a new position. They likely have more knowledge on the product, client or brand; they know the style of the company, office and its co-workers; and they’ve probably already been doing something similar to the job at hand for a period of time. It’s great when a corporation moves an assistant to a managerial position. Not only does it show their faith in the candidate, but it lets other employees know they can move up the ladder too.

Now on to us job seekers. It’s so unfair when we apply for a job and get called  to an interview when the job has already been given to another person. As you’re sitting there interviewing, the office manager is ordering new business cards for Johnny Appleseed, who accepted the position two weeks ago. I don’t understand the laws behind posting jobs that have been filled and I certainly don’t think it’s right to put unemployed people through the hassle and disappointment of an interview.

It takes work to interview, much less apply. You prepare, you prep, you research. You write a cover letter, sign up for the company’s job posting/HR portal, divulge your salary history.  You also take time out of your day, maybe find a babysitter for your kids, spend money on public transportation or gas. Either way, you are making an effort and the people interviewing you know all too well that Johnny starts next week and they’re just killing time with you because they have to.

I wish there was a way that companies could just let job hunters know which positions are truly available to them and which are not. It’s a waste of time for HR, recruiters and those of us looking for work. Why put anyone through the hassle of applying, let alone interviewing, when there is no hope for them? Don’t we have enough hopelessness in the job market already? There is zero reason for posting a job that is already promised to someone else. Perhaps a new law, clause or disclaimer can be created on these postings to save everyone some time, energy and frustration. Maybe something like, “Please note – this job has already been awarded to an internal candidate.” Point blank.

The Poorly Written “Form Letter Thank You” From Potential Employers

I am not a huge fan of form letters. Maybe it’s because I am a communications person, but I appreciate the personal touch of being thanked or recognized for something. Otherwise, I almost don’t want to be noticed at all.

I’m not talking about thank yous from friends or family. That ship has sailed. I’m talking about the form letter job seekers get from potential employers when they apply for a job or actually make it through the interview process, either through email or actual snail mail. Can you believe that, some of us actual get rejection letters and thank yous for applying via the U.S. Mail? Now I think that’s a nice touch, even if you are rejecting me.

I don’t mind the automated email informing me that Employer A has received my resume,  my background and qualifications are being evaluated and if I am suitable match or fit, that I will be contacted. What I do mind, is when Employer B sends me the thank you for interviewing with our company email, “It was pleasure meeting you and you were an outstanding candidate, but we have chosen to move in another direction. We will keep your resume on file for one year in the event your skills match another role in our organization.”

Really, you’re going to contact me when my experience matches another job in your company? Has any company ever done that for you? Similar positions open up all the time at companies you and I have applied to, maybe even interviewed at already, but no one ever gets that call saying, “Hey, Jane, this position opened up and it has your name written all over it!”

Maybe it’s some human resources law that says these companies need to send these types of correspondences to folks. And I understand, I really do, and I am not trying to sound bitter, I just think there is a less fake approach, shall we say, to go about this. Tell job seekers to keep looking, not that you’ll find a match for them; we know you’re not going to reach out to us if some keyword matches something on our resume with a job at your company; you must have a million resumes on file! Don’t sell us that short, please!

And while we’re on the topic of selling us short, take a look at the email below which I received this summer from an organization I applied to telling me I was not the chosen candidate. Not only was it not personally addressed (undisclosed recipients!), it left the “insert position here” empty and in plain sight for me to see!! So HR professionals, CEOs, hiring managers, whoever sends these emails and letters to those on the job hunt, please take note, have a bit of compassion or don’t send anything at all. Sometimes no news better than any news at all!

To: undisclosed-recipients

Thank you for the opportunity to interview you for the $(customtext1} position. It was a pleasure meeting you.

Although your credentials and work experience are most impressive, another candidate whose qualifications more closely meet our needs has been selected.

Your interest in this position is appreciated.

Responsibility Ain’t Much Fun

I haven’t always been a responsible person. When I was in college, I racked up a lot of credit card debt charging Cluck-U and beer. I snuck out of the house and made  my poor parents crazy. I’ve gone without health insurance because it was just too expensive when I didn’t have job. There’s a lot more in the irresponsible vault, but we’ll stop there, as I’m sure you get the drift.

With age, comes wisdom and the understanding of responsibility. I learned to pay my bills on time and that all that extra money I was paying in late fees could go to cute new shoes.  I learned to give respect to get respect. And I will never go without health insurance, no matter how much I have to pay for it (even if I come full circle and go back into debt for it!). But in the midst of becoming the now responsible human  being that I am, I  wonder what good it has actually done for me.

Don’t get me wrong…I have a roof over my head, money in the bank, no debt and great friends and family. I even scored a job in this less stellar economy. But at the end of the day, when I take a long hard look at the big picture, being responsible hasn’t been all that fun.

While I was unemployed, I wanted to travel the world, take some of my time off to explore new and unchartered territory. I wanted to visit Greece and Paris, Amsterdam and Italy.  I wanted to just pick up, break my lease and live somewhere else – another state or something, just to see what it would be like to live outside of the only thing I have known – Jersey! Instead, I took Responsibility Road. I looked for jobs, honored my lease and took smaller, inexpensive trips. I did hit Cabo with some girlfriends, so don’t feel too bad!!

I’ve always tried to live my life with no regrets. I’ve always said, “I could die tomorrow, let’s just do this! What good is money if you’re not going to spend it?” And trust me, many times I do, and I really go the distance! But I look at what being responsible over the last few months has gotten me: a job outside my industry and passion, a husband so determined to work that hasn’t found a gig, a house that we bought that we could no longer purchase because we were jobless, passports waiting to be stamped with dreams of exploring what the world has to offer.

I know this is a stepping stone as we get older and a fact of life. It could be so much worse. I just miss the days of being a little less concerned about being so responsible!

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.