How to Get Around “Unemployed Need Not Apply”

There are still a whole lot of unemployed people in America, and now, to make job searching harder, many ads are listed as “Unemployed Need Not Apply.” Employers want the freshest skills possible; however, this leaves the unemployed at a distinct disadvantage. While New Jersey has made posting ads like this illegal, technically, unemployment is not a status that is legally protected in most states. Employers can also weed out unemployed applicants for other reasons, too. However, there are ways to get around this:

*List your resume with a temp agency. You may get short-term work that you can then list on your resume. You may also get some benefits such as medical insurance through the temp agency. For example, if you have had several short-term gigs as a web content developer, then list yourself as a contract web content developer and the places where you worked.

*Work for a relative. Gainfully employed doesn’t have to mean that money changes hands. You can barter the work you do for a relative for meals, rides to interviews, borrowing interview clothes, etc.

*Offer your services online or in your neighborhood. Capitalize on assets and skills you have. For example, have a car? Provide some carpooling to take neighborhood kids to schools and appointments. Good at organizing? Offer your skills as a house cleaner or organizer.

*If you cannot find paid work, volunteer. Volunteer opportunities abound at schools, churches, food banks, YMCAs and YWCAs and other social agencies. You can still list volunteer experience on your resume. Better yet, find a volunteer opportunity for which you can barter. That is how I got my start in publishing. I edited book  transcripts in exchange for rides to and from classes.

The point is to show employers you have recent skills other than in job searching.

Amateur Interventionists

I have been reading the accounts of Amy Winehouse’s death in the news not only with sadness and sympathy for her friends and family, but also with frustration. There have been so many quotes of, “I wish someone could have helped her.” Just who was that “someone” supposed to be? It is a travesty that she died at all, much less at only  27.

When I moved to LA, I knew the score on musicians and addiction. I did over 900 hours of career counseling for an internship at a college with a prominent music school. I definitely ran into musicians who were addicted and refused treatment. I still do here in LA. The thing is that addiction is a physical disease with genetic and biochemical components. You cannot just “intervention” it away, and few addicts can actually “stop any time they want.” It just isn’t that simple.

I wish there was an easy treatment for addiction, but there isn’t. Even addiction counselors will tell you that the rate of recidivism is very high and that they find themselves treading over the same old ground with the same addicts repeatedly. Even when addicts want help, it is still a long and difficult road. I have watched friends and family go through this, and you cannot force someone to enter treatment. It just does not work. Former addicts cite the fact that true reality really sucks in comparison with getting high or staying intoxicated. Yes, and we all know that true reality sometimes just plain sucks. Period.

Yes, it really does. It is a shame Amy is gone. Maybe she never would have agreed to treatment. Who knows? Maybe she would have. But it was not up to someone else to “save her.” Family and friends need to understand this: amateur interventions or any interventions won’t work until the addict is ready for help. Yup, really frustrating, I know… RIP, Amy.

The Eyes Have It: When Art (Unnoticeably) Imitates Life

Eye Shop

Eye Shop

Any time we see someone missing a body part or a prosthesis independent of a body, we tend to do a double-take to stop and stare. After all, it is pretty unusual to see an empty eye socket or an eye prosthesis held in the palm of a hand. I was a medical social worker the first time I came face to face with a person missing an eye. Nursing homes can be pretty lonely places for people who are ill, but who do not have dementia and have no one to talk to. This patient lost an eye due to cancer, and he was very open about discussing how his prosthesis works.

Eye Maker's Work Table -- Rod Allday

The first artificial eyes were made from clay by the Romans and worn outside the eye socket with a cloth attachment. Sounds like it would have been very stare worthy, huh? The Venetians — who else? — were the first to make glass eye replacements. Today, eye prostheses are made from acrylic and are crafted and painted by hand. The iris and pupils are hand painted, and red thread is attached to represent veins. This one-of-a-kind status can make an eye prosthesis cost upwards of $3000. But it is worth it to some who want a “normal” appearance.

So there are degree programs for ophthalmologists and optometrists, but are there degree programs for ocularists, the fashioners of artificial eyes? Nope. If you want to pursue this career, you should attend the American Society of Ocularists conventions where they have classes in this career. You must also complete a 10,000 hour (whoa!) apprenticeship with an accredited ocularist and pass certification exams before you can receive a Diplomate of the American Society of Ocularists designation and set up your own shop. If you are in college and are interested in becoming an ocularist, science, psychology, art and sculpting, as well as communication classes will help you.

Some good skills to have for this career: ability to measure accurately as you have to guarantee fit of the prosthesis; you must be able to discern between gradations of color; being color-blind will make this career difficult; fine motors skills as the prosthesis is very small and requires delicate, precise movements to fabricate it; and patience, as the prosthesis must be perfect and feel comfortable for the wearer.

Look here to see an ocularist at work. Go to the American Society of Ocularists to read more about this interesting career.


Five Public Service Career Myths

Back when I was an undergrad in the ’80s at Cornell, the opportunities to participate in public service were scattered throughout the campus in some postings at the Career Center, internships through the social work and Human Development and Family Studies programs, fundraising through the Greek system and service programs centered in Annabel Taylor Hall. You had to be assertive and creative in finding these opportunities. Fast forward to the present: Many universities now have public service centers where students can access service learning opportunities and alumni can find positions in public service. However, many myths still abound in the field of public service, and you will need to research these careers to find the best fit for you.

Myth#1: Public service=government jobs. Public service is so much more than government jobs. Opportunities exist in the arts, law, consulting, environmental preservation and so many other non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Consultants are also hired by NGOs to assist with funding, technology and other needs.

Myth #2: You cannot survive on a public service salary. While you may not get rich in public service, if you do your research and choose wisely, you can find a public service job that can pay the bills. Completing a Masters in Public Administration or Public Policy will also help you in finding a job with a higher salary. Employers may also pay more for an employee who comes from the private sector with valuable skills such as fundraising or project management.

Myth #3: You will become “stuck” in public service because private sector businesses will not hire you. Again, do your research. If your career plan is to “give back” by working in a public service job for a few years, then moving to the private sector, you will need to choose positions that allow you to develop transferable skills. These skills may include foreign languages and cultural understanding that allow you to do business in other countries. They can also include fundraising, project and people management, understanding of diseases, policy administration and problem-solving just to name a few.

Myth #4: Public service is woefully behind in technology. It depends on the organization. Some NGOs are incredibly savvy when it comes to technology and consultant use. These consultants are hired to find public and private sector funding for technology needs. They are also hired to advise on the best use of technology in these organizations.

Myth #5: Public service careers are the only ones in which you can make a difference. Oftentimes, organizations and companies in the private sector will partner with government and NGOs to give aid to these organizations and to provide public service opportunities for their employees.

Career Notes To A Younger Self

I recently spoke with a longtime friend whose daughter is graduating into a difficult job market. We both reminisced about being in that situation, and it got me to thinking about what I would tell my younger self about careers. This is my time capsule to my younger self:

*Your college major will not definitively make or break you. It provides the foundation knowledge for what comes next; however, if you major in accounting and end up in marketing instead, the education is still useful.

*You get as many career do-overs as you need. I cannot tell you the number of people who excoriated me for leaving the social work field. I felt strongly, though, that the research in that field was not top caliber, did not provide realistic tools to help disadvantaged populations, and as a result, created many disillusioned social workers. I told my critics to pursue their own low paying social work career, and I moved on to related fields.

*Career path is an important learning experience. Landing that dream job may be key, but analyzing how you got there is important too. It helps you name what worked, what didn’t, the mistakes you made and how you fixed them, all important info for that next career move.

*Career trends come and go; do what makes you happy and pays the bills.

*Take a leap of faith and try a job you never, ever thought you would do, even if it’s just for a little while. You may learn things that are of tremendous value to you.

*Being fired is not the worst thing that can happen. It can actually lead to a better job fit somewhere else.

*Staying in a job that makes you unhappy is not physically or emotionally healthy. Ever read an at will work agreement? It means the employer can fire you at will with no notice, but the employee is required to give at least 2 weeks’ notice. Hmmm. There’s something wrong with that. There are times such as when you are in physical danger or being bullied where it is totally appropriate to leave without notice. Period.

*You are your most important competitor. Sure, you can learn from others in your field, but constantly comparing yourself to those whom you think are better, smarter or luckier than you can lead to feeling very discouraged about yourself. Measure your work against your previous accomplishments to keep improving because, unless you are a boss or working as a team, the only person’s work for which you are responsible is your own.

*Being the boss. You need self-discipline to work on your own. Being your own worst critic does not help you move forward. In managing others, look to what worked in the past when you were being managed.

A Very Cool Job: Or How Not To Kill Your Dinner Guests

I rarely let people cook for me anymore — it’s just too dangerous. And honestly, my friends are so exasperated with me, that dinner invites are few and far between. Who can blame them? People get tetchy when you grill them about what is in their family recipes, and “Are you sure this dish has no dairy, alcohol or added sugar” just does not go down a treat, even with friends. However, after several trips to the emergency room and countless days of trying to rebalance blood sugar levels, I’ve learned not to trust people’s blithe dismissal of my dietary concerns. I trust my stepmother’s and sister’s cooking because they have cooked for diabetics for a long time. And that’s about it.

When I was first diagnosed with diabetes, I was working and going to school full-time, finishing up a thesis and interviewing around the country for a new job. I didn’t have time to cook and was still learning about what I could eat anyway. So I took my meds and ate very little. This worked until I became so thin, it hurt to sit for more than a half hour, and I started to pass out a lot. I resorted to prepared meals from the grocer’s freezer case so I knew exactly what I was eating.  I’ve gotten pretty good about estimating carbohydrate counts in restaurant foods, and many places post their nutritional info online. I could cook at home, but honestly, by the time I’m ready to start cooking, I really should just be eating to prevent a blood sugar slide.

Enter a very cool job: catering, but not the type of catering you may be thinking about. I went to A Taste of Glendale function several years back where I met a woman who was catering this function for one of the local stores. You buy a bracelet and then go around to restaurants and stores picking up “a taste” of their foods. So sure, she was a caterer, but she also would cater to individual dietary needs. I haven’t seen her website in awhile, so I don’t know if she still does this. But what a cool job. It requires a person to sublimate her own chef’s ego to the needs of the client. You really have to be one part chemist, one part detective, and a food and medical expert to pull this off. This woman would meet with a client with special dietary needs, set up menus for a couple of weeks at a time and then go shopping for ingredients. She would then prepare the meals in the client’s kitchen. The client could be there watching, ensuring that the food was prepared correctly. Then the meals were labeled with nutritional info and frozen.

Is this expensive? Absolutely. But if I ever won the lottery or hit the jackpot in Las Vegas, this would be one worthwhile way to spend the money. You’d have to be willing to turn your kitchen over to someone else and to build up a trusting relationship with that person. But I’d say avoiding repeated trips to the ER would be worth it.

Recession-proof Careers?

As of June, hiring in the US has stalled, making the stock market take a dip and making people who are looking for work very anxious. Many people are flocking to what have been traditionally considered recession-proof careers: healthcare, military and teaching. If you plan to go this route: think again. Job training or retraining is of little use if there are few jobs available in those industries. So why has hiring stalled in these fields? Primarily, there are fewer jobs because of a lack of funding. Newly graduated nurses are finding it difficult to land  jobs because many hospitals and clinics do not have the money required for additional training of new nurses. Several military branches are downsizing, and sign-on bonuses in many cases are being downsized as well. Teachers around the US are getting pink slips because of school funding woes. Teacher salaries are modest at best, so replacement with newly minted teachers is just not feasible.

So where do you go from here if you are thinking about job retraining for a new career? Do your research. For example, if you do not want to or cannot relocate and a new electronics factory is coming to your area, start asking questions. Call HR at headquarters and find out how many people they think they will be hiring for this factory and which skills will be in demand. What tax incentives are in place to keep the factory in your hometown? Retraining is not going to help you if the factory moves overseas because doing business where you live becomes too expensive. It is also not going to help you if twice the number of people as anticipated jobs are training for them or you cannot perform the skills most in demand.

Same with healthcare — do your research. Do not sink your money into a certificate or degree program without asking questions first. It was predicted two decades ago that physical therapists would be in great demand as the baby boomers aged. Well, we may be fat and on a lot of prescription meds, but most of us have managed to stay healthy, and the need for PTs did not soar. This left a glut of new PTs and few jobs for them. Call the top schools in your area of interest and ask about the number of people on the waiting list for admission. Do some informational interviews with people doing the hiring in your favored industry. Will they be hiring newly trained people right out of school? Which skills will be in demand? Do you already have medical skills? How do you efficiently parlay them into a new career?

Prepare yourself if you still have your heart set on a military career. It may take up to a year before recruits on the waiting list start earning a paycheck. Find out up front what the enlisting bonus will be and when you will get it.

Still want to teach kids? Apply for your state’s emergency teaching credential if you do not have one, and check out private schools. They may still have funding in place through endowments. Alternatively, think about starting out as a part-time teacher, or as a teacher’s assistant. Both jobs may pay very little, but they will get your foot in the door of this career.