I’m Getting Some Career Training!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here. I would love to tell you I have a job now, but I don’t.  

I can relate, buddy.

Image by Wolfgang Brauner from Pixabay

I’ve had three different staffing companies tell me they can’t place me because I’ve been out of work too long. COVID-19 is making that worse; no one is hiring, the jobs available aren’t a great fit for me (because accounting and bookkeeping), and if I work in food service or retail, not only will I be forced to run the cash register, but I will get sick. I can’t afford to get sick, nor can the relative with whom I’m staying (who thinks she already had it, but there is no guarantee you can’t get it again, and it can be worse on a second round).

Plus, I tried that in OldCity, and no one hired me; I guess they (rightly) assumed I would bail when something better came along, since nearly everyone in food service with any other experience at all does this exact thing.

Pixabay confused “leaving” with “leafing,” so I should just go with it.

Image by jplenio from Pixabay

Recently, my state’s career center posted a news item stating that they were offering free CompTIA training for workers displaced by COVID. CompTIA issues professional certifications for all kinds of IT jobs, a field that will only grow in future. Since the Plaguepocalypse has derailed my job search, I took a chance and filled out the application.

And someone called me!

Part of my old job duties entailed basic project and workflow tracking. Dyscalculia doesn’t exactly lend itself to computer programming and I’m not well-versed in hardware maintenance, so I figured the project management course would be the best fit for me.

They checked to ensure I was eligible (as a long-term unemployed person, I was), and then the blow fell: I would have to take the Wonderlic test to qualify. As in, that timed, pre-employment screening quiz with a lot of math on it.

This led to a crazy-go-round of accommodation requests, but when the paperwork finally settled, Wonderlic agreed to overnight a paper copy to the career center, where I was allowed to take the test in person with a calculator. No timers. Thanks to these ADA accommodations, I passed!

Today, I received the links to take the course, at my own pace (which will probably be at the speed of light). I don’t think I’ll be doing NaNoWriMo this year. No worries; I’m still working on the second book in my trilogy. It’s with my editor and we’ve got a long slog before it’s ready to send out into the world. Book Three can wait a bit. Besides, I could still get a job.

I don’t know how this will play out or if it will help, but I think it will. I’ve already seen several job listings where the project management training and certification would have given me a leg up. A pandemic won’t stop me; I have extensive experience with working remotely, plus I might even find a role that would finally get me out of here.

If you’re interested in similar assistance, it wouldn’t hurt to check out resources in your area. You can find a lot of information at careeronestop.org. I would not have thought my very red dumbstate would offer such a thing (and I wish they’d done it earlier), but I’m really glad I took a chance on it. We’ll see how it turns out.

I’m off to give blood today. In the meantime, stay safe, wear your mask, and wash your hands. And don’t forget to vote!


For Hell’s Sake, Just Hire Me Already

This is going to be lengthy, folks.

I’ve been job hunting now for over three years. THREE YEARS. I can’t believe it; I truly thought I’d find something before now.

It’s hard when you have a particular set of skills.

Image: Marvel / independent.co.uk

In the meantime, I’ve published a novel on Amazon, created an imprint, worked hard on my portfolio, and spent a lot of time being politically active — mostly online, since I can’t afford to go anywhere.

Why has it taken so long? I’m not sure, though I suspect a few factors are at play.

The job market where I used to live is ridiculously limited.

I track my applications in a spreadsheet. Over the last ten years, I’ve seen the same jobs posted again and again. The market has stagnated to an alarming degree. The only way to move up or do better is to get out.

Pay is also well below the national average. In the 2018 midterms, voters chose to raise the minimum wage, a measure that will help. But our state government is a dark money-funded, Republican nightmare, so I expect a monkey wrench to fly into the works somehow. I did move, but the cost of living here is 7-10% higher. I need to do better than my last job.

My previous employer paid magnificently for the area.

Most companies in OldCity are smaller, so when they saw Big Corp on the old resume, they probably thought, Oh, she won’t stick around, or Oh, she’ll want too much money.

Small businesses want one person to wear many hats.

Often, that includes bookkeeping. I’ve talked about having dyscalculia here and here, and how that affects my job hunt. Accounting aside, I’m halfway between being overqualified for entry-level jobs and not experienced enough to make a career change.

The longer you’re out of a job, the less likely you are to find one.

People have this strange bias that the unemployed must also be unemployable (we’re not!). Moving hasn’t helped, probably for this reason.

Maybe you’re just too darn picky!

Image: clipartix.com

I’m not a millennial.

I don’t look the age I really am (no one in my family does). But ageism is a real thing, and it’s a stupid thing. I want to work, and I’m not a tech dinosaur! Hire me!


Job hunting is tough. Employment ads often contain confusing language or little information about the role. As someone who’s been in the trenches of the process, here are some changes I’d like to see.

Post the salary range in the ad.

It’s a waste of everybody’s time to drag someone in for an interview, only to say you’re paying minimum wage. Candidates who want more can pass and those who are okay with it will still apply.

This especially applies to entry-level jobs. Negotiating isn’t really a thing at this level, and candidates needs to know if they can live on the salary or should keep looking. “Salary commensurate with experience” doesn’t fool us. Just say what it is.

Skip the timed math/logic tests and personality assessments at the application stage. Or ever.

Many people who are smart and capable don’t do well on timed tests. You are excluding people with disabilities like dyscalculia (!) and dyslexia, and people with anxiety, etc. who have lots of experience and would otherwise make great employees. As for personality assessments, they’re no better than a horoscope. You might as well ask people what their zodiac sign is.

These screening practices are lazy, ineffective, and potentially discriminatory. Stop it.

When you write a job ad, make sure it reflects what the job entails.

Avoid the following:

  • Muddy cheerleading language like You will effectively contribute to a team atmosphere and champion results. I’ve seen whole job posts like this. It does not tell me what I will actually be doing all day.
  • Make sure the job duties you post are up-to-date. If you hired someone to edit widget reports five years ago and the position changed over time, don’t pull your old job description and use that. Hiring someone for one job and making them do another can feel like a bait-and-switch. This happened to me once, and I ended up quitting.
  • Avoid vague phrasing like “Other duties as assigned.” If you must do this, and the candidate asks what they are, tell them.
  • It’s okay to include wish list items, but if you’re flexible on certain things or inflexible on others, please say so. A long list of skills could cause otherwise good candidates who may only have 60% of them but who could otherwise rock at the job to give it a pass.

Pay your employees well and provide them with the best benefits you can afford.

Treat them well, too. If you have a problem employee, deal with them. Good workers will bail on you if they see you let someone get away with bullying, slacking, or bad behavior, and they will tell other people about a poor experience.. Alison Green of Ask a Manager has tons of advice at her blog on effective management and a book, too.

Don’t ghost candidates you’ve talked to, even by phone.

If we take the time to prepare for an interview and travel to your office, please give us the courtesy of an actual rejection if you choose another candidate. I realize you may get 200 applications for one job. Nobody expects a reply for that.

Ghosting is extremely rude. You have our emails. This is freaking 2020. Setting up a list and auto-response is easy

Treat people like adults (and human beings).

How you deal with candidates tells us a lot about what it’s like to work there. You gain nothing by condescending like we should be grateful you bothered with us at all. After we’re hired, we can work effectively and happily if we’re fairly compensated and you don’t micromanage us. Respect our time and effort and great potential employees will be beating on your door.

Let us in! There are zombies out here!

Don’t rule out unemployed workers.

Finally, when you’re considering applicants who don’t have a job, remember that layoffs and other circumstances are often beyond our control. We don’t get to make those decisions.

Even if we messed up at a previous workplace, that doesn’t mean we can’t be excellent at yours. We approached you because we want to work. Give us a shot.

Review: Alison Green of Ask a Manager has a new book!

Ask A Manager ‘s Alison Green has compiled a ton of her most useful workplace advice into a book. Lucky me; I won an advance reader copy from Goodreads Giveaways! The book comes out on May 1, 2018, from Random House imprint Ballantine Books. You’ll want to grab a copy.

You can find my Goodreads review below:

Ask a Manager: Clueless Coworkers, Lunch-Stealing Bosses, and Other Work Conversations Made EasyAsk a Manager: Clueless Coworkers, Lunch-Stealing Bosses, and Other Work Conversations Made Easy by Alison Green

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thank you, Ballantine and Goodreads Giveaway, for this ARC of Alison Green’s latest book. I first found Green’s Ask a Manager blog while job hunting in 2012 and have been a loyal reader ever since. This book is like a printed version of that: a handy reference to situations you may encounter at work and how to address them.

The book is divided into chapters–bosses; coworkers; if you’re the boss; and finally, interviewers. Each section contains a ton of common dilemmas. For each one, she tells you exactly what you can say and what to do if you hit a roadblock. Green has always advocated being both tactful and direct, and the language reflects that philosophy. It’s like having an experienced and caring mentor helping you navigate your most tricky workplace situations.

Featured text scattered throughout the book presents some of Ask a Manager readers’ letters and Green’s answers to them. Many of these are massively entertaining; even if they seem wacky (trust me, the blog has many of those!), you’ll likely find a takeaway. A few features give the reader direct information such as turn-offs to avoid during an interview, or phrases you can use with your boss. I think an index would be helpful, though it’s not too difficult to find what you’re looking for. This is a book made for flipping, not necessarily a straight read-through, since it’s so packed with information.

I haven’t found a better work advice columnist than Alison Green. If you want to learn to navigate your workplace with smarts and grace, get a copy of this book. It’s a terrific addition to your professional library and would make a valuable gift for someone new to the workforce.

View all my reviews

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Getting a Job When You Have a Learning Disability

Recently, Amna Saleem posted an article on Buzzfeed, 7 Things I Learned From Struggling With Dyscalculia.  This article really spoke to me, especially since I’m job hunting once again.

The linked Wikipedia article defines dyscalculia as “difficulty in learning or comprehending arithmetic, such as difficulty in understanding numbers, learning how to manipulate numbers, and learning facts in mathematics.”

Along with dyslexia, dyscalculia is a learning disability (LD for short), not to be confused with intellectual disabilities (formerly called mental retardation).  Symptoms vary for different people.  For example, Amna points out in her article that she has trouble reading maps.  I can read maps okay; yes, I do occasionally go the wrong way.  But I once got myself unlost at night by looking at the sky and knowing that Venus rises in the west.

800px-venus_over_radom

I’m in your sky, telling you which way to go.

Image:  Man / Wikimedia Commons

Dyscalculia limits me to work that has no accounting, budgeting, or data analysis.  I have accepted this, but more and more companies combined jobs during and after the recession.  Of course, they didn’t raise wages either.  So a receptionist position will be renamed “administrative assistant” and do both accounting and front desk duties, often for minimum wage or just a couple of dollars more.  Not really enough to live on.

450px-the_writings_of_charles_dickens_v4_p12_28engraving29

Please sir, can I have some more?

Image:  George Cruikshank illustration, Oliver Twist / Wikimedia Commons

At the start of this year, my perfect-fit administrative / editing job got sucked into a larger department after my angel of a boss retired, and it began to change.  I rode the struggle bus for a while.  Despite disclosure and accommodation (of a sort), my performance suffered, and they let me go.

I made mistakes and I own them.  But they recently posted the newly altered job, and I pulled the listing out of curiosity.  It had morphed from report-heavy to numbers-heavy.  Even if I had been 100% perfect otherwise, I could not have done the work the way the new boss wanted.

When you’re job searching with a learning disability, there are questions.  Keep in mind that I’m not an expert.

#1–Should I disclose the LD to potential employers?

Multiple forums say no, don’t tell them you need an accommodation until you actually have an offer.  Unfortunately, many LDs aren’t well understood, and though employers aren’t supposed to discriminate against people with disabilities, unconscious bias still exists.

That said, you absolutely can disclose, on a need-to-know basis.  If so, keep it positive.  Focus on what you can do and how you get around limitations.  I’ve included a Department of Labor link at the end of this post with guidelines.

If you need accommodation, you will have to provide proof of the disability.  So if you’ve never been tested, you might want to look into it.  If you’re employed currently and have insurance, see if it’s covered, or if your company’s EAP (Employee Assistance Program) can help you find professionals who diagnose LDs.

#2–How do I find a job I can do?

Read listings carefully.  You are the best judge of your abilities and limitations.  Example:  I can’t do your budget reconciliation, but I can assist accounting personnel with filing, data entry, check matching to invoices, and other duties.

side-pose-of-young-male-showing-folder-imagerymajestic-fdp-net

Got your file right here, bro!  BOOYA!

Image:  imagerymajestic / freedigitalphotos.net

If duties are unclear, make a list of questions to ask.  The best time to make these inquiries is if you have a phone interview; many companies do a short phone screen first before they schedule a formal interview.  Some don’t.  In that case, you’ll have to wait until you actually speak with the hiring manager.

#3–What if I can’t find a job I can do?

I’m the last person to advise anyone to take on debt they don’t have to–thanks to school loans, I can never ever retire.  But if your field has changed in a way that prevents you from finding gainful employment due to your disability, it might be time for a career switch.

My unemployment in 2012 led me to the state’s Vocational Rehabilitation program, which can retrain people with disabilities (choose the school track, not the work track).  Fortunately, it paid for testing too.  However, the program will not pay living expenses, and it does have an income threshold.  Even with Exjob’s tuition reimbursement, I couldn’t avoid taking out more loans.  That killed that.

You might be luckier than I was.  You might have in-demand skills that can swing a career transfer without going back to school.  You might have a spouse or SO who can work while you retrain.  You might have enough savings to carry you through.  You might have a trust fund.

800px-biltmore_estate-27527-2

Well you hardly need MY advice then, do you, princess?

Image:  Ken Thomas / Wikimedia Commons

I recommend making a skills list–what have you learned from your previous work? Which of these skills can transfer to other positions?  You might be surprised.

  • Customer service can translate to sales.
  • Any management experience, even retail or food service, has value.
  • Software skills: databases, desktop publishing or document software, etc.
  • I now have nearly four years of technical editing experience, and I’m starting to look at jobs that need this skill.

Check the transferable skills link below for a good list.  Look at O*Net to explore careers.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics has an Occupational Outlook Handbook with scads of info on duties, pay, and more for different careers.

People with learning disabilities can do tons of jobs.  And we can find employers who value our skills and embrace our abilities.

Additional reading:

Transferable Skills List:  Skills You Can Use in Multiple Jobs and Careers, by Dawn Rosenberg McKay, www.thebalance.com

Youth, Disclosure, and the Workplace Why, When, What, and How, U.S. Department of Labor

Pros and Cons of Disclosing a Disability to Employers, by Victoria Scanlan Stefanakos, www.understood.org

Getting the Most out of Working With a Learning Disability, by Eli Epstein, The Atlantic

2015 in review

Happy New Year!

Wow, I’m surprised anyone is still looking at this thing.   I can’t possibly compete with excellent work blogs such as Ask a Manager and Evil HR Lady.  Go check them out, if you haven’t already.

Not much has happened lately in the world of work for me to write about, but with the start of the new year, I have a new boss and my job is changing (yipes).  So I’ll probably talk a little bit about how that’s going.  I’m sure new issues and challenges will arise, and I’m happy to share what I’ll learn.

In the meantime, WordPress has done its yearly thing so here it is!  Happy New Year to everybody!  To those who are trying to escape a horrible job or find something, I wish you luck; to those who just became employed, I wish you congratulations, and to those who are doing well, hooray!

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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 18,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

How Not to Write a Cover Letter

A commenter on Ask a Manager posted a hilarious version of a centered cover letter (a joke re Question 4 in this post).  Not only is it a masterpiece of eyestrain, but it encompasses every single thing anyone could possibly do to not only be an extremely poor candidate, but a horrible employee as well.

Please do not copy this—IT IS A JOKE!  If you send a cover letter like this, you practically guarantee you will not get the job.  But they’ll remember you…perhaps forever.

Enjoy!

MarySue Jobseeker Perfect Candidate