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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Employment!

I can haz job!

I started a job today! I lost my last full-time job on June 13, 2013 and started this new job exactly 9 months later.

It's just like a pregnancy, except all I gave birth to was debt and sadness.  I applied everywhere and got turned down or straight up ignored by almost everyone.  Most recently, I applied for - and was turned down for -  a Team Leader position with the local General Mills plant. I still have a shot at a QC role in a local flavor company, so I'm still hopeful for that.

The job I got is a low wage job driving vans for a rail transportation company.  Basically, I will be driving rail workers from one rail yard to another.  I will make $8.67 per hour during training and while waiting at the rail yard for rail workers to show up. I'll make 20.5 cents a mile once I start driving, them; so as long as I average 55 mph, I'll make over $11 per hour.  We'll see how the pay shakes out.

If I get offered the QC, job, I'm taking it.

I'm still poor, but at least now I'll have an income. I can start treading water and stop drowning.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Good News & Bad News...

Well, the last time I posted, it was out of desperation.  My beloved Late 2006 Intel iMac was dying. It stopped conducting heat properly and the soldered on graphics chip was throwing all sorts of graphic 'artifacts' on my screen. The computer would only run for about 10 minutes at a time in most cases, and that was the real problem.

I'm unemployed and still looking, although I was fortunate enough to gain some experience in freelance writing.  Most job applications were filled out online, and obviously, ALL freelance writing is done online. If my computer was only going to run for 10 minutes, then there was no way for me to apply for jobs or continue creating content to attract more freelance writing assignments.  So I took to the internet to try to raise funds to replace my computer.

The response was somewhat cold, to say the least.

I got a grand total of ONE PayPal donation, for which I am eternally grateful, but $30 isn't enough to replace my computer.  I got several negative remarks about what they called Twitter begging and also a scam.  I was hurt, embarrassed, and still very much screwed. Due to a tax refund, my rent was paid through March and my utilities are paid through February, but without a full time computer, my chances of getting hired on somewhere was practically zero.

Many people, well intentioned as well as trolls, suggested I use the computer at my local library. In a pinch, sure, but as the sole means of marketing myself to employers? No. My local library is the Main branch of the Cincinnati Public Library, located on Vine Street downtown.  I would need to take a bus there, which costs $1.75(exact change only) one way.  That's $3.50 per day in exact change to use the libraries computer for a limited amount of time.

Lucky for me, my sister agreed to let me use one of her families laptops. So the good news here is that I now have a laptop to work from and apply for things from. My sister lives 100 miles away, so it was going to take a 200 mile road trip to pick it up. 

My car is also in bad shape, though, and loses coolant every time I drive it.  My dad arranged for his very kind Korean mechanics to take a look at it.  They discovered that my head gasket was partially blown and that was causing my radiator to overheat and boil off the coolant.  It's a 1997 Dodge Stratus and the cost of repair is barely worth the value of the vehicle.  Besides... neither myself nor my family have the money to get this done.

So I drove back to my sister's house, very distraught about my situation. I was so riddled with despair that I accidentally locked the keys in my car when I got out to collect my laundry and my borrowed laptop.

Eventually, I got AAA to show up and get my car door open, so I could drive me and my defeated car home.  I now have to factor the commute into any job I take, since my transportation is no longer reliable. 

So this time next month, things may really start to come undone as I won't have my car insurance funds I need for the automatic withdrawal, then I won't have the electricity, then the internet, then the rent.  Food and gas money will probably dry up before that.

Hopefully, I can find a job before then.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

KickStart Me.

A big ask, but first, a big update...

I made $14,943 last year, including $3,200 in unemployment benefits that were collected from mid-June through September.  I made 30% above the poverty line for a single male with no dependents.  Should I stop complaining about how little money I have or should we all be outraged that the poverty line is set so embarrassingly low at $11,490 per person?

I think the latter.

Most of my income from last year came from the first half of the year when I worked at Kroger's inbound call center.  Thankfully, I got a tax refund of about $1,200 this week, which I can use to pay February and March's rent, with what's left going toward utilities.

I was fortunate enough to get 4 published features on Food Dive, 2 of which I've already been paid for and the other 2 I will use towards food and gas.  Of course, my last 2 features only owe me a total of $80.

I'm not supposed to tell people that... I think because they would be embarrassed for people to know that they pay so little.

So while there have been small bright spots, I am still as poor as ever.  Despite the tax returns, I am only able to pay up one month on rent.  Hopefully, I'll have a job by April, but honestly, it feels like things are slipping away from me, and the honest truth is that the longer I'm unemployed, the less likely I am to get hired.

Writing has been one of the few bright spots of this whole situation, but even that has been strained.  I've told you guys that I have a 7 & 1/2 yr old iMac that is starting to show it's age, but it's now preventing me from writing.  Most of the time, I can't keep the computer on for more than 10 minutes before it crashes.  It's a Late 2006 Intel iMac, so there isn't much I can do to upgrade it.  I've also been able to apply to less employers for the same reason. I start to do an online application, then the computer crashes.  I need to do something about that...

The Big Ask...

Here is where I need your help again.  This time, my rent is secure for at least another month, my food/gas is sketchy, but my big problem is a dying computer.

I need to raise money to get another computer, so I can continue blogging, freelance writing, and of course, applying for jobs.

As before, you can use the PayPal Donate button on the right.

The money I raise(unless I get a massive amount of money) will be used for a new computer that will not fail me, so I can continue to create content when I'm not applying for positions or researching companies I'm about to interview with.

So if you can donate, please do, and if you can't donate, please tweet this blog or share it on facebook so others may donate.  

Friday, January 24, 2014

Low.

It's been a while since I last posted, so I felt an update is in order.

The word of the day is low.

I'm low on food and low on money.  I have just enough money leftover from a few kind PayPal donations to pay my utilities... and that is it.  I have no money for food, rent, or gas.

I haven't had a face-to-face interview in months and only 2 phone interviews in the last month.  I have to keep looking, of course, but I've been looking for months with only a couple temp jobs in between.

It isn't all bad, I just submitted my 3rd freelance article to Food Dive.
You can read my latest article here.  I don't get paid much, but it will be enough for gas and food, which I will need with or without an apt to live in.

My friend bought me dinner on Tuesday night and I hadn't eaten all day.  The next time I ate was 24 hrs later, and I didn't eat at all Thursday.  I had a turkey sandwich at 3am this morning and another at about 2:30pm.  I'm trying to make what food I have last.

So yeah, right now things are pretty low.  While it's nice to receive a donation to support my writing or even just to help me out, it's not really a sustainable income stream.  I hope I find something soon.  I'm tired of looking and worrying.


Until next time,
Sam.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Bootstrappers.

When you stick out like a sore thumb, everyone becomes a hammer... I know that is a horrible mixed metaphor, but that is how I feel.

As my story got out there, I received more than PayPal Donations and kind words of encouragement.  I've been getting lots of annoyed responses followed by advice that usually starts out like this:

'Why don't you just...'

Some of them tell me their own experiences where everything worked out fine in the end, and I get the sense from their stories that there is a little revisionist history going on.

I get a lot of what I call, 'Bootstrappers'. These are people who start at self sufficiency and work backwards from there.  If you try, you will get a job... If you just make the effort, you will get hired... You just need to get off your ass and pound the pavement... Just take any job that comes along!  Go flip burgers!

A lot of the hasty responses followed a tough love approach, as if the only reason I am not currently working is because I don't want to and this guy is going to get real with me and they're the one that's going to step up and tell me the hard truths that these other pussies are too afraid to tell me.

Bootstrappers.

First off, no job is easy to get right now, even though the labor market is slowly improving, it's still multiple applicants per job.  Another thing that people don't consider is that it is possible for a job to pay too little to except.  Sure, $7 or $8 an hour is $7 or $8 an hour more than what I currently make, but if the hours max out at 28, then I'll barely have enough to make rent, let alone food and utilities and fuel.  If the schedule changes every week then I can't hope to get a 2nd job to add up to enough money for just my basic bills.  Sure, $170 a week after taxes is $170 more than I make now, but it's still less than what I need to live on.  The utilities still get shutoff, even if I have a little money.  I would still get evicted, eventually, even if I had only some of the money.

I'm not exactly living high on the hog, either... except this week where I literally slow cooked a pork shoulder to eat on all week... a weeks worth of food that would not have been possible had it not been for my friends getting me Kroger Gift Cards for Christmas.  Thanks, guys.

I have internet, which despite what some bootstrappers say, I really do need for applying to and following up on jobs.  Obviously, I have electricity, and my heat/water is paid with the rent.

The only thing extra that I have is an $8 per month Netflix subscription and wow, have I got some fierce blowback for that.  Most negative comments go right at the Netflix first.

That's how it is when you're poor though.  Bootstrappers have to believe that you are only poor because of your own personal failings, otherwise, their worldview kind of falls apart.  If you buy anything other than flour, eggs, milk, and maybe a chuck roast and potatoes at the store, you are living it up in the bootstrapper's eyes.

Your life is not permitted joy if you are poor.  Poverty, according to the bootstrappers, is a punishment.  Poverty is for the losers of capitalism and social darwinism.  Not being homeless and a bowl of gruel is all the poor deserve in the eyes of the bootstrapper.

So people pile on and it wears heavily on me.  My back strains from the weight of a world that owes me nothing and sees no reason to help someone who obviously can't help themself.

But I'm lower than my own self dug shovelfuls should account for.  The world fines poverty with exponentially worse poverty. I pay what I can on utilities and I don't just fall behind on what I owe, I have fees added.  I don't compete with people who were just out of work, they get the interview first.  My poverty isn't merely the sum of my misfortunes, there's an added multiplier that makes things exponentially worse.

My misfortunes gain steam and attract other misfortunes.  Car trouble get's patched by friend-of-the-family mechanics who do just enough to keep it running while my family tries to pay the bill.  Family members try to help out, which puts a strain on them.  If they have the misfortune of being short on their own meager funds, then they can't help.  Some friends get tired of your complaining and unload on you for a simple facebook status that didn't warrant the response you got.

It just all piles on.

The month is almost half over.  No February rent. No car insurance that is due in a week. Getting pretty low on food.  What am I going to do, have another Twitter-Thon to raise PayPal donations?  How many times can I reasonably expect others to help?  I'm in a pretty low place right now and I really don't know if I can climb out.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Frustrations

One week ago, I didn't think I would have a place to live and I thought I might be in the beginning stages of an eviction.  I've since raised enough in PayPal donations through the PayPal button to the right of this post to be able to pay for December & January's rent.

I'm trying to remain positive but new frustrations make getting out of this mess seem less likely.

I applied to many places in the past week.  I applied to Starbucks, both retail and corporate.  The great thing about Starbucks' retail online app is that you can apply for multiple positions at once in a cluster of locations in an area.  Costco uses the same online application software, so I have, with 2 online applications, applied for over a dozen positions.

My expertise is in food and the food industry(not restaurant industry), so I have applied to positions in several companies and several positions in one food company.

To date, I have had a phone interview with one company and several rejection emails from another.  That is it.  I reach a point where I run out of things to do on my end.  At a certain point, I have to depend on someone to hire me.  Hell, at some point, I have to be lucky enough to get just a phone interview.  The truth is that nobody has to give me a moment, a thought, or a chance.

Then the panic sets in...

Am I unemployable?  Is my resume bad enough that there are always going to be other people that get interviews ahead of me?  My resume makes me look a lot worse than I really am as an employee.  I'm smart, I have skills, and I'm a fast learner, quickly absorbing technical knowledge.  But as I tried to start a career after college, I embarked on an odyssey of finding a good job/person fit.

What normally happens is that I run out of time/money and I am forced to say yes to the next opportunity, regardless of if it's right for me.  I took a position in 2008 with Cargill to work in their feed mill.  Cargill is a great company, but my training was in food science and operations, not necessarily mechanical engineering or management in a feed mill.  Boo hoo, right?  I know...  I took the job because Cargill has 54 different business units and I was assured by a corp recruiter that I could get into a different area of the company if my training to be a Plant Manager of a feed mill didn't go well.  That wasn't the case, and after trying(and failing) to catch on in a different business unit, I left.  Cargill was nice enough to give me a month and a half to try to find another position, after which, we would part ways.  Unfortunately, Cargill has a very decentralized HR, and were unable to pluck me from one area and put me in another.

That lasted 5 months.

My odyssey continued with several other jobs where the company was bad or the training program was bad, and in between, I worked lower level jobs to sustain myself until the next opportunity.  So this will be the part where people comment, telling me it's my fault, and to a certain extent, that's true. The question is whether the punishment for being brutally honest about my job/person fit is a life sentence or something I can overcome.  I will not apologize and do not regret being picky about a career position.  If I'm going to work somewhere every day until I retire, then it's going to be doing something I have a passion for and wake up every day wanting to do.

I tried to get into the creative end with marketing and the prospects there seem even worse.  I'm great with ideas, well spoken, and well written.  I thought that I should have no problem being a copywriter... except that I didn't go to school to be a copy writer... except that I didn't work an unpaid internship doing copywriting... except that every copywriting opening starts at 3-5 years of experience in copywriting.

I found the same thing to be true of the ad world.  You can't get a start in advertising... I know this sounds insane, but you have to have always been there to get a foot in the door.  There are no entry level ad jobs.

I like writing and even have a standing offer for freelance writing work, but at $40 a published submission, it's more a hobby than a job.  To make matters worse, I have a computer that keeps shutting down as I get into anything like writing or a long online application.

I have a Late 2006 Intel iMac that I got when I was still at Ohio State.  It's about 7 and a half years old and really starting to show it's age.  To make matters worse, these particular iMacs have a known issue with the soldered on graphics card, where the screen will go black or the computer will overheat.  If my computer freezes while I type this sentence, then blogger will have my progress saved and I can return after waiting for the computer to cool off.  If my computer freezes while in the middle of a long application, I will have to start over, in many cases.

I only asked for the bare minimum amount of PayPal donations to pay rent.  I didn't want to overly rely on online solicitations for all my bills.  But if you like my writing or if you're a fan of Mac OS, I would be willing to accept donations that would help me get another iMac.

I'm probably as likely to get enough donations for that as I am to get hired on somewhere... Either way, I hope I'm wrong.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Dreams & Ambitions.

During this whole ordeal of not having rent, I mentioned in a tweet to Chris Hayes that, I too, had dreams and ambitions.  The perception, which I feel is woefully undeserved, is that poor people are rudderless, lazy, and don't want to improve their situation.

That just isn't true.  I do think many poor people reach a point where being poor for so long has sapped their energy.  If you treat someone like a prisoner, they will begin to act like a prisoner. If you treat someone like they are not good enough, then eventually, they will begin to believe it.

Someone on twitter asked me to 'sell myself' to him before he would consider donating.  It felt a little demeaning, considering the guy only had about 70 followers and less than 900 tweets to his name. Of course, I was begging for money...

But I do have dreams and ambitions.

Ultimately, I would like a creative career.  My strengths are in retaining technical knowledge, coming up with ideas, writing, editing, and saying inappropriate things.  Ok... not sure if the last thing is a huge selling point, but I my speech is not muted by fear of ridicule.

My education is in the food industry, operations management, and food science, so I feel I should try to incorporate that into my career.  The 2 directions I come up with is R&D and marketing. Both are what I consider creative careers. I like thinking about possibilities, brainstorming... meeting, I love meetings.  I like environments where I can display my thoughts on a particular subject.  

When I watch shows like All In with Chris Hayes, I imagine myself on the panel, adding my two cents to whatever is going on in the world.  Of course, that seems a lot less likely.  The point is that I like to think about an issue and offer my analysis or solutions. As far as that goes, I don't have a preference between doing product development or proofreading a weekly grocery ad.

GREAT NEWS!!!  I have hit the amount of money I set out to raise - $1,040!  That amount is what I need to cover December and January rent.  It was a colossal effort that has left me very emotionally drained.  I was raised(mostly) on a hog farm, living in an old farm house with a wood burning furnace and no indoor plumbing, so asking for help is not very easy for me.  

I honestly don't know how politicians maintain sufficient guile to continually fundraise.  

A big thanks to the following for RT'ing my tweets:

Chris Hayes - Being mentioned on his show was huge.

Ed Schultz  -  Many RT's came from his followers.

Keith Olbermann - Honestly, nobody increased my page views more from a single retweet. That man is a force of nature. MSNBC should regret losing him.

Lawrence O'Donnell - Big fan of his. His RT garnered page hits and much respect.

Ana Marie Cox - Not only did she RT, but she donated as well. Someone get her a show! My cat, Ms. Teschmacher thanks you...

Tracy Clayton a.k.a. @BrokeyMcPoverty

My next step is to call up the building manager, Rick, and see if he'll stop the eviction if I give him all the rent.  If not, I'll have to take the money I raised, and scramble to find another apartment.

Last special thanks to my great friend, Shane Chaney.  We grew up in the same town and now live 1 street away in the Clifton neighborhood in Cincinnati.  He has bought more dinners for me than I can count, and thanks to him simply being there, I have maintained my sanity.  He also loaned me the money for November's rent, which I hope to pay back sooner than later.  

Shane is an accomplished freelance Audio/Video engineer who can think fast on his feet, direct, and consult on anything from home theater set up to coordinating sound/video for a major convention. 

If you need someone that fits that description, please look him up.

Thanks to everyone.  I'll update you all with what the building guy says later.