Category: Work

Adventures in Unemployment: Contact Quotas are Dumb

I reapplied for unemployment on Friday afternoon, right after completing my last day of work.

On Sunday I logged in to see if I was in the system yet and if they'd let me start filing claims. Sure enough, I logged in successfully and it let me fill out information for the week -- even though it was last week, when I was still working. (Before I go any farther, let me make it perfectly clear that I reported all my income for last week and will not be receiving any money from unemployment for a week I was still working. All I did was go through the motions to make sure everything was working for next week.)

Everything worked much the same as a year and a half ago when I last did this, except that I was already in the system after two days (rather than having to wait a week like last time) and -- and here's the part this post is really about -- they've added a section where you have to log the contacts you've made over the past week in your job search.

Now, that in and of itself isn't a bad thing. I've been keeping every contact in a spreadsheet anyway. And I think it's perfectly reasonable to ask my to copy-paste that information into a text field and submit it every week -- hell, if I do get audited, that's going to save on paperwork.

The problem is that, thanks to a new federal requirement which I assume was a condition of the latest extension of unemployment benefits, they now require that you contact people at least four days in each week. To prove you're seriously looking for work.

This is one of those things that sounds like a good idea to government bureaucrats but is just fucking stupid out here in real life.

Yes, by all means there should be a standard for determining that someone is seriously looking for work and not just cashing unemployment checks and sitting around playing Xbox (provided he hasn't pawned it yet because he's unemployed). And "looking for work four days a week" is a pretty modest standard for that.

But when you actually make it a requirement? A quota? Now you're giving people a bare minimum. And when you give people a bare minimum, you're going to find that a whole lot of people only meet that bare minimum. Think "pieces of flair" in Office Space.

This sends the message that a person who looks for one job Monday, one job Tuesday, one job Wednesday, and one job Thursday is more serious in his job search than a person who looks for ten jobs Monday, ten jobs Tuesday, and ten jobs Wednesday but then spends Thursday and Friday doing other Responsible Adult Things like paying bills, going to the doctor, applying for warranty repair on his laptop, getting his tires rotated, and studying up for certifications that might help him in his job search.

Obviously this is designed to encourage people to Seriously Look for Work instead of just collecting unemployment while doing nothing. That's a laudable goal. But in practice, people who are out just to collect unemployment while doing nothing aren't going to expend any more effort than before this regulation passed -- in fact, they might actually expend less now that they know they only have to apply for four jobs a week.

Meanwhile, it's an inconvenience for people who are seriously looking for work, because now they actually have to game their way through and make sure they don't just apply for multiple jobs, they do it across four days.

I got a call from the agency this morning, and they scheduled an interview for Friday. Boom -- that's two different days; I was halfway done with my required job search for the week by 10:30 Monday morning.

If I was the kind of guy who was only interested in doing the bare minimum to collect unemployment, instead of actually getting a job, I would call it a day and then look for two more jobs later in the week.

But of course I'm not. I'm going to spit-shine the ol' resume, update my profile on a few different job sites, and go hunting for other positions that are available.

But I'll make sure I don't actually click the "Submit" button on any of them until tomorrow. And then save some for Wednesday, too.

I sure hope CareerBuilder's fixed that damn memory leak in its JavaScript since the last time I had to do this. Because I'd very much like to be able to leave a few of its pages up in a browser window without worrying about my entire system locking up.

Took me weeks, and multiple browsers, to figure out what was happening last year.

Wind Up Workin' in a Gas Station

Zappa Plays Zappa. According to uploader tsaromero2008, the recording is from a show in Chicago, 2008.

I do not expect that I will wind up working in a gas station.

Tattoos of Memories and Dead Skin on Trial

Good Riddance by Green Day, as performed by Glen Campbell

You know, that was a pretty good job.

I wrote about it last year, and my final analysis remains much the same -- they treated me right. They trusted me, they didn't micromanage, they paid me fairly, and in return I kicked ass and helped them roll out Windows 7 to over a thousand users. Job well done.

And the trouble with that is that there's no need for me anymore (at least, as far as the bean counters are concerned -- as far as the guy who's got to do all the imaging and packing himself now is concerned I will be sorely missed). But so it goes -- my dad's in construction; he's spent his life doing work where he knew one day the job would be done and he'd be on to the next thing.

So I'm on to the next thing, whatever it may be -- signed up for unemployment; hope I don't have to accept it. I've got an interview tentatively lined up for next week -- a place that's closer, pays better, and is direct-hire.

And that's the good news, really -- I feel like I'm moving onward and upward. I feel like there's progress and each job's a step up from the last (with an exception or two, I suppose, but this wasn't one of them). The agency keeps submitting me for jobs, and all of them are a step up from where they've placed me in the past. I think part of that's that the economy's improving and there's more work available for a guy with my qualabilities, and part of it is that I've paid my dues and they know they can trust me wherever they put me.

I was driving home today, thinking to myself hey, that's the last time I'll have to take this 25-mile drive, and feeling pretty good about it. And on the radio? Well, not Good Riddance, but something else topical -- Hello, Goodbye.


If you've ever been laid off, you've probably experienced this: they tell you that your services are no longer required, and then pile a shitload of extra work on you.

The week ending 9/28, I imaged 25 computers and shipped 36. This week I've imaged 42 and shipped 56, and it's only Wednesday. And that's just the upgrades; that doesn't even include the new hires -- because in the immediate aftermath of being told the company can't afford to hire me, of course I am immediately inundated with a bunch of shipping requests for all the new people they're hiring.

Sometimes it's hard to stay motivated. But as I've said before, in the absence of promotion (or even continued work) as an incentive, there's still professional pride and loyalty to the guys I work with. They're not the ones who made the call to lay me off, and they're the ones who are going to have to do my job on top of their own in a couple of weeks. I may as well make that transition as smooth as possible for them.

Plus, if we do huge numbers my last few weeks here and then they suddenly start to fall behind as soon as I'm gone, well, then I've left a handy chart they can show the bean-counters, in the language bean-counters understand best.


You know, it feels different this time.

The last long-term contract I had ended in 2010 and was followed by three months' unemployment (aside from a few freelance Web assignments).

This time I've already had an interview. Haven't heard back from them (they never call when they say they will -- you know, I've often made the unflattering comparison between looking for work and trying to meet women, and I'm afraid it's once again apt here) but I think it went pretty well.

And today I got a cold call. Well, a bulk E-Mail, at any rate. Only for a three-day job, and it steps on the last few hours of my current contract, but I think I can make it work.

Good pay for three days; obviously I'd rather get something longer-term, but it beats the hell out of unemployment.

Seriously, unemployment sucks; I very much hope to avoid it. We'll see...

As One Door Closes

Today was the celebration for the end of the project I'm on.

I'll be honest -- I wasn't terribly in the mood for celebration. The thing we were celebrating is the same thing that means I will be filling out an unemployment form two weeks from now.

(That's a little glib. My temp agency has, once again, stepped up; I've already had an interview and even if that doesn't work out they told me they've got another bite. Still and all, the point is that with the project over I've got my walking papers, wherever I may be walking to.)

The boss took us out to lunch. And one of the help desk guys asked me, "So what's next for Thad?"

This is exactly the kind of thing that I would have assumed would upset or depress me -- people actually acknowledging that yeah my days here are numbered. (Ten.)

But it didn't. The way he said it -- friendly, upbeat. Optimistic. Just the assumption in his phrasing -- there is something that's next for Thad.

And that cheered me right the fuck up. After that my day wasn't such a downer.

And then we went and raced go-karts.

Another Migraine

Welp, stayed home with a migraine again today.

Hate that this happens right as my job's up in the air. Not so much because I'm worried that my bosses will think I've got a chronic condition that interferes with my work (I only miss a day every couple months, and they've always been pretty understanding, especially since I haul ass when I'm there), but because I don't get sick pay and every day I miss is a cockpunch right in the wallet.

(Look, my wallet has a cock. I don't really want to talk about it.)

Good news is that I pretty solidly whomped the headache with a full dose of codeine first thing this morning followed by going back to bed for six and a half hours. But that left me pretty weak and dizzy. Beats a migraine but still leaves me pretty much no good for a whole day.

Playing: Red Dead Redemption.

What Now?

So today I got the old "Well, the project's almost over and we don't know what that means for you" talk.

As per usual, if it were up to the discretion of people I have actually met, I'd have the job. But, as per usual, I am at the mercy of west-coast bean counters.

The thing about that: when you complete a project weeks ahead of schedule, the people who have actually met you think, "Hey, maybe we should keep this guy around." But the bean counters tend to think, "Oh good, that means we can cut him loose that much sooner." Here's hoping the people who value me win the argument for a change.

Apparently I've got, at the very least, two weeks left. Which could mean I become unemployed just in time for my thirtieth birthday. I don't think it'll be that soon, but man that would be a fun little extra coincidence.

So it goes. I'm sanguine, I guess. I'd like to keep my job -- it's a good gig, it pays fairly, I'm settled and I like the people I'm working with -- but you know, if I'm forced into another change of scenery, I'll make the best of that too.

If nothing else, there are plenty of companies that could still use a guy who can handle a Windows 7 migration.

Free Lizard

Well, this one's a first.

Today, as I was removing a computer from a box, I saw a bit of movement in the bottom corner. It appeared to be a small kind of gecko or suchlike.

This was a return from an office just a half-mile or so away, so I was confident that it was not some kind of horrible invasive species of lizard. I emptied the rest of the items from the box and took it downstairs.

It took a considerable amount of coaxing and, eventually, pushing it a little with my finger, but finally I got it out of the box and into the rocks.

Godspeed, little lizard.

Nothing is Too Wonderful to Be True

Someone shipped an old computer back today -- one of the models that I always cringe to see, because they are bound to be encrusted with dust, and because I then inevitably have to open them up and pop the hard drive so we can wipe it before disposal. They are hell on my asthma.

And then I opened it up Immaculate. Either this thing has been sitting in a sealed plastic bag for years and never opened, or someone actually went to the trouble of opening it up and blowing it out before shipping it back to me.

So thank you, whichever user was kind enough to do that for me. You are awesome.

(And okay, it was two months late. But given the choice, I will take late, clean equipment every time.)