how being underemployed can result in a whole lot of wasted time

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I am underemployed. If I could just be paid for the time I waste looking for work, I’d have a healthy five-figure salary.

I work freelance, and for the duration of the time I’ve had little ones–and not so little ones–at home, it’s been a great thing. I could be here for the children and also be able to bring in a few extra bucks. Fast-forward twenty-five years, though, and what was once a wonderful thing is now holding me back and keeping me from moving in the right direction.

There are so many jobs I know I could do if just given the opportunity, but picking up crumbs of jobs that require copious amounts of time to do them is all I can find right now. And I’ve been looking.

I applied for a full-time job last week that I felt I was perfect for. I still see the job up on the company website, therefore, the company didn’t see me as a perfect fit. (I think the salary-requirements line tripped me up, not having any idea what real people make out there.) In addition to applying for jobs, I keep working toward getting a certificate to make me more marketable for a government-agency job, but those jobs, after having applied, can take months and months to get called back on. There is no rhyme or reason as to how people are selected for interviews, although the county’s website says that people are phoned alphabetically. Great. I’m in the middle of the alphabet (which makes me want to hyphenate my maiden and last names. I used to be a “B.”)

So today I sat down at my computer and, not having received any work again, looked at the work-at-home job sites. I found one job that looked interesting. It’s with a company that requires candidates to input metadata (whatever that is). I took the test, being that I’m good at tests and am uber proficient in editing and researching, which was part of the test. After two and a half hours of working on this three-hour exam, which partially included identifying pop culture figures and events, I was switching between open tabs in my browser when–oh, lord–I accidentally clicked on the horrible, no-good, very bad X, closing out the tab and losing all the work I had input.

I tried to recover the page, but it had flown into cyberspace for good. So I restarted the test. Having done a lot of the research already, I had half the battle won this second time around. It was a matter of remembering and, if I couldn’t do that, looking back into what I had originally researched. In the meantime, I was supposed to be watching and listening in on a webinar being presented for that certificate I’m going after. I was able to do both, albeit half-heartedly. Still, I managed and was pretty proud to have multitasked those efforts and while picking up a phone call from my husband, to boot.

After the webinar ended, having made good time on the test the second time around, I focused my mind on it and was nearly finished within two hours. I just couldn’t figure out the identities of two of the people who were featured. I tried to research some more but had no luck. So I reread and reworked some of the longer questions that needed my attention.

When I thought I had finished the entire test, I submitted it. Trouble is, I’d forgotten to fill in one of the answers–the name of some pink-bikini clad woman standing on a beach while holding a microphone as some performers were singing on a stage in the background. (Can anyone place that?) Everything else was perfect, trust me. But I knew I was doomed. I knew this was going to be one of those tests graded by a machine, whose first role was to make sure there were no blank answers. And what do you know, within minutes of punching the damned Submit button, I received a ding saying I didn’t get the job. All because of one idiotic semi-celebrity whom I couldn’t ID. No human at this company even bothered to read my answers.

What ticks me off the most is that five hours were wasted. Five hours. I didn’t even walk the dog within that time, which is something I do every morning. I hadn’t even showered. I looked at the clock and it was after 1 p.m. when I got dinged. I realized that I hadn’t gotten up from my chair since 8 in the morning. Five hours wasted because I don’t have a full-time job–or even a regular part-time job–to call my own. If I made twenty bucks an hour, that would have been one hundred dollars I could have earned.

It’s not just the money–or potential loss of it–that is so bothersome, it’s what I could have done with my time. This has been a really slow two weeks for me. Make that three or four weeks, actually. Last week I got some painting done in the house, but this week I was hoping to get some paid work. Only it never came. So after sitting at my desk and feeling like I wasted precious days in the beginning of the week, I promised myself yesterday that I’d get out of the house today. The weather has been stifling hot and my office is the hottest room in the house, and I promised I wouldn’t make myself sit and pine away, clicking through website after website to look for work one more day this week. I told myself I’d get out and get some fresh air.

But when you are at the mercy of others for work, a job can come at the least-expected time. It can pop up when you’re walking the dog or getting some fresh air or sitting in an air-conditioned coffeeshop sipping a pumpkin latte. So I’m sorry to say that I probably have a lot more disappointingly slow, unproductive days in my future as long as I can’t find a regular job. I won’t stop looking for freelance work too, but I sure as heck won’t take another five-hour test to get it. I worked backwards today. And that’s never the right direction.

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“I have a B.A. in journalism and 30-plus years of experience.”

is full-time employment in the cards? when working from home may just not cut it

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I applied for a full-time, outside-the-home position yesterday, the first full-time job I’ve appied to in about thirty-two years. I’ve been a work-at-home mom all that time, which was a great alternative when the kids were little. It brought in extra income–although at times what I earned was so piddly that it barely paid for the newspaper subscription for the year–but it kept my foot in the water of the working world and my brain from frying from kiddie overload. With four kids spread out over a lot of years, it was so easy to put them first and myself last. And I did that. Had I not had something to call my own–a little bit of employment–I’d have been much worse off.

But my youngest is now a senior in high school. He probably will not play sports this year (a great reason for a parent to have a flexible schedule is being able to drive the kid and attend away games), and he has a license and drives our old car, so I’m not even needed to transport him to and from school anymore. He’s looking for a part-time job to help pay for a phone and his insurance and to have a little spending money without having to hit up the parental unit. A job will take him away from home even more often.

In the meantime, my freelance career is in a lull. I will be madly, deeply busy in October and November, working both day and night, and I have been promised some assignments into December and January even, typically a slow period in publishing, but at present I’m bumbling around, finding stuff to do at home, like laundry and cleaning, and refreshing the home page of one of the web portals where I obtain some of my work. I can do that all day at times and find nothing or maybe one assignment that can take less than an hour. So my precious hours spent “working” from home are not getting me anywhere.

And that is why I applied to a firm that is looking for someone who does exactly what I do. Those jobs are rare to find and because it’s an altruistic nonprofit, I applied. Time will tell whether I hear back for an interview, but I was encouraged to find something so specifically tailored to my career choice.

I have applications in with a couple local government agencies as well, but with them, being placed on the eligible list is in no way a guarantee of being called for an interview. I’ll continue courses for those positions and I’ll get busy with work in the coming months and not even think about looking for something outside the home, but then the doldrums will hit again . . . and again . . . and again.

Am I ready for full-time employment outside the home? With a little adjusting, I think so. It certainly would beat hitting the refresh button and finding nothing for forty hours a week.

 

 

not dressed up and never ready to go

Why is it that women my age who are stay-at-home moms or who work from home never have anything to wear when going out? Maybe because, like me, they’ve spent most of their lives buying for and caring for others so they become last on the totem pole for getting anything new. And yet along with the kids, our bodies change a lot over the years–and in the same way the kids’ do, by increasing in size.

I started having children in my midtwenties and finished in my late thirties, so I know that the “baby weight” you put on when you’re still young and have a decent metabolism is a lot easier to shed than when middle age is knocking at the door and carries a key to let himself in.

My husband’s and my anniversary was a couple weeks ago and fortunately we chose a restaurant that was a 5.5 on a scale of 1 to 10 in fine-dining experiences, meaning we didn’t have to dress up all that much. Still, before I knew we’d be seated on patio chairs, I tried to find some clothes in my closet to make myself look relatively nice. All the clothes I tried on, though, either didn’t fit (bad planning by my former twenty-three-year-old self: our anniversary is only three weeks after Christmas!) or looked awful on me–but mostly they didn’t fit, which made them look awful on me.

Yes, I’ve put on more than a few pounds since saying “I will” back in 1985, but still, I’m not John Goodman in a dress–I’m not that heavy. I just have nothing that is flattering to wear at this stage in my life. Where do I clothes shop? Old Navy, Target, maybe GAP, and almost always online, but I work from home and wear comfortable clothes 24/7, meaning sweatpants in full and calf lengths, shorts, jeans, short-sleeved T-shirts, long-sleeved T-shirts, 3/4-length T-shirts. . . . Why, just looking at me now you’d find me decked out in an Old Navy short-sleeved T and capri workout pants. This is my attire du jour, but it works for me. I work from home, I walk the dog on my break, and I cook dinners that are often made in a wok and splattery. For heaven’s sake, I’m not going to run around in Stella McCartney–or even Paul McCartney, if he were to get into designing clothes.

I’d like to look like Tina Fey or even Amy Schumer but I’m edging toward Rebel Wilson, who, in my opinion, is as beautiful (just a little rounder) as the other two comics. There’s nothing wrong with being heavy and I know how hard it is to keep the pounds off or get rid of them once they’re there, but for me, I don’t want to be the frumpy fiftysomething. I want to be fit and able to wear whatever I want and not have to try on top after top that’s too, too tight. If I had a career outside the house, I’d have some business casual clothes to pick from on evenings when I go out (which usually amounts to one or two times a year), but I don’t leave the house much and when it’s time to go out I put on something I wore to church on Sunday. If it’s good enough for God, it’s good enough for everyone of this world.

The other night my daughters and I went to a Vino and Painting class at a bar in a trendy neighborhood (and yes, I fretted about what to wear). It was my Christmas present from one of the girls and it was a lot of fun (though I’m a bit too competitive to be painting among other people, but that’s another story). Other than having a great time with my adult kids, it reminded me that I’m maybe ten or so years away from being able to do things like that all the time. Having married at a younger age than my daughters are now and having given birth to them both by the time I was the age of my younger girl, I never had a young adulthood that didn’t involve changing diapers, reading picture books, and falling into bed exhausted every night. I missed out on the bar scene and a lot of the dating scene, having begun dating my future husband a week after turning nineteen and having gotten married a month after turning twenty-three. And the pre-marriage years were filled with he and I both going to college full-time and having either multiple part-time jobs (I) or a job requiring thirty to forty hours a week (he). We went out once a week at best and it was usually out to a cheap dinner, often using a coupon, and maybe a movie.

I look forward to having time to go out at night once in a while in my later life, take in a movie, get a nice meal, go to a play or concert, check out the latest museum exhibit, simply be free to be you and me. I just hope that by then I have some decent clothes to do it all in.

 

 

i don’t know how she does it

I had to get the oil changed today, so after dropping off the car at the Sears Auto shop, I parked myself in the food court with my cup of McDonald’s coffee and got some work done. As a freelance editor, I sometimes have the ability to take my work with me and so my errand was partially paid for by my flexible career (although the fee for just that one oil change surpassed the amount of money earned from my hour or so of work).

I’m fortunate to have the option to be able to do not only this (working just about anywhere), but also to work my schedule around my kids’ school drop-offs, pickups, and other events in their lives. I’m also occasionally able to enjoy some spare time. In fact, while at the mall and after finishing with the work I had brought with me, I took in a movie, or most of a movie anyway, before rushing out the theater door and down the mall corridor to pay for the oil change and retrieve my car before rushing to school to pick up my son. If only the pay I receive for the work I do were as desirable as the flexibility, but this is the dilemma a lot of working parents face.sjp

The movie I saw, I Don’t Know How She Does It, hits upon this dilemma of balance. The movie stars Sarah Jessica Parker as the harried working mom, Greg Kinnear as her usually understanding husband, and Pierce Brosnan as a business cohort whom Kate (SJP’s character) works with and nearly falls for.  The topic drew me in–in fact, I remember having checked this book out of the library some time ago, although I couldn’t find the time to finish reading it–so I thought I’d check out the movie.

On some levels I could relate to Kate in that there never seems to be enough time in the day to get everything done. I also could relate to the lists she draws up in her mind. What mom/working woman/wife doesn’t lie awake at night ruminating on, hyperventilating over, and dreading the events of the upcoming days and the shortcomings of her life?

On other levels, however, I couldn’t relate . . . at all. I’m referring to things like having a nanny, living in a Pottery Barn-styled home, having a career that is so satisfying and fulfilling that you just can’t imagine ever giving it up to be a full-time mother. I think every woman would love that dilemma–being a loving mom and wife and having a fulfilling career that allows for all the good things in life–but nothing is perfect. Something’s gotta give. Either you are present for your kids’ first haircuts, first steps and first smiles, and are actually able to bake a pie from scratch for the school bake sale, or you’re out cornering a lucrative deal while making incredible pay, wearing sharp clothes, meeting interesting people, and padding your 401(k) for what will obviously be an amazing retirement. Either way, there are trade-offs.

In the grand scheme of things, I guess we should all be thankful for the little things that do go right–the work that comes in, the home that is comfortable enough, and the family that is usually happy to see you. Oh yeah, and being able to occasionally sit through most of a show or finish a book.