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Piecing Together Work
Published on January 25, 2012 by guest author: R.B. Austen

I have been on the job hunt much longer than I thought I would be.

This sad fact was driven home by a couple of recent incidents. First, I spoke with my mom on New Year’s Day. She talked about all the possibilities that a new year represents, and cited a surprising fact about the economy - that it's getting better. Given that my mother can be so negative, her good cheer surprised me, but it was also depressing, because talking about the economy, when you're unemployed, can often be depressing. The phone call wrapped up fairly quickly after I was presented with that fun fact.

Two days later I had a meeting with my Employment Services Representative, Marla. Marla’s job is with Employment Security and she is tasked with periodically checking in on me and my work search progress. Meeting with her is one of my requirements to receive unemployment benefits. She helped me with my resume and provided some local job search suggestions. This was our third meeting and she started it off by letting me know that she had just been downsized and
would be finishing up in two weeks time.

Having recently been downsized myself I offered my sympathy and surprise. She moved along to the usual check-in and it became apparent that she wanted to clear me off of her case load. I didn’t mind, as I understood that end-of-job checklist that she was probably going through. As I wished her good luck I realized that here was somebody else joining the job search hunt alongside me.

That’s not to say that I’m not working. I have pieced together a couple of part-time jobs. Or rather VERY part-time jobs. One of them is so part-time that during the orientation it was described as supplemental income, not part-time income. One of the jobs is at a retail outlet, which I started in November and where I have typically received about 10 to 15 hours per week. This changed, however, as the holidays came along and I found myself only getting about 4 to 8 hours per week. It became clear that they had over-hired for the holiday season, and I started to think that they were trying to get me to quit. My only consolation was that I was not alone - four other employees were only being scheduled for 1 to 2 shifts each week. And it could have been worse. Just last Saturday I worked with someone who had not received a shift since Thanksgiving. When I looked at the schedule for the week, I noticed that she had not actually been scheduled to work, but was covering for someone who had called out sick.

My supplemental job is great because it’s working with kids again, which is what I was doing when I was downsized. I’m tutoring, and it is so refreshing to be doing something that has a little more impact than folding sweaters. (Although I really do enjoy the calm of cleaning a fitting room, helping women find clothes and complimenting or redirecting them as they try on outfits!). I have found myself criticizing how the company is run to my husband, and I’ve organized staff trainings and put together staff handbooks and materials. I try to remind myself that I shouldn't do too much - that I'm in a supplemental position and should enjoy it as such.

Then I return to the job hunt, and hope that I can "unsurprise" my mother by finding a job.

R.B. Austen lives in New England and is hoping her work hours will continue to increase.

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