Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Complete 180

Frankly I'm surprised that I haven't gone into shock or something with how much things have turned around in the last 3 weeks. Just thinking about it is weird for me, but three weeks ago I was unsure of how long unemployment benefits would last but I knew at one point they only lasted for 6 months and I was coming within a week or two of reaching that 6 month mark. My biggest concern was, in addition to getting a job ASAP, figuring out how we would survive with our house, pets, and any of our stuff if my unemployment benefits ran out.

I pretty much still cannot believe that I got a job right at that pivotal moment. In all likelihood, with all of the legislation passed in the last two years with regards to unemployment, the benefits would have lasted for a total of 9 months (into mid September), but it's not spelled out clearly and it was a pain trying to find out. Was I going to sit on the phone for an hour or two trying to find this out, or just hope for the best because one way or another there was really nothing I could do except mentally prepare for the worst.

Now the absolutely ridiculous part of it is that I have a really awesome job, and the fact that I work at home and have no commute is incredible and a lot of people are asking how they could get the same kind of job. Thankfully my company is probably hiring more people soon, so if you have experience in Architecture, are an Analyst, Statistician, or Technical Writer then let me know!

Also it sounds like in mid-July I will start traveling for short periods of time around all of the US, which I'm hoping in addition to getting to see more of my home country will also allow me to visit many of the friends I have made through blogging and other online interactions. I will most likely be posting on here about my travels and such, so let me know if it sounds like I'll be in your area!

Really, right now it feels like I could not possibly have a better job and that's a damn good feeling. Trust me, I'm enjoying it! Also I'm going to play in E's Eberron D&D game this evening, so that will be super fun and I'm looking forward to the vegetable lasagna before hand (she's an awesome cook from what I hear)!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Insidious Nature of Unemployment

I'm going to start this post off with a link, bad idea I know but it's a great post and a good set up to what I'm writing about. If you're looking for a good read on why some people are sticklers for having limited andf exact inventory in their RPGs (or any game really) then read Rob Donoghue's post about fitting square pegs into round holes (not as kinky as it sounds, really).

He ends the post with a reinforcement of an excellent saying, "constraints breed creativity".

I couldn't agree more with this statement, and then something clicked for me and I realized that this philosophy applies in so many more ways than I'd previously realized. A lot of people know that being unemployed means you have a lot more free time than when you're working. Most people think that you should be spending the majority of that time searching for a new job. In a perfect world this would be true, but in reality there are so many factors at work it is very tough to accomplish that.

For starters, at least to me, it seems like there was really only so much time you could spend searching for a job. I'd read an article about being unemployed a year or two before I was laid off, and it very wisely suggested that instead of drowning in job applications that you instead dedicate yourself to doing what you really love. It very cleverly professed that if you dedicated all of your efforts to doing what you love, you would eventually catch people's attention and hopefully be able to get a job doing exactly what you love (and getting paid for it more importantly). This is especially true when it comes to artists and other non-office job professions, if you can dive in at full steam then you're much more likely to make a living at it than someone who approaches it casually.

The problem for me was that I had a lot of free time, so procrastinating became even easier because I knew I'd have time to do anything later in the day/week/month. Worse than this is the looming thought that no matter what you're doing, you should probably be looking for a job instead. Thoughts like these led to an incredibly unproductive Danny during most of the time that I was unemployed.

What I'm finding now, however, is that with the more restricted free time I have now that I am working I have become a lot more creative and productive with my free time. This is a different angle to view the "constraints breed creativity" thought, but I find it equally as relevant for myself at the moment. There are a lot of other factors, of course, because this is real life and very high up on that list is the ability to relax a hell of a lot more and (hopefully) not worry about losing our house/pets/sanity/independence anymore.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

June, Five Years Later

In June of 2005 I was a recent college graduate and luckily managed to get hired at one of the 4-5 jobs that I interviewed with. Now it's June of 2010 and I've managed to get a job with the one company I interviewed with in the last five months. The amount of people in America right now that are unemployed is insanely large, not to mention people who have been unemployed for what is considered an extreme amount of time such as one year or more. The amount of Architects (or people with degrees/job in architecture) that are unemployed is an equivalently insane amount.

Hell, I just did a quick google search for some actual information and this March 2009 article was in the top for "unemployment by profession" - http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2009/mar/20/recession-unemployment-and-employment-statistics

Architects are at the top of the building trades list but with a staggering 760% increase in numbers claiming unemployment benefits from Feb 2008 to the time of that report. The funny thing is that March of 2009 is when my job cut me down to 30 hours a week, but I was still "full-time" so my salary was the same I was just working less hours for it. I lived with the reduced hours until in June I was fortunate and took a part-time job with the surveying company my friend Jacob works for where I could pick up 8-12 hours a week as needed and make up for some of the missing pay. The bigger problem was that, as everyone does, we expected my career to continue to grow and as you can see from that study 2008 was a rough year and most of us didn't get the same raises we expected. A LOT of trades didn't get what they expected, I know that, but Architects appear to be the worst hit of the construction industry and even as recent as May of 2010 this study (http://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/) of employment change by trade shows Manufacturing and Education growing a small amount while Construction still decreased by a larger amount than any of those grew. Government jobs grew a ludicrous amount because of the temporary employees hired for the census, so we can write that off for that month. So the construction industry has been in a job-losing spiral since 2008, which led up to late November of 2009 when I was laid off for a complete lack of work for me to do at the company. I understood it entirely, it was just a crappy situation for everyone and the company provided us with as much as they could to transition.

I didn't expect to change jobs when I got that job five years ago in June. I didn't expect a lot of things though, and the sheer volume of information and knowledge that I acquired at that job is staggering for me to think about still. I learned that the (unfortunate) best way to get a big raise is to switch jobs. I learned it through the normal means but also because the principal at the firm that hired me left a few months later after 25 years there, and then another project architect above me left within the next year and I heard the money amounts being thrown around at the time. I worked with people who had been at the firm for 10, 15, 30, and even 50 years and I saw what not switching jobs would lead to and what changing jobs could provide. I casually tossed around the idea but by then it was already 2008 and the time had passed, I was worried if I got a new job I'd be "the new guy" and if a crash did hit (which it definitely did) I'd be the first layer trimmed off.

The firm I was with had begun lay offs a lot later than most other Architectural firms, doing the first round in March of 2009 where we lost three people and several people were cut back to fewer hours including myself. The tone was set and we all knew it would almost definitely continue before the end of the year. I dusted off my old resume and put together a whole new portfolio in April, I'm not a COMPLETE fool it seems. I applied to some gov't related jobs but nothing came through, and then interviewed for an Industrial Designer position at none-other-than ThinkGeek in August. I was off-the-walls excited about it for obvious reasons, but they ended up getting people for the job that literally built computers and monitors in their spare time, which was something I could not compete with at all in the field of industrial design. That was my first interview since early 2005 when I was still in college, thankfully it was with TG and I could just wear my TMNT t-shirt to it and everything was very chill.

Then it came to November 2009, just before Thanksgiving, and I pretty much knew what was coming - I was without a job but still working part-time for the Surveying company. Unfortunately their work had also slowed down and I decided to focus more on trying to get a job. For the first month I applied to hundreds of jobs - architecture, design, graphics, websites, anything that I had any experience even closely related to. I heard back from none of them. Finally in late January I heard back from one of the biggest architecture firms in the country (probably the world too), but they were looking for a marketing person, literally someone who trolls around and works with government bids and proposals and does the grunt work of bringing in the jobs for the architects to design. I interviewed but they knew and I knew it wasn't a great fit or even close to what I was looking for. I thought THEN that I was desperate and hopefully nearing the end of unemployment.

Fast forward to April and May and I had spent a few months only applying to two, three, or a handful of jobs a week. Thankfully there was a steady stream of new job postings, but doing ten or twenty more than what was required for unemployment was a tough thing to rationalize, when the job listings might stop coming and then what would I do to meet the quota? It was a rough time. Thankfully one of those jobs I applied to called me in early May and wanted to set up an interview. Three interviews later (one on the phone, two in person), 2-3 weeks of insanely stressful waiting, and today I have a job offer in hand, signed, and returned. I'm set to go in on Friday and pick up the equipment I need to work from home (it's a Virtual Company, so everyone works from home) and begin working on Monday. Barring some insane or unfortunate mess up with the background check or references, I'm set to go!

It was a hell of a ride, and I hope that I never have to go through it again. I'll be posting some more thoughts and musings from my time as unemployed profession (read: bum), but I do have to say that I'm sad I didn't meet any of my 5 goals I set in late January for February. I'm going t be setting some new goals now and we'll see how I do. I'm okay with not meeting goals, as long as I set new ones (possibly easier ones) and see where I stand on my ability to meet the goals I want to achieve. Getting a job should have been my #1 on that list in January, and in all honesty it really was and being mentally, emotionally, and physically hung up on that is why I believe I never got to anything else on the list. Now that one seems to be completed, so I hope I can move on.

Oh, and thank you to the Starcraft 2 beta that opened in March. That certainly made the last three months more than bearable. :D