Thursday, May 22, 2014

I Don't Do Unemployment Well

It's been nearly a month since I had a job. That is my longest span without employment since I first stepped into a newspaper office just after graduation from college. The fact I am not grabbing my gear and heading into downtown Denver to do my job well isn't my greatest worry. It's that the job market looks bleak. I have been reviewed for two jobs I am more than qualified for, and the employers have bypassed me before  the interview stage.

You know that statement about anyone older than 45 facing considerable difficulty in finding work? I think I am seeing that up close and personal.

Not that I am sitting idle. I send out resumes and cover letters. I meet the requirement for unemployment benefits that I make five job contacts per week. I scan jobs lists from private companies and governmental bodies. I check Andrew Hudson's Jobs List for the Rocky Mountain region every day. There is an entity called Connecting Colorado that serves as a clearinghouse for unemployed workers and possible future employers. For the past few days, the website told me there are zero jobs that fit my skills. That didn't seem possible, so I scanned every available job from four counties (Douglas, Arapahoe, Denver, Jefferson). The lists included hundreds of available jobs. Not one of them was a natural fit for a veteran journalist with writing, editing, online, SEO, staff management skills.

I have one very good job possibility I filed for yesterday. It is a government job. My skill set is a good match. I would love to do that work because the department does work that is so rewarding. I wait for the results.

One issue I haven't faced is "what is my value now that I don't have a job?" Our jobs define us in many ways. It's a little like putting on a particular suit. People ask what we do for a living. To put it another way, they ask us what suit do we wear. I could tell them about my Denver Post suit, or Eugene Register-Guard suit, or Santa Rosa Press Democrat suit. The problem is that suits for journalistic entities have a big hole in the seat of the pants these days. The industry is wandering between business models, and neither has the power to pay all the bills. There has been a steady exodus of talented people from The Denver Post for more than seven years. That exodus is far from over.

But that isn't my concern anymore. It's the future that puzzles me. In the meantime, I have learned what defines me. It isn't a particular suit anymore.

I am a writer. I am working on three novels that are in different stages of development. I love the work, but there is no certainty of pay for those efforts. Still, I press on. I am a family man. I treasure my people. I love that I can be with my dad and celebrate his 97th birthday. I love it that my wife and I have more time together. Guess what? Our long friendship just keeps getting better. I love it that I talk to family members often. I am a loyal friend and worker. There has been nothing more positive for me than receiving a note from former co-workers that says they will gladly serve as a personal and professional reference for me.

My future? I wish I could predict it. This month without work? I am so over that.