Please find detailed my unemployment history starting on January 30, 2015 until present. While it may seem that I should be employed right now, I assure you that my time away from the desk can be lamented and accounted for.
I had initially expected this to be my period of applying to and interviewing for jobs. I had expected to find a position that would be the next step in my career and paying more than I previously made since I thought I was under-paid as it was.
I ended up taking a job with Bankers Life and Casualty Company at the very end of March, and spending April studying for and taking three exams to acquire my license to sell insurance.
I had high prospects for the company, but they were immediately set askew. On my honeymoon cruise, I had literal dreams about quitting when I had hoped to gain a renewed fervor. I finally cut my losses and walked away on July 31. I had made barely $1000, which I figured was about a point of breaking even for my expenses. Four months later I would receive a letter stating I owed the company over half that due to policies that lapsed after the termination of my contract with the company. I really took a lot from that experience.
In August I was back to the drawing board. How surprised was I to find myself qualified for a high paying federal position! I quickly understood how complicated federal applications could be. Fortunately, I was able to attend both civilian and federal resume workshops to improve my skills. Meanwhile, I began to consider what I really wanted in my next job.
As a military spouse, I saw the benefit in working from home and being able to make the most of every opportunity. If my husband is told he will be leaving for an extended period and given short notice, I wouldn’t have to worry about a work shift or obligation getting in the way of yet another going away dinner at Texas Roadhouse. I wouldn’t have to worry about how much vacation I have when he gets block leave. I focused my efforts on finding these positions.
Lo, in my gmail junk folder I found an email about a job with NHE, National Health Educators. Knowing how legitimate junk mail offers usually are, I excitedly replied. Then began the process of applying to this company. After several steps, the company invited me to apply for a higher paying job! The salary was over $70k a year. It was like a dream come true, but was it a scam???
I finally got to the point in the process where I needed to take an exam to prove my expertise. The company offered a study guide for $190! I thought this must have been where the scam came in. I talked to my previous manager and he researched the company and said he thought it was a sound opportunity. My mother-in-law convinced me that a couple hundred dollars would be a small investment for a “dream” job situation. I ultimately agreed and proceeded to put my eggs in the NHE basket.
The study guide was pretty straightforward. I felt like I was knowledgeable about almost all the topics so I started to get optimistic. But that was remedied as soon as I started the test. The content was much more complex than the study guide. I felt like I needed a Master’s in Exercise Physiology to even finish the exam; it was 240 essay, short answer, or multiple-choice questions to complete in 180 minutes. Clearly, I failed. I had an opportunity to retake the exam, but unless I somehow acquired that master’s degree, I wasn’t going to pass, and I didn’t.
Six weeks and $190 later I was back at square one. I was back to the soul-crushing practice of looking for jobs. I applied to some before I decided I should just apply to any job and start with jobs that sounded fun. When Sephora contacted me the day after I applied and demurred when I said I wasn’t available for seasonal work, I knew all my efforts at entry-level retail positions would be for naught at that time of year.
At the same time, my husband was gone and I felt useless and powerless. I decided it would be in the interest of my mental health to give the job hunt a rest.
A few months prior a counselor suggested I become a counselor. I hadn’t been too moved by the recommendation because the median pay is purportedly $40K. I didn’t think it was smart to pay to go to school to make money I’ve already made. Now, I was realizing that nothing I used to have mattered anymore because for the last 8 months I had made zero. It seemed like “retraining” so that I had an actual skill was my best bet for avoiding this period of joblessness at another duty station.
I looked into the programs around here for a Master’s of Social Work and Master’s of Psychology: Counseling. I was finally excited about going back to school. I called the university to ask why I should choose one over the other. The secretary told me someone would call within 24 hours, but then called back 2 days later to tell me the Chair would call Monday. He didn’t. Then I realized no school around here had the appropriate accreditation for counseling, or so I thought. I was crushed.
At this point, I have decided to find any job while looking for another job. Last week I went out to solicit applications, starting with the places I like to shop. Apparently people are too crippled by their holiday debt to shop right now and retail stores are not hiring. I ended up putting in two applications at places that aren’t really hiring and two at places I have never stepped foot in.
The best thing I have done is visit the Unemployment Office on post. It took me about 20 minutes to find it inside the soldier support center, but it was worth it. I met Denney who promptly told me I didn’t have a chance at the federal job for which I had just applied. A job at that pay grade would go to a federal employee, veteran, or outside person with a Ph.D regardless of it I was highly qualified. He told me I needed to get in the system by taking any job I could and then I would have a better chance. He also told me I needed to get additional education to improve my chances of getting jobs. Based on my degree he suggested associate degrees in Occupational Therapy Assistance or Physical Therapy Assistance, and randomly threw out Nuclear Medicine Technology, which happens to pay VERY well. I felt like this advice affirmed what I had come to believe about retraining. Mr. Denney also said I should be willing to drive the hour and a half for a master’s degree at the nearest State University.
So here I am where I should have started 11.5 months ago. I should have visited this office first. Denney was the person I’ve been looking for this whole time; someone to tell me how to navigate this experience and what to expect. I have to put off what I had and what I deserve, and just take what I can get. I applied for an entry level federal position at a gym on post. I would alter plans for gainful employment, but I am looking at Associate’s Degree programs at the schools here and hope to start as soon as possible.
If any of you find me unsuitable for one of your entry-level jobs, I will get the picture: it’s not me, it’s you job market. I will gladly resume my tenure at home, in the kitchen, barefoot.