Thursday, June 21, 2007

SNAFU Sidetracks Employment-Agency Date

VEXING DIRECTIONAL SCREWUP TODAY led to my missing out on a chance to speak with a recruiting agency, and wasted 2 hours of my life between donning and shedding my monkey suit. By way of reviewing the past few days and getting this agitation out of my system, let me write a spell.

To back up a few paces, I have not gotten an answer from the place I interviewed 2 weeks ago. I did complete an editorial test for them last Friday, but by Wednesday I hadn't received acknowledgment of its quality or even its receipt. I therefore called them to check. (I should note here that this is not the reason I'm agitated.) I spoke to the woman with whom I had the in-person interview (vs. the managing editor of the publications, who was on a speakerphone during the interview). She said they had indeed received the test, and that it looked good. As to an answer on employment, she said that the managing editor and human resources were working on it, but that she had a positive feeling about my prospects. Obviously, she couldn't commit in any more explicit way, especially if HR was performing a background check, suddenly uncovered something (speculatively, of course), and then had to contend with the other person having jumped the gun. She said I ought to receive some sort of answer in the next couple of days. So I hope to hear from them today or tomorrow.

This would be very nice, as I'm hitting another ebb tide of motivation. I did go to the library yesterday to do some job-hunting work, because my Internet service was down briefly (how soon we feel the absence of the cable when it's yanked from the vein). I found the change of scenery most invigorating. Being stuck here during the greater part of the day with no absolute duties was a crusher during parts of May. I can think of one week, after Jen and Steve's wedding, that was an utter bust in terms of motivation. With the start of June and my Photoshop class, I at least had another productive function to perform here. The second week of June, however, was another stretch where I got a lot less done on the job horizon than I would have liked. The final seminar I had with the career-counseling firm warned of such hills and valleys, but still, I need to keep getting my message out there if I want to find the right position and demonstrate amid such activity to NY State Unemployment that I am actively trying to find work.

So about today. I had an appointment to speak with a representative with the creative-talent arm of a major recruiting and temporary-work firm. I had posted my information on their website back in March before departing the salt mine. I called over to set up an appointment with the guy who had been working with my then-supervisor M., only to find he had left the company abruptly. (This was a surprise to M., who had been working with this gent even before we left the company.) The receptionist told me that once my online application was reviewed, I would get a call, which finally came last week.

The woman who called me asked me to come in today, after I completed one or two more tasks (send a resume, references, any samples). I took the opportunity to take my buddy Len up on a favor he had offered at Jen and Steve's wedding. He works for another branch of the employment company that owns this one, and he generously offered to call any contact I made there and give him or her the good word on my reliability as a potential employee. I dropped Len a note with this person's name, along with my huge thanks and a couple of questions about temping and unemployment.

This question had led me to forego contacting temp agencies prior to this point. As a designer-type person, my skill at Photoshop is low. (Thus, the class.) Many of the jobs I've checked out online list Photoshop as a skill. Although any work therein may be limited in scope, more along the lines of altering existing graphics rather than de novo creation all day and (oy) night, I still needed to demonstrate a basic knowledge of the software. Some employment agencies and hiring managers administer testing to ensure the candidate's level of expertise. The agency I was working with in this case wanted me to take a test once I came into the office, so they could honestly inform their clients just how skilled the temps were.

My question: If my lack of Photoshop knowledge was possibly gonna keep me on the sidelines waiting for work, and if I became an employee of the temp agency to become eligible for these placements, would I then have to inform NY State that I was, from their standpoint, employed? If my prospects for frequent temp work with the employment agency were slim due to my qualifications, was I in danger of giving up a base level of income just to be put on the shelf for a while?

This was the primary question I wanted to discuss today. If I was only going to get paid occasionally, but would otherwise still receive healthcare, that might make the deal more equitable. (Staring at a COBRA bill next to my computer inspired that last sentence.) Len wasn't as up on how New York handles this question, so he couldn't offer as definitive an opinion as someone in our area might be able to. So when I arose this morning, I looked forward to at least exploring the temp question, while making it clear that my primary goal was permanent full-time employment.

The only problem was that I stupidly left the directions at home. If you've never been to central Bergen County, the office building management company Mack-Cali owns several complexes in and around the shopping nexus of Paramus. Four of them surround Paramus Park Mall. Without the sheet in hand, however, I couldn't be sure which one I had to go to. I was leaving early enough to drive from one to the other if I needed to.

There are six Mack-Cali Centers in Paramus, four of which were at my destination. I had a 2 in 3 chance of finding the proper building in that area. I lost that bet. After checking two of the building directories, I called the office to get an update from my contact. One of her coworkers indicated that the office was in fact near Route 4, rather than on the eastern side of Route 17, which is where these four were located. I asked him to convey my apologies for the delay to my contact — to which he said it was no problem — got back in my car, and headed in the direction of this other office building.

I never found it. The landmarks this guy gave me over the phone were not to be seen. By this point I was pissed at myself for fucking up with the directions, and I realized I was going to need more time to at least stop at a Barnes & Noble and check out a map for a better idea of where the hell they were. I called again, but was told everyone was in a company-wide meeting. This struck me as odd. I had been told the discussion and testing could take as long as 2 hours. Assuming I got there at 9:00 as planned, I'd at least spend 15 minutes or so getting the opening discussion with my contact or one of her colleagues underway. Now suddenly they're all in a meeting?

I am attuned to the quiet messages the universe often issues. In this case, I was becoming convinced that this meeting was not to occur today. Even if I did somehow get better directions to the place, by the time I got there I still would be wound up from the whole process. So I called the office one more time, and told my contact via her voicemail that we would have to reschedule for early next week. By then, I hoped I would know one way or the other my situation with the publishing company where I'd interviewed.

I am sincerely interested in at least hearing what they would say about my unemployment question, so I am hoping to hear from them again soon. I'll call them again later today or first thing tomorrow to see if next Tuesday is good. For now, though, I will concentrate on my Photoshop work, which is ongoing. New assignments every week. Just the thing to ingrain new reflexes.

I can report that the Happy Massager went over well. The instructor commented favorably on the wood-grain detail and the highlights, saying that these were the aspects that distinguished this model from being a two-dimensional sketch. Last class, which came on a day of such heartbreaking beauty it was tough to board the bus for NYC instead of for Atlantic City, we got acquainted with the scanner, in preparation for a collage/portrait that is to express something about ourselves. The instructor had asked us to bring in items from our environment ("found" items, vs. photos or computer-generated images) to integrate into a collage or other arrangement that would demonstrate our skills up through that class.

I brought a ton of poker-related gear: cards, chips, a couple of books, and some index cards on which I'd typed some of my more useful pieces of acquired wisdom over the years. I scanned many of these in class, but I realized I probably would want to modify these further later in the week. With no plans to return to Chelsea before next class, I acted on an impulse that had been floating around for some time and bought a scanner. I'm glad this class has no apparent need for a camera, else I might be out snagging a digital model next week or something.

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