Category Archives: Job Search

Another step

It is now almost one whole year since I ceased being dosed with the life-preserving poison known as chemotherapy. It’s now about six months since I started feeling mentally and physically capable of concentrating for periods longer than a few seconds, and of remembering things from day-to-day rather than losing the thought within minutes, and, so, I started the search for work. It felt like a giant step at the time especially as, just before Christmas, I was told that I was being put forward for a job with a recommendation from HR that I was the best person for it. In the event the job went to an internal promotion and I never got as far as an interview with the decision-maker despite having spent hours getting my MS Office skills back to where they had been a year before. Then came the lean months, the months of staring into my laptop’s screen and wading through all the jobs that are available out there. To see so many jobs is really great. To be able to apply for such a small percentage of them is not great. To spend a couple of hours or more preparing a CV/resume tailored to each position and yet to hear nothing is very definitely not a rewarding process. To receive an email saying, “you’re through to a telephone interview”, is, initially a fantastic feeling, but, after a few of those, when in my own unbiased opinion, they have gone well, and yet not hear any further from the employer really is a blow to one’s morale. To apply for a job at Home Depot as a collector of carts in the parking lot (see how American my language is becoming, I really, really, wanted to write, “a collector of trolleys in the car park”) and not get past the first interview was a real blow, especially as I’d chosen not to point out to them that placing a column of seats in the corridor to the fire escape had to be a breach of Health and Safety legislation even here in Florida. Everyone tells you, you have to turn up in person and then when they see you and “hear your cute British accent”, (their words not mine – honestly!) they’ll offer you a job, but these days you turn up and they say, “apply online”. I’ve even been to jobs fairs where there are recruiters there whose sole role was to give out fliers showing how to apply online – thanks Target, T-Mobile and others, it was almost a pleasure getting out of bed and travelling to meet your recruitment staff to discuss the jobs you have. Why do they bother turning up at all? I don’t know what kind of effect that has on other job seekers but it definitely left me not only pissed off and unimpressed with them as an employer but also it creates a negative impression which very definitely impacts on my spending plans. Maybe the spending power of those desperate enough to be applying through jobs fairs isn’t sufficient to be of interest to those companies.

I set myself a target of applying for at least three jobs a day. Most days I applied for four or five, sometimes five or six. On one day I got in an amazing 25 job applications courtesy of chain websites which allowed me multiple selections of stores at which I was willing to be considered for employment, but I got no response from any of them. I was finding it more and more difficult to motivate myself to approach my unpaid work of finding paid work with any degree of enthusiasm, and then, a neighbour phoned a friend of his who works for Workforce1 and we arranged to meet a couple of days later. It was a very simple action by my neighbor but it meant a lot to me, here was someone who believed in me and was willing to put themselves out for me. That meeting went well and I went for an interview which also went well, but I had morale qualms about what I would need to do as, effectively I would be on an IT helpline resolving customers’ problems but with a view to upselling the employers kit to replace what the customer had. Now I’ve spent a few years working in IT and helping friends and, in my experience, the problem has rarely been the kit. Some friends had a friend who was undertaking training there and who was, at that point, reported to be enjoying working there: his opinion changed when he was working directly with customers and he soon quit. I felt vindicated when I heard this, I’d possibly made the correct decision and still retained some dignity despite having to continue to depend totally upon my wife. Anyway, from this initial meeting with Martin at WF1 I was able to sign up for their program called Professional Placement Network (PPN) which is kick-started by a one week course in how to find work. They had expectations of us, for instance, we had to dress as though we were going to work, a small thing but it did make a difference, they treated us as real people with goals and we felt important. That week with Thomas Doughety revitalized me, as it did others, and I adopted many of the strategies they suggested, however the pattern continued to be the same. Then through PPN I got involved in helping at a jobs fair where I met Shannon, and suddenly it did seem as though, when someone met me, they would think my accent was cute, and they might offer me a job, but first I had to go through a telephone interview with Shannon’s assistant, and then another telephone interview with Shannon and of course these things take time don’t they as they work to the employer’s timescales and not those of the unemployed and, in the interim, my wife and I had met with some friends, one of whom is a teacher in a private school about 18 miles away, and she suggested I contact the school with a view to acting as a substitute teacher. I explained that I didn’t have teaching qualifications in Florida and was having problems convincing the school district of my qualifications, as in England, universities don’t )or at least they didn’t when I was a student) regularly provide transcripts which seem to be de rigeur here in the US. Lisa responded that as a private school such things might not be necessary, so I wrote to the school with yet another carefully crafted resume and after a few days the school got in touch and said they would like me to teach a lesson being observed by around four staff. Now, I’ve taught lessons as a student with class teachers, headteachers, and even HMI watching me. As a qualified teacher I’ve gone through HMI and OFSTED inspections as well as annual appraisal by my managers, but I was more nervous of teaching this lesson than for any of those. I mean I had no idea about what the pupils knew, so I didn’t really know where to start let alone where I was going to finish, but, in the event, it went well as did the interview afterwards, and we left it that the school was interested in me and would get in touch when they knew what they had to offer me. That sounded very similar to one interview I had for a job selling cars where my interviewer and I both agreed at the end of the interview that we were both interested in taking things forward and then I got told they weren’t. Anyway, you know the old saying, “It never rains but it pours”, well, my heavens opened. I got a call from a company I had applied to four months earlier saying they would like to speak to me. Great, except it went to voice mail and so we played telephone tag for a couple of weeks, or, more accurately, I was trying to play telephone tag but Sylvan never called back. It was at this point that I had the second telephone interview with Shannon, and then a friend suggested applying to another company for casual work selling vacations and they wanted to interview me as well, so, suddenly, from having nothing going for me, I was waiting for Sylvan to get back to me (they never did), for Shannon to take things to the next interview with a local manager, for the travel company to move on from the three hours of interview process and for the school to get back to me. Of them all I preferred the school option as Sylvan would probably be only part-time, Shannon’s job was commission only selling financial plans and I don’t want to turn into the kind of guy who annoys everyone he meets by trying to sell them some kind of a scheme, the travel job was minimum pay with success basically depending upon the hours put in and it was pretty clear that meant 9+ hours per day on the phone and that would be 7 days a week in order to make a decent income. Against this, I know I am a good teacher and that I can succeed at the school, but, despite telling them that I was awaiting confirmation from these other companies that they wanted me, the school still hadn’t been able to sort out its staffing needs until last week when they phoned and told me they could offer me a job! That was a great day. Sadly I couldn’t fully share my joy with anyone as my wife is abroad with her son while I had chosen to stay home and chase work. Telling family by text just isn’t the same as seeing them face-to-face and sharing the physical excitement and relief. I felt slightly bad about telling Shannon that I had accepted another job as she’d phoned and left a voice mail to say we could now go forward with a local manager and wanting to arrange a suitable time, plus I felt that we had begun to establish a positive relationship, but, a bird in the bush and all that.

I really do view getting a job as part of the return to a normal life after the chemo, and it really does feel like a giant step forward to me, and yet, I continue to read the blogs of those who were diagnosed with cancer at about the same time as me, and I read how they are now on new medications which are finally showing some signs of beating back their cancers, and I realise that, in terms of where I have been these past 18 months and where my blogger friends are in their own journeys, it is significant but less important than being healthy.

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Filed under Cancer, Hodgkins Lymphoma, Job Search, Unemployment

A year ago today…

It’s now twelve months since I sat here writing about my concerns on the night before my first ever chemotherapy infusion. Purely coincidentally today I went to Dr Taché’s office for my port flushing. As usual the chemo room was busy and good-humoured. Purely coincidentally Lisa, my first oncology nurse was working today. I asked her if she remembered that this week was our first anniversary. The son of a patient asked if I had brought flowers for Lisa and I replied, “What, when she’s forgotten all about it? She doesn’t deserve them!” There was much laughter.

The past twelve months have seen things change a great deal. The chemotherapy literally brought me to my knees at times. At times it brought me even lower and I could do nothing other than crawl on my stomach like some squaddie undergoing basic training and being subjected to live-fire for the first time. These past few weeks I’ve really begun to feel my strength returning to something like normal and even my finger nails now seem to have disposed of the last remnants of the chemo and have stopped being brittle. My wife and I have even started on the Zumba classes offered as part of the Mayor of Davie’s Fitness Challenge, and, yes, I do ache slightly lol.

I’m applying for jobs on a daily basis and  am now managing to concentrate pretty well throughout the whole day. One issue which has cropped up is whether or not I should mention the cancer, the chemo and the recovery as a way of explaining what I’ve been doing for the past twelve months, as some people I have spoken with are of the opinion that this will scare away an  otherwise willing employer. If anyone has any thoughts on this I’d be interested to read them. Two days ago I had a phone call from Williams Zophin which doesn’t seem to have its own website but is on http://americanincomelife-williams-zophin.com/. Apparently my resume had been discovered on-line by one of the managers and could I go in the next day (yesterday) for an interview as Benefits Director:  the job being described to me as, “going over union members’ benefits and making sure the paperwork is correct”. As always I tried to do some background research on the web. There is very little though there is a Facebook page. The Facebook page was a little worrying. The page contained several comments from people who were clearly and unashamedly current employees who thought Williams Zophin to be the best thing since sliced bread and were making great incomes by dint of hard work. Nothing wrong with any of that is there? No, I thought not as well, but there was another post from a lady (not visible on the page as I write) who had been approached in a manner similar to myself but had been successful in researching the company and had come to the conclusion that the company was a pyramid sales company selling life insurance. Despite this comment I thought I’d go and see what Mr Yemi of Williams Zophin had to say to me. My worst fears started to be confirmed when I walked through the door into their office. Every seat was taken by someone clearly there on interview. In fact there weren’t even enough chairs for the person ahead of me, myself, or the person who followed me, to have seats while filling out our questionnaires. A series of suited managers kept walking through the door and calling out the names of the interviewees. At this point I was very tempted just to leave but, having made at least this much effort, I thought I’d see it through, as, perhaps, they were interviewing for a series of posts – yeah right! Anyway my turn came and a thoroughly pleasant Mr Yemi asked me to tell him about myself which I did. Mr Yemi then explained the three stages of the interview process designed to ensure the right fit between applicant and company, and he then went on to say, “the job is about sales and managing sales”, to which I could only reply, “that’s not what I was told over the phone and I’m not interested in selling insurance”, at which point I terminated the interview. Why do companies do this? Why do they deliberately misrepresent what they want an applicant to do? Are they so desperate for new employees that they just trawl the web for recent resumes and get people in under what I can only call false pretences, accepting that they are going to wastefully invest their time in applicants who wouldn’t have gone had they known the true nature of the employment. Just to be clear on this, I didn’t do enough research to know whether or not the lady’s claim that Williams Zophin is a pyramid seller of insurance is true or not as I didn’t let my interview get that far. Neither do I know whether or not the products which Williams Zophin sell are any good or not as I found very little about them on the web. What I do know is that they misrepresented the job to me and I am very annoyed about that as I wasted a couple of hours which could have been better used trying to find a company which wouldn’t lie to me about why it wanted to interview me.

Still on the job-search front, tomorrow I take a two to three hours skills assessment test being proctored by a local university on behalf of a company to whom I applied for a job. Now, this company’s recruitment procedures seem to be entirely the opposite of Willams Zophin. This company contacted me having discovered my resume on the web, asked me to complete an application form, subsequently gave me a 30 minute telephone interview before asking me to take an on-line IQ type test, then asking me to write a book review of my (fictitious) autobiography. How many more stages will there be to this selection process if we presume I pass this stage? I don’t know, but I have to say it is the most rigorous selection process I’ve ever been through!

So, back to waiting for that first chemo infusion. It occurs to me that all over the world tonight there will be people in the situation in which I found myself twelve months ago. If any one of those people is reading this I would like to say to them that they may as well know they are probably in for a rough ride, but it is one which is made more bearable by a good medical team and the love and support of family and friends. You will make many discoveries along the journey, finding support from people from whom you wouldn’t expect to receive it, but also discovering that some people you thought you could rely upon absolutely just seem to fade away. You will find people who ask inane questions and others who talk to you with empathy and knowledge. My advice would be to join the blogging community, it’s a wonderful source of support. Whether you are one of those people just starting out on the chemo-trail, or are already travelling the route I wish you well on your journey. To those whose blogs have helped to sustain me during my own journey along the chemo-trail, especially my long-suffering wife, I say a very appreciative thank you.

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Filed under Cancer, chemo, chemotherapy, Dr Jason Tache, Job Search

Morale and Research

It’s now some five months since my last dose of chemotherapy and my body and brain are definitely starting to show signs of improvement. For the past couple of weeks my nails have been very fragile and have flaked off around the edges, something they didn’t do during chemo, so I’m convincing myself that this is a consequence of the chemo having worked its way through to my extremities. My hair is pretty much back to where it was before chemo, though, strangely, before chemo it was grey shading to white whereas now it is dark brown though my beard continues to be grey shading to white. Sadly it hasn’t come back any thicker than it was before the chemo. My concentration levels are definitely improving but concentrating hard for a lengthy period does take it out of me. Last week I went for an interview which required me to take computer tests of my abilities in Microsoft Word and Excel. Three years ago I was teaching exactly the kind of things I was being tested on, but during the tests I struggled with fatigue. I spent the week after that working my way through Microsoft’s on-line training and re-took the tests this week with much improved results. The next day I was quite tired and I do wonder how I will deal with a full day’s work when I do get a job. Early nights and weekend lie-ins might be the only way! In the meantime I’m going through the daily grind of job searching: searching emails that bring me literally hundreds of job openings, sorting through them as I try to spot the ones where I can angle my skills, experience and qualifications to make an impact from those where I don’t have a prayer, and then adapting my resume and completing on-line applications. After that it’s a case of doing more internet research to try and find something else and then going through the same process. It is a grind. Enthusiasm wanes. Energy wanes. The search goes on.

On my travels around the web reading about chemo, the consequences of chemo and alternatives to chemo I came across a lot of stuff which I thought might or might not be accurate. The general rule of thumb in these cases is to have a look at the source and if the source seems reputable then I usually concluded that the “science” behind the article might well be OK as well. I’m sure that most people reading this will have read similar articles at some point. Statements such as, “eat this fruit/vegetable as it kills cancer cells”, “eat lots of vegetables as they cure cancer”, “avoid stress as it causes cancer”, “alternative therapies cure cancer”, and so on, and so on, and so on. I was pleased therefore to read this blog from Cancer Research UK this week which puts these things into perspective. Dealing with cancer is tough enough, both for those who have it and their families and friends, without being fed crap by the press. As Cancer Research UK says in the article, it is important to eat a balanced diet which includes fruit and vegetables, but on their own they won’t kill the cancer cells.

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Filed under Cancer, cancer research, Cancer Research UK, cancer treatment, chemo, chemotherapy, Job Search

Recovery from fatigue and job hunting

You may recall that a few weeks ago I was really pleased that I was able to do an hour or so’s exercise using the Wii Fit. Well, that stopped perhaps four weeks ago when I just seemed to run out of energy, to feel lethargic, and, to be honest, I really wasn’t motivated. I mean the Wii is OK but it’s essentially something you do on your own isn’t it – well that’s my excuse anyway! Maybe the fatigue is because I’ve been spending hours on-line searching for jobs. I find a lot that I think I can do and then comes the dreaded phrase, “x years experience”. Then it’s on to the next job. Usually I can get out an application for at least one job a day, often two and sometimes three, but they do take time. All the on-line applications seem to want every job and qualification listing and this can take a long time and requires a lot of post-chemo-brain concentration which is far more tiring than before I started the chemo. It is really frustrating doing job applications in this way. On Wednesday I started an application for a job with T-Mobile which took a while because of all the jobs/qualification data, but that’s fair enough if they want it they want it. Then came the “filter,” the on-line activity to see whether I understand enough not to shout at customers etc. So I started working my way through the screens and then up popped a message to tell me that the testing site was only configured to work with Internet Explorer 7. As I was using Chrome I was reasonably confident that it would be compatible but, hey, you don’t want to blow your one and only chance to complete the test by having the browser crash on you do you, and the instructions were very insistent that I shouldn’t exit the test part-way through, and neither should I close the browser part-way through, so it was a case of starting over again using Internet Explorer. That was where the problems started. I just couldn’t make any progress. I don’t mean I am so dense that I couldn’t answer the questions, but I just couldn’t get anything to happen on screen. Naturally, being a man, I wasn’t prepared to phone the tech help line until I’d failed to achieve success in every way I could think of – that took about 30 or 40 minutes I guess – you can imagine how far out of the way I could have driven had I been in a car and adopted that strategy! So, a quick call to tech support revealed that they were having a problem and they were also having a problem resolving the problem they were having; this meant come back tomorrow. I did. I went back on-line last night, remembering to use Internet Explorer, and worked my way steadily through all the scenarios that were presented to me. I even started to work my way through the pair-statement section (which I personally hate with an intensity which I cannot describe), and that was when I discovered that Windows had updated itself and was now closing my computer. OK, I admit I was so engrossed in playing T-Mobile’s “shall we employ him” game that I failed to see the Microsoft warning that this was about to happen, but knowing that really didn’t make me feel any better. Now, my computer was a better than average one when I bought it about five years ago, but since then I’ve loaded it with programs and, accordingly, it creaks a bit and runs quite slowly when powering down and re-booting so I watched the latest Big Bang Theory on t.v. and then went back and managed to complete the application form.

Today I’ve felt much healthier and have spent around one and a half hours walking to various places such as the Post Office. I’m not really sure why Americans send mail, and mail things to one another and yet use the US Postal Service and its network of Post Offices rather than using the US Mail Service and its network of Mail Offices. I find these word and phrase evolutions from British English to be really interesting. I know, I’m really sad aren’t I! After all today’s exercise I expect to feel the effects in my legs tomorrow as I could definitely feel the muscles getting to the point where they were seriously complaining about five minutes before I got home. I knew that recovery from chemo would take quite a long time but expected to be OK by now, but, still, I was poisoning my body with the ABVD  for six months and it’s not quite four months since I stopped doing so. I suppose I should expect a correlation of at least 1 to 1. The progress is upwards and that’s the important thing. I’m even having to comb my hair these days! I might even need my first haircut in over a year within the next month!

Yesterday I also went to a jobs fair. It was horrendously busy and, for the first time since coming to Florida I had to park the car on the street as there just wasn’t enough parking off-road! My first attempt at parking left me pretty close to a fire hydrant and I was pretty sure there is some legislation saying I shouldn’t do that, so it was off to find a different spot and walk to the hotel where the fair was being held. I signed in and was given a flyer which included a plan of the exhibitors and a list to show who was where. Naturally it showed all the stands but not all the names. From my point of view it was beginning to look like a waste of time with only low-pay part-time work for the most part, or the staff simply gave out pieces of paper saying apply on-line at this web-site, but then I was approached by a man in a suit. He asked  if I had a resume. Naturally I had one. I’d spent the previous evening printing out, squaring-off and stapling 20 of them. I passed one to him and he quickly saw that I was from England. He said he thought I ought to talk to his colleague as I was over-qualified for the jobs on offer at the trade-stand. The second man in a suit arrived and told me he had married into a British family, and then we began to talk about the possibility of employment: he was pretty enthusiastic while pointing out that I would need to obtain a license before I could do the job he thought I’d be appropriate for, and then gave me his contact details with instructions to phone, which I will do on Monday.

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Filed under ABVD, Cancer, cancer treatment, chemo, chemotherapy, fatigue, Job Search

Job Search

It’s now three and a bit months since I finished chemo, my hair is growing back pretty well and my stamina has been on the increase so it seemed like it was time to start looking for employment – my first employment since moving to the US.

Despite the woe-sayers on t.v. there are lots of jobs out there, many of them are part-time, many are temporary and many are poorly paid. After some seven years of sustaining a long-distance relationship do I really want to take a contract to work on the other side of America when the contract is for only six months? I don’t think that idea would go down very well with my wife even if I were to consider it. Anyway I have been applying for jobs but I’m finding it to be a very tiring process. After all over the past 10 months I’ve rarely concentrated on anything for more than, say, 15 to 20 minutes and here I am now wading through, literally, hundreds of job adverts each day, checking some out and discounting the overwhelming majority. I even apply for some: in the past week I think I have put in about ten applications, but it is tiring. I also find it frustrating at times. For instance yesterday I completed an application to work at a bank. I started filling out the on-line form which informed me that I would be expected to upload my resume as part of the application, so, naturally, I overhauled my somewhat complicated resume to angle it towards this particular post and I guess that probably took something over an hour. Having done the overhaul and uploaded the resume I continued with the on-line application only to discover that they wanted all the information which I’d already included in my resume! Anyway, I overcame my frustrations and continued with the application to discover at the end of the application that there was an on-line test I would need to take which would probably take between 45 and 60 minutes. Lovely! I reckon that this one job application probably took something over 3 hours to complete in total and it’s not even for a well-paid job. Despite spreading out the process I was left very drained simply from having to concentrate and I do wonder how I will perform in a job situation. On the plus side the more of these applications I do the more I develop my levels of concentration so the better I should be when push comes to shove and even if I do get called for an interview for one of the jobs it’s unlikely to happen for at least another couple of weeks and by then I should be further down the road to recovery shouldn’t I?

There’s clearly a lot more to getting over cancer and chemo than simply stopping the chemo and regenerating hair!

This weekend Bill Penzer is hosting a party for those of us referred to in his book which I mentioned a while ago and which I understand is now available in shops and via Amazon. I’m really looking forward to meeting Bill having spoken to him several times by phone. I wonder whether he’s as excited at the prospect of meeting me!

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Filed under Bill Penzer, Cancer, chemo, chemotherapy, Job Search