Feb 23, 2010

Off to My First Job Interview Since Being Laid Off

While I don't like to put all of my eggs in one basket, and surely have some small freelance gigs and the unemployment to keep me going, this job is the first "real" gig that is more than just a hope, so I want to at least nail the interview. I'm tired and a little nervous. I'll get more nervous when I get on the train and get to their corporate office in the city.

I'm not really nervous about the interview itself, just the chance that I say or do something embarrassing in the process of meeting with the four people. I've only been on one other serious interview before with more than one person, and that was for my last job. But that was for a 1099 contract role for 20 hours a week at the time, so it didn't feel as huge, and it was also for a startup so it was very laid back as far as interviews go.

This, however, is going to be as corporate of an interview as the west coast gets. I'm putting on my skirt-suit that I purchased last week at Express, and likely straightening my hair soon, to look as polished as possible, while not losing myself in my clothes entirely. I'm wearing a fairly bright blue shirt, but it works with the grey suit, I hope. They're not that corporate, it's a smallish team of mostly engineers and a few business folks.

On top of everything, I recently found out that this job is a "W2 Contract" position which means I'd basically be in a temporary position without the benefits of full-time (no paid vacation, sick days, benefits) even though I'd be W2 so I wouldn't have the flexibility of an independent contractor (have to work at the office 9-5:30 every week day.) It's definitely better than being unemployed and for such a big, known company it would probably be worth it for a year or so at least -- I can always take time off, I just won't get paid for it. And if something better comes along with benefits, no one could really fault me for leaving. I think the whole W2 thing is designed so you can leave easier as well. I'm not really thinking about that much now, I'm more thinking about how I have to nail this interview. I'd at least like to have one job offer to consider and take in the next few weeks, and this is looking like the only real potential to fulfill that goal.


Feb 19, 2010

More Thoughts on Job Hunting, The Lay Off, Life

Here I am, at a major cross roads in my life. One path ahead of me, however difficult to get a solid footing on, is one that leads to a six-figure career, possibly as soon as I sign on the dotted line of my next full-time contract. This road considers my employment history in an area that's highly desired right now yet not clearly understood, one that important and big companies are seeking to hire expertise in that I now have, if not the knowledge, the employment history to back up. At least more than I did before my last job when my entire employment history was 1.5 years as a journalist, which only got me a foot in the door at some PR firms for a very entry-level position.

The other road, however, is one even more unclear. It's one filled with $15 per hour jobs sans health insurance, part-time and/or contract work, minimally paid internships, graduate school, going back to the start. And it seems like such a waste of the opportunity I have to make something really "good" come from this layoff (at least in terms of my bank account and professional growth) to jump into an entirely different field that may lead me to a spot with the same "I'm not meant to be here" surroundings on a different path, just two years from now.

There are some opportunities in the first version of this scenerio. Well, to be honest, right now there is one possibility, but others may exist, especially if I'm willing to move. I don't know if it's really a six-figure job, but I assume I'll make at least what I made at my last gig ($60k) and likely more because it's for a bigger company with a lot more responsibility. There's a chance they expect to pay $90k or more. I don't know. I'm in the process of interviewing for the position. It sounds like an amazing opportunity. But I'm terrified of failing. I'm scared of failing when the stakes are higher. I'm scared of not knowing what to do, how to make up the tasks of the job, set measurable goals, and meet or exceed them. Sometimes results related to this role are difficult to quantify, but without the numbers success means nothing in these types of companies. So what do I do?

It is a luxury to get to "choose" but... in reality, I haven't secured a job offer yet for #1 and I've sent out hundreds of resumes in the last three weeks, only to receive a few "you don't have what we're looking for" or to just be ignored. I'm onto the second interview stage with the "really good opportunity" job but that means very little other than I have a shot at this gig. I'll get to interview in person instead of over the phone. They'll decide if they like me. I'll decide if I think I can really do this job without falling on my face.

In the meantime, I daydream about things I'd really love to do. Design. User research. Product management. Heck, maybe I'd even enjoy.... teaching? Retail? Being a waitress (I have a friend who loves it.) I don't know. I'm an INTP. I like solving problems. I like helping people. I do well with the big picture, but not so much the details. I know what type of job I want to have (design research) but I don't have the experience or skills for that type of job. My resume is schizophrenic. I don't want to get my hopes up about the opportunity because it may not be right for me. Or I might not get it. And beyond this, I haven't had any other biters on potential employment. So it's difficult to compare this opportunity to another, since there currently isn't another.


To COBRA or Not to COBRA

My mom would say get your ass on COBRA asap, but she doesn't understand the financial implications of COBRA healthcare costs when you're unemployed.

Last time I had the opportunity to go on COBRA after losing a job, I had been on a PPO plan (a really good one) so I was looking at $405 a month for continued healthcare coverage (not counting all the extra copays and such I'd actually have to spend if I ever went to a doctor.) I denied my COBRA coverage -- that time I didn't even have unemployment since I was talked into "resigning" my a boss who was otherwise going to fire me (I just didn't have the chops to be a full-time journalist-blogger, go figure) so COBRA coverage, which cost half my rent, wasn't much of an option. At the time I also thought I'd be able to find cheaper high-deductible insurance for just-in-case problems for less. And soon I discovered that my health history of having irregular periods and treatment for depression disqualified me from being able to get any sort of health coverage without lying on my application. So eventually I lied and spent $150 a month on healthcare with a $5000 deductible which could be revoked at any time if they found out that my periods were in fact irregular or that I sought treatment for being depressed. Which made me EVEN MORE depressed.

This time, I thought maybe since I was in a high-deductible plan at work my COBRA coverage wouldn't be as expensive. It was a decent plan, but only due to my company putting in an extra $150 a month into our HSA accounts. So the plan, which has a $2000 deductible, wasn't a bad deal. Now, on COBRA, it's going to cost me about $300 a month to stick with this plan. So that's an extra $3600 per year which... only covers freak accidents that would otherwise cost my life savings. Worth it? Not so sure. Possibly. Especially since I won't be able to get other, more affordable coverage which most people would recommend to a girl in her 20s. Because my periods are irregular. And I'm sad on occasion.

I wish Obama could get his act together on healthcare. I'm not sure what a person like me should have to pay for healthcare, but these costs just seem prohibitively high. More so, I feel it is unfair for the health care system to kick me out just because my ovaries are not perfect and I actually sought help for my depression so I could get back to being a productive member of society. I learned my lesson then to NEVER pay for mental health care using health insurance (even if the booklet they send out makes you think it's a good idea.) At least with an HSA plan it really doesn't matter a whole lot if you pay through insurance because ultimately you can use your HSA money for therapy, and if you pay with insurance you'll basically have to pay the whole fee anyway, it will just go on record. It may cost a little less since the few therapists who take insurance these days are forced to charge a fee which is lower than what they'd want to charge, but then you're also extremely limited to which therapists you can see. So for now I am seeing a woman who is an intern in a psych program who is letting me see her for $20 a session. I don't think she's the best therapist ever, but right now, having someone to talk to weekly so I don't jump of a bridge is important, and I can afford $80 a month for that. $300 a month for basically nothing but insurance is a little hard to shell out when after taxes your unemployment income is maybe $1500 a month. If I ever get the unemployment income, I'm still working on figuring out if I'm eligible, etc.

This all limits the otherwise decent option of seeking out contract work. I know a few people were angry at me at my post where I asked... should I do contract jobs while getting unemployment (since doing work lessens your unemployment pay) but in reality you'd make more doing NOTHING because contract jobs require you to pay 15.3% more in taxes just because you're considered self-employed. Unemployment pay, as far as I know, doesn't require you to pay the extra 15.3%. I agree that I should not be lazy and mooch off the government, but it seems silly to do work to make less then I'd make by instead spending my time job hunting and even teaching myself new skills. And my current contract job is not going to lead to a full-time anything, it's just a freelance blogging gig where I can make up to $500 a month, I've been doing it for over a year now, and it was nice extra income when I had a job, but now it's the question of doing that and making less than I would on unemployment or just going the unemployment route. And I'm not sure what to do...

For now, I need to figure out if I'm going to go COBRA or without healthcare again. What do you think I should do?


Feb 15, 2010

Can't Sleep Tonight

It's been about two weeks since I've lost my job, which may be why I'm starting to slip into a state of freaked out / depression over the entire situation. It's not that I'm depressed over losing the position, more so I'm terrified of how long it will take me to find something new. My experience is just so all over the map, with tasks completed that offer no means of quantifying the results.

So I've been spending the last 3 hours sending out cover letters and resumes to positions that seem remotely interesting. I'm not at the point yet where I'll just apply for anything, though soon that point will come. And even then there's plenty reason to believe I won't get interviews or hired.

Worst case scenerio, I guess, is I have 6 months unemployment then live cheaply and use my emergency fund to last the rest of 2010 / 2011, all while applying for grad school and hopefully getting in with loans to support me through the coming two years. After that, maybe the job market will look up, or maybe I'll actually be qualified for a job I want to do.

In the meantime, I'll continue to freak out about this lacking a job situation.


Feb 11, 2010

Understanding Unemployment

Well, here's a new one for me. I filed for unemployment this month and have since gotten three forms in the mail to fill out and send back. I'm trying to sort out what it all means. Apparently, I can get $450 per week in unemployment insurance, or $1800 per month. That's a lot for not working at all, I must say, even though it's not close to what I was making prior to losing my job.

What I'm trying to understand now is how freelancing effects unemployment wage. It seems silly to bother freelancing if the government will just deduct your freelance income from unemployment (unless it happens to be more than your monthly paycheck.) Right? The thing is, right now I'm owed about $1000 for freelance work I completed. $450 for one gig, $50 for another, $475 for another. I guess I should have filed my invoices more timely, but I didn't EXPECT to get laid off. Who does? Well, I felt it coming, but I thought I had one more month to get everything in order.

Regardless, my one freelancing job still gives me the potential of making $500 a month. I don't "need" to file my invoice each month as far as I know, I've never been asked for my invoice and have often put a few months together when I didn't have time to send in a detailed invoice any one month. But then it will look like I've made $1000 or $1500 in a given month, which will surely effect my unemployment wages. Would it be better to just stop working freelance at this time? It would be a bummer to give up my $500/month gig. Or should I just put off filing my invoice until I have an actual job again?

Does anyone have any experience with this?


Feb 1, 2010

Back to the Start: I got laid off.

After two-and-a-half years at one company, my tenure comes to an end. My boss met with me this morning and told me that due to restructuring, I have to be let go. I pretty much expected that and was surprised I lasted so long. What I didn't expect was how nice he was in terminating my employment... and how bad he felt about it. Which didn't really make me feel "good," but it was nice to know that I am leaving on the best possible terms.

So much for my grand plan to save $20,000 this year. I'll be lucky if I can break even. More importantly, I need to figure out what on earth to do next. I've got some serious thinking to do. Lucky me, I have all the me time in the world to think about it. I'd really like to not just jump into anything... and that may be tempting... so hopefully I can land on my feet in the end, and soon.

In the meantime I'm getting one month's severance (definitely didn't expect that), two month's health insurance, and most importantly of all, positive references for the future. I can get through this, I just want to make the right choice for the coming months and years... and I have no idea (yet) what that will be.