My unemployment check arrived a few days late with an automatic 13-week extension of benefits. I’ll be celebrating my one year anniversary of being laid off from my desktop support job in three weeks. I’m starting to go stir crazy from being at home. I told a recruiter to submit my resume for a position that pays $5 per hour less than what I was making at my last job. While I’m not thrilled to be making only an extra $500 per month above my current budget if I got that job, recruiters look at you funny if you been out of work for more than a year. Unlike the last time I took a year off from work, I don’t have my mother’s death from breast cancer and finishing school as an understandable reason.
I recently spoke to a recruiter who thought I sent him an outdated resume because my last job listed was in February 2009. I told him that’s correct and he wanted to know what was wrong with me. That was a very awkward conversation. Although I had talked to three or four recruiters a week and had three or four interviews per month, the recruiter didn’t understand why I haven’t gotten a job yet. I then had to explain that the economy is in the toilet, Silicon Valley has a 12% unemployment rate, and for every job I interviewed for that were at least five better qualified candidates being considered. (A survey by JuJu reported that San Jose is second easiest place to get a job with 2.5 people per advertised job, which suggest to me that someone was munching on magic mushrooms while crunching the numbers.) When recruiters start to forget why the economy is in the toilet like clueless Wall Street bankers, that’s something to worry about.
When the recruiter asked what I did with my free time, I told him that I was working on my novel. From the sound of his voice, I think he drew a negative conclusion that I was a basket case and quickly ended the call. With eight short stories, one essay and one poem accepted for publication, I’m not going to hide the fact that I’m a writer. That’s my real job even though rejection slips and contribution copies doesn’t pay the bills. My other job is supposed to pay the bills. Unlike a lot of other unemployed workers, I’m not writing unemployment lit. If I said “ceramics” instead of “writing,” that might’ve been a safer answer. Everyone understands ceramics. Some people regard writing as a form of mental masturbation.
Surprisingly, no recruiter has mentioned technical writing as a job. I’ll never be a technical writer since that will suck the life out of being a fiction writer when I’m not at work. When I spent six years as a video game tester, I stopped playing video games at home. When I worked at The Old Spaghetti Factory for three years and had spaghetti for dinner every night, I didn’t eat spaghetti for the next seven years. Which is why I like desktop or help desk support jobs since it doesn’t infringe on my personal life. Some recruiters don’t understand why I won’t work more than 40 hours a week to make bucket loads of money.
My novel is one reason why I want to get back into a job. I wrote two-third of a 700-page rough draft behind the steering wheel of my car during my one-hour lunch breaks. When you have a regular spot at the same time everyday for writing, you can get a lot of stuff done. I’m now revising four chapters per week for the second draft. Having the discipline that comes from being behind the steering wheel would be a great help. My wide open schedule from being unemployed doesn’t make that discipline any easier. As much as I love to write, revising can be a serious grind sometimes. The one thing I’m not trying to do is finish, shop and sell my novel before my unemployment benefits run out for good. The odds are long and I don’t like the idea of being a starving artist.
I started studying for the Apple Certified Support Professional (ACSP) to improve my job prospects. I also picked up “C: All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies” by Dan Gookin to refresh my programming skills. I took C++ for object-oriented programming in college but I never mastered the language. PHP is the only language I continued to use after college for my website. After I familiarize myself with C, I plan to study Objective-C (a programming language for the Mac that derived from C and influenced bySmalltalk) and iPhone development. Combining an ACSP with Mac programming should open up many more job opportunities, especially if I end up at Apple.
Now I don’t plan on developing iPhone applications (not yet because Apple requires a $99 per year fee for their developer program), which is a popular cottage industry for unemployed Silicon Valley workers. I didn’t have the resources to get in early on the iPhone apps craze a few years ago. With Apple rumored to be announcing a new tablet computer and releasing iPhone 4.0 SDK next week, I’m waiting to see what the new features are to determine if I want to develop software for that platform.
What I’m looking for is niche potential to develop something that no one else has done before and/or very unique (e.g., Hawk Sketchbook #1 by the artist of AppleGeeks that just came out). My Joomla! modules were developed because no one else had a module to pull pictures from a Twitter-based picture sharing website. If you search for TwitPic, TwitGoo or TweetPhoto on theJoomla! Extensions Directory, the only photo sharing extensions you will find are mine. I’m sensing an opportunity to expand my programming portfolio.
When you’re unemployed, sometimes the best opportunities are the ones you make.
Updated 2010/01/22 @ 11:30AM – Silicon Valley now has an unemployment rate of 11.5 percent for December 2009. The JuJu survery of 2.5 people per advertised job for San Jose is a mushroom-inspired fantasy.