Sunday, January 11, 2009

How Desperate Do I Need to Be?

When I file my weekly unemployment claim with the State of Arizona's Department of Economic Services, the first screen of questions looks something like this:

Continued claims are currently being accepted for the week ending Saturday 1/10/2009. All questions pertain to that week.

Were you able to work and available for work each regular workday between 1/4/2009 and 1/10/2009?

Did you look for work between 1/4/2009 and 1/10/2009?

Did you refuse any job offer or referral to work between 1/4/2009 and 1/10/2009?

Did you work or earn any money between 1/4/2009 and 1/10/2009 even though you may not have received payment at this time?

Now, I've certainly been able and available to work all this time, I've certainly looked for work each week, I haven't turned down any job offers, and I haven't earned any money, not even a few bucks for political buttons I was supposed to make for someone and never did. But overthinker that I am, that "referral to work" thing always give me pause. What if someone said, "my brother can get you in at McDonald's for minimum wage," and I said no to the referral? Would that make me ineligible for unemployment compensation? I think about these things sometimes. Because the fact is, I'd have to be more desperate than I am now to go looking for a minimum wage job. It really should be possible for a degreed, experienced accountant to find something better than that. Still, I have only ten weeks of unemployment left, so something had better happen soon!

So far in 2009, things do seem to be picking up. I had a job interview yesterday, and I think it went well, and while I might start below my previous salary it wouldn't be a really big cut. There have been other recent nibbles as well, one of which I'm quite excited about if it comes through.

But this question of how strictly one should interpret the job offer question came up yesterday, not as an actual situation but as a potential one. I happened to speak to one of my recruiters about one of my more protracted job nibbles, and my recruiter hinted that this particular potential employer might have something illegal or unethical going on. I don't know what specifically may be happening, if anything, but I was suddenly very glad I never heard back from that company. How would the computerized unemployment form feel if it knew I lied to it about turning down a job, if the alternative was to be an accessory to some kind of financial malfeasance?

And there was this other case, too, in which I was angry and disappointed about the way in which a job I thought was pretty much a done deal suddenly fell through, and I later received a rather insulting form letter from HR saying I was not qualified to be an accountant. It turns out that the nice, competent CFO who interviewed me was himself fired in some kind of internal political struggle. So again I'm grateful that that particular job fell through. But what if I'd been hired and then purged? Or hired and then had to watch my boss get fired for no good reason? Who needs that kind of pointless grief?

So maybe I wasn't meant to work for either of those companies. Maybe the right job is the one I interviewed for yesterday, or some other job that's still a nibble or hasn't yet emerged. Whatever it is, I hope to get settled into it soon.

Because really, I'd hate to go back to working at McDonald's. I didn't like that the first time, back in 1979.



Jama said...

Times are bad here too, too many retrenchments going on now. At every job fair, there's simply too many job seekers than jobs offered! Hope you get some good news soon.

fdtate said...

While I admire your honesty and thoughtfulness over your unemployment claim, I think that you're over-thinking the whole matter. Just check "no," pass Go and collect $200 or whatever the amount of the weekly check. If Arizona is anything like what's going on here, unemployment claims are through the roof and you've already expended much more thought on it than anyone else, and all the agency is doing is moving paperwork around.

Compare and contrast that to applying for a federal bailout. Mother Jones decided that the whole process of filling out a TARP application only takes 27 minutes, and that includes explaining the project to their CFO. They've got a small list of things that take longer. On their list: applying for NY unemployment benefits takes 30 minutes.