First Quarter Earnings and Learnings

Dear Shareholders: Mr. Lucker’s first quarter 2015 did not live up to the high expectations expressed as 2014 drew to a close, due primarily to his unexpected layoff on January fifth. This occurrence necessitated a quick retooling and1Qgraph reshuffling of prospects and potentials, and a reallocation of resources, including, but not limited to, time, resourcefulness, resumes and minimal pandering in various guises.

Mr. L FQ 2015 could be summed up as a bull market: when you are in a job search, plenty of it is flung at you in various forms verbal and electronic, and human nature being what it is, you also end up shoveling some of your own.

Though the Midwestern sensibility I was raised with sees that aspect of the process as nothing more than good preparation of soil to make it suitable for the sowing and reaping of your next career step.

How am I doing so far?Too Big To fail

It has been an odd start to the year for me not because of the job search (which is a process I actually enjoy and used to train people in) but because of it’s totally unexpected nature and that fact that finding teaching gigs in the middle of a school year is neither the norm nor the ideal. Unlike my previous professional incarnations in the year-round corporate world, being an unemployed teacher at mid-year is a whole different ballgame; most of the available positions are open for less than ideal reasons.

The job I have at present teaching English and TABE (pre-GED, vocational related) test prep is a bit more corporate in nature, being at a year-round vocational training program, and has its own set of unique attributes in terms of student mindset and methodology. Maybe it is more a pathology. On any given day…

There were not a lot of reasonable teaching prospects available throughout most of the winter, but with my varied background and array of experience, I did have other options to explore; options that made sense to me, but required some convincing of others. Broadening my search to more than just the classroom steered me into a whole different set of job search websites and parameters than I have been used to dealing with the last few years.

The byproduct of this was triggering an algorithm avalanche of oddities to my email inbox – along with the usual flood of requests to interview for sales positions, ostensibly based on ‘the perfect fit’ my resume seemed to be for their particular product.

I really love this combination, T.P. and private airtravel, which tends to crop up two, three times a week:

tpandorjet highlighted

Affordable. Yep.

As has been the case since I was teaching Internet job search a decade ago, insurance companies of all ilk are still trying to suck up anyone and everyone in their inimitable, voracious ways. There were days when I was receiving two and three requests to interview with different managers of the same companies.

Every time I get one of those insurance, investment, or real estate company queries all I can hear in my head is Charlton Heston crying out, “Soylent green is people!!!”

Full disclosure time: as a former job search trainer who still dabbles in the field and writes the occasional piece for a job seeker newsletter, I tend to come at the whole process of job search with a more discerning, questioning, at times cynical, eye.

Man, there is some weird stuff coming my way.

One of the biggest head-scratchers was a posting for a ‘Secondary English Teacher’ (Aha! said I, initially) that began with this:

Actively monitor students during all duties which include, but are not limited to bus, morning, lunch, dismissal, after school and class transitions
Report and sign in on time daily
Have current lesson objective, current lesson agenda, positive message and all other required information clearly posted
Maintain professionalism at all times. This includes, but is not limited to:
o Professionalism in attire (no flip-flops. Attire determined inappropriate by admin will be addressed individually)
o Discussions/conferences involving or concerning students and parents are to be conducted in an office or conference room; not in hallway or front office

About the only thing about this one that screamed ‘secondary’ to me was that fact that the first reference to what the school Socrateswas looking for in terms of the classroom was actually on page two of the posting. Even then, the lead was the incredibly vague ‘create engaging lessons.’

‘Report and sign in daily and no flip-flops’ seems like a professional no-brainer to me, but then again…this IS New Orleans. Maybe they would let me wear leather sandals on Socratic circle days…

Not to be outdone in the ‘hey, potential employee guy’ oddities department was the application for a local temp service I thought I might have to utilize as a stop-gap.

I have filled out a lot of job applications throughout the years – both in New Orleans and in Twin Cities area, where I temped for over fifteen years. I have never encountered a lengthy series of questions like these rather, um POINTED inquiries:

  • drugusefriendsHow would your friends describe your current use of illegal, non-prescription drugs?
  • If someone disrespects you, how likely is it that you would hit that person?
  • How often do you report for work in a condition where you feel your work performance may be hurt by alcohol?
  • In the past two years, how often have you physically had to hurt a co-worker to get him/her to leave you alone?

As charming as the actual questions were, the drop-down menu answer choices were reasonably balanced, I thought. For example, I could describe my friends describing my use of illegal drugs with ‘out of control’ ‘a little out of control, but still manageable’ ‘recreational use only’ and ‘does not use.’ I breathed a sigh of relief at that last option, knowing I would be safe for at least one more question.

“If someone disrespects you, how likely is it that you would hit that person?” gave me interesting options: ‘I definitely would’ ‘I probably would’ ‘I probably would not’ and ‘I definitely would not.’  No vacillating on that one, by golly.

Exhibit ‘P’

Hands down, my favorite question and option choices was, ‘If you had to take a urinalysis (urine test, drug test) for illegal drugs today, do you think you would pass the test?

As an English teacher, I am reading this question and thinking are they asking if I would actually pass the test by having drugs in my system. Whoever wrote this questionnaire could use one of my handy-dandy lessons in inference. The answer choices (see exhibit P, right)  were the mundane ‘I would definitely not pass the test’ “I might not pass the test due to recreational drug use’ and the absolutely priceless ‘If I did not pass the test today, I would later in the week.’

I think this particular answer is meant to assess just how high (pun intended) your level of determination for the job is. ‘If I did not pass the test today, I would later in the week.’  A little cramming the night before, and badda-BOOM! Test passed.

One question asked specifically about ‘the category that best describes your current use of meth’ that included the wonderfully oxymoronic option ‘Heavy,but controlled.’   Heavy stuff, man.  And like the teacher posting above, the actual skills/abilities (a.k.a important stuff) was secondary.

Not that all the questions dealt with substances: they also asked me ‘In the past two years, how often have you physically had to hurt a co-worker to get him/her to leave you alone?’ and ‘If someone disrespects you, how likely is it that you would hit that person?” 

I left the whole mess mid-application.

Amongst the daily insurance/investment/sales inquiries (‘reviewing your C.V. we believe you to be a perfect fit for our autopsy assistant - Copycompany’) I did get something a bit more, ummm…targeted. Just not (in a way I could grasp) to my skill set and/or resume: Autopsy Assistant.

Curiously, the requirements for the position are ‘High School Diploma or equivalent’ with ‘1 – 3 years experience is preferred.’ Always love the innocuous ‘preferred’ in this setting, because it leads to ‘knowledge of standard autopsy techniques and procedures required.

Near as I can figure, the algorithm gods tapped me for this one because of a Marty Feldman comment I had made on a friend’s Facebook post the previous day.

Now, D.O.A or don’t I apply for this opportunity

So, rolling on into the second quarter of the year, the Mark-et has stabilized, so to speak. Back working in a vocational setting is different, and presents its own challenges – not the least of which is dealing with the same types of students with the exact same issues I have had at the high school level. Only many of these kids believe, since they have a high school diploma in hand and are in a vocational program, that they don’t need to be in a classroom trying to improve their reading proficiency.

Their test scores and their demonstrated abilities in my classroom say otherwise.

For now, things are on the upswing for the second quarter. Keeping things on an even keel is starting to give way to more of an upswing in all aspects of the process. I am planealready seeing a higher degree of orders, and anticipate a definite uptick in sales and production, along with a much stronger R.O.I.

If not, then I may just have to delve into my Spam folder, rent a private jet, and get the heck on out of here. I just hope I remember to bring those coupons I printed out.


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