Would You Like to Work for Free?

It’s been a while since I posted anything on this blog, so I’ll start with an update on my economic situation.

I have a job. It’s a minimum wage job, and it was supposed to be temporary, but they’ve kept me on longer than any other temporary employees. However, they still can’t give me an answer on whether or not they’re gonna keep me on on a more permanent basis. To top it off, they’ve steadily been decreasing my hours at work. When I started, I averaged around twenty-five hours a week or so – a steady, part-time gig. There was even a week where I got up to forty hours. Last week, I only worked eight hours. This week, I’ve got one four-hour shift.

So, naturally, I’ve been applying to other jobs. So far, not many have been calling me back. One did a few weeks ago, though, and eventually I was able to schedule an interview. It was for a tutoring position at a local community college. They pay rate was good, just under fifteen dollars an hour, and it would be part-time. I felt that I was pretty qualified for the position, as well. I went to the interview and talked with the professor for a good long while. I felt a represented myself well.

Today I received an email saying that the college is looking for someone with more experience tutoring. Normally, such an email would end there. However, the professor took the time to tell me that she knows how hard it is to get experience in the current job market, and so she also extended and offer to me to do some volunteer tutoring. Essentially, I would be doing the job that I applied for, but for free, with the possibility of eventually being hired being dangled in front of me like a carrot the entire time.

I know someone in a similar situation. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Parks and Recreation management, and has been volunteering with the Cleveland Metroparks for years, trying to get his foot in the door there so that he can get an actual, salaried position. It’s never happened. I’m also reminded of all the people I see who ask my artist friends to draw something for them for free or for exposure. Again, the chance of that exposure translating into more paid work is being used like a carrot in front of a donkey to try and get them to work for free.

This seems to be a perfectly acceptable tactic in today’s society, and it boggles my mind how that can even be. Proponents of capitalism say that workers should be paid exactly what their labor is worth. But so often that doesn’t happen, and the capitalists shrug and say “if you’re willing to work for it, it must be enough” and “if you don’t like it, work somewhere else.” But I’ve looked everywhere for paying work and it’s either paying shit or you can’t get your foot in the door. So eventually you are forced to compromise and give someone your work for less than what it’s worth just on the off-chance that doing so can build your resume enough that you get a better job. And I just don’t think that’s fair.

P.S. – To clarify, I’m not ragging on the concept of volunteer work. If you have some extra time in your schedule and you want to help out a charity or community fixture such as a library, that’s perfectly acceptable. I’m upset about the idea of free labor being a lead-in for paying work. I feel it’s a disingenuous, slimy cop out.

Adventures in Microfiction

Hey Internet! Long time no see! How have you been? I’ve been great. And by “great,” I mean, it depends. Some days I’m relatively OK. On others, I have to fight to get myself out of bed at all. My mood has been suffering lately, and if you guess my employment situation had something to do with it, you’d be correct.

When I last wrote on this blog, I had just secured a temporary position as a bookseller in a local community college bookstore. I was originally hired just to help out with the fall rush, but I worked really hard and was eager to please my employers because I thought that they might keep me on as a permanent hire if I did a good enough job. Alas, this was not the case, and so four weeks after starting my job I found myself unemployed once again. Since then I’ve continued to apply to different places, including a greeting card company that is actually looking for a writer (fingers crossed for that one). And now I have retail experience, so I’m a more attractive prospect, especially to bookstores.

I’ve also stopped using Facebook. I’ve had too many stupid arguments about politics on it. Using it has just lead to a lot a frustration and anxiety on my part. A Facebook argument, especially with someone I know in real life, can really exacerbate the symptoms of my mood disorder. So I cut Facebook out of my life (with the exception of auto-sharing my WordPress posts and using messenger on my phone), and I have to tell you, it’s made a huge difference. I feel so much more relaxed knowing that I don’t have to worry about stupid arguments getting out of hand.

What I really haven’t been doing that often, though, is writing. I’ve talked before about being intimidated by the size of the things that I set out to write and how it’s kept me from getting work done on larger projects. Well, lately my mood has been such that even finishing a short story of a couple thousand words has seemed to be too daunting of a task. Luckily, though, I seem to have stumbled on a solution.

A few days ago, I sent the following tweet out to my followers:

I received a few likes. Not that many, mind you, but enough that I got a good thread going. Here are a few microfics from that thread:



The stories were surprisingly fun to write. They didn’t take a huge amount of effort on my part, mind you, but they got my mind working and helped me to feel like a writer again. All in all, the thread was a fun little experiment. So I think I’m going to continue tweeting out microfics occasionally. I don’t know if they’ll always be in a thread, but you can definitely expect more coming to you on my twitter feed.

Hopefully I will work my way back up to writing longer things. In the meantime, hit that sidebar link and give me a follow on twitter if you want to see more microfics or even just keep up with what’s going on in my life.

Unemployment Eclipsed

Yesterday, the moon blocked out the sun. This event cascaded across the United States, with some areas getting more darkness then others. Historically, eclipses of the sun have been seen as an omen of bad tidings to come. I certainly hope this isn’t the case this time, because yesterday was also the day when I finally managed to land a job.

2017 Total Solar Eclipse

Yesterday afternoon, my parents and I gathered in our backyard. We each had a simple pinhole camera made from a cereal box, some plain white paper, and aluminum foil. Using these simple tools, we watched as the eclipse reached it’s peak. In each of our devices, a small crescent of light appeared on the paper-lined bottom of the cereal box. It was pretty damn cool. Unfortunately, we weren’t lucky enough to live in one of the parts of the country that got total darkness.

After a while, we figured we had seen the best of what we were going to see, so we  went inside and resumed our usual weekday activities, which for me mostly consists of browsing the Internet and filling out job applications. Anyone who has been following my blog consistently knows that I have been unemployed for over a year now. It’s been a frustrating time, as I have run short on cash and had to contend with increased feelings of uselessness and depression. For the most part, I’ve been coping by spending time with friends and playing Dungeons and Dragons. And so, as I was researching paladin builds online, I received a phone call. It was from a local college bookstore that I had interviewed at the previous week asking if I could come in the next day for orientation.

The position is only temporary. It lasts for the first few weeks of the semester as students are coming to pick up there books and supplies. There’s no guarantee of future employment. And yet it is some kind of employment, which means both money and extra experience to put on my resume. Orientation doesn’t begin for a few hours, but already I am wide awake, nervous, and excited. It feels like months of searching have finally started to pay off for real. Here’s hoping that eclipse wasn’t a terrible omen, and that this doesn’t all come crashing down on me.*

*I’m kidding. I don’t believe in omens. Bigfoot is real, though.

Happy Anniversary, Unemployment!

Today marks the one year anniversary of the day I lost my job testing software. One year ago today, my manager called me to schedule a meeting. Naturally, I was a little nervous about what it might be about. One of the co-workers who I shared a cubicle with was very nice, though, and she assured me that I did good work and that I probably didn’t have anything to worry about. So I continued working at my desk and tried not to dread the meeting, figuring that there as no point in worrying about it until I knew what it was about.

Imagine my surprise when my manager brings me in to the office of the Vice President of Quality Assurance. Obviously, this was not a normal meeting. To top things off, the representative from HR one who originally interviewed me for my job, was there as well. Consider yourself fortunate, dear reader, that you already know how this ends, and thus are free from the confusion and fear that was gripping me at that moment.

My manager motioned for me to take a seat next to the Vice President while he went and sat on the other side. The Vice President then looked at me and very calmly informed me that they were going to “separate my employment” (their words). To be fair, my manager, the Vice President, and the HR representative were all really nice and cordial about things. My manager even walked me to my car and talked to me to make sure I was going to be OK. This did not stop me from cussing him out on the way home, but it was a nice gesture nonetheless.

I’m celebrating this unfortunate anniversary by doing the same thing I’ve been doing for the last year: by filling out job applications and following up with the places that I’ve already interviewed at. I’m not looking at anything glamorous (and I’m definitely not looking at doing any more software testing), but all the applications I’m filling out are for steady work and that’s really what I need right now, even if it doesn’t pay as much as I would like. Some days are harder than others, but most of the time I’m able to keep my head above water and stay positive. With any luck, this will not only be the first anniversary of my unemployment, it will also be the last.