Friday, August 26, 2011

Diary of The Unemployed

You know how a lot of people complain that their job interferes with their life? Some could only be so lucky. It seems today, with skyrocketing unemployment and no recovery in sight, that the opposite is worse. That’s right, not having a job is getting in the way of my life.

To some, not having a job and therefore having the free time to do whatever you want seems like the perfect life. How awesome is it to sit around the house playing Xbox, drinking beer for breakfast, napping whenever you feel. Pretty cool, right?

Well not for me…

Wouldn't have been as fun it it was his daily routine...

It’s hard to enjoy free time when all you have is free time. Weekends and holidays mean nothing when you do nothing the other five days of the week. Thing is, I would love to be at a stage of my life where I can comfortably sit down for hours at a time and play video games, knowing all’s right with the world. But not having a job is like a dark cloud looming over me at all times.

Case in point, I spent the last week helping some friends paint their house. Activity and socializing… all good, right? But the whole time, especially during the downtime, I’m just worried that I should be home, lurking around the job boards and stalking strangers on LinkedIn. So the whole time, I’m jumpy, anxious, and actually wanted to break off my social contacts to sit in my tiny bedroom in front of my computer for the rest of the night. Last I checked, the DSM-IV calls that depression…

Thing is, I want to have an active lifestyle. Opportunities can happen anywhere at any moment, but I really doubt they’re going to happen if I’m trapped in my apartment. I’m checking right now… no girlfriend sitting on the couch, no employer in my kitchen, no investors in my toilet… you get the picture.

I want to see the world and enjoy it. Forget the world, I want to get around town and enjoy that. I want to stay out, go to local events and restaurants and clubs and stuff. I want to be that guy who buys his friends a round without even thinking. I want to meet new, interesting people. I want to accomplish things. And I’d like to be this productive member of society without freaking out about how I’m going to pay rent next month.

Worse than the money is that my skills are going to waste. I worked my ass off through my childhood to get into both a top undergraduate and masters program. I’m not saying I’m the one who was going to cure cancer, but I have the brains and the ambition to launch the next cool technological innovation. So sitting around being non-productive is just killing me. When I look back at my life, I’m going to want to see that I did something with it. And right now, that’s just not happening.

Being unemployed actually has a compounding effect on staying unemployed. This is a fact. Jobs are flat out telling people that they will not be hired if they’ve been out of work for X months. So opportunities are lost right there. In the digital age, without access to the resources of company, it’s easy to fall behind in this progressive and competitive environment. Even if you find something to do by yourself, without the accountability of a job you’re less likely (or able) to push your limits. So how do you recover?

For one, I’ve been taking online classes in some current technologies, like Python scripting and Data Mining. Hopefully this can launder my timeline a bit and make it look like I’m not some lazy unemployed bum. The problem though, topics like these take a long time and a lot of commitment to master. I have no idea what is actually going to help me most in my career, so where do I focus? And how can I dedicate this time (programming languages can take months to learn) when I have the dark cloud of joblessness raining over me?

Hard to look ahead when futility is waiting over the horizon… But for now, it’s either apply to jobs while on self-imposed house arrest, or live a liberated life and chance ending up living in a cardboard box.

To be continued…

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Idea for Google+

Hello Freedom Fans!

So a few weeks ago I reported on the difficulties a blogger such as myself has trying to express his opinions openly when job screeners may be lurking about. Or better yet, asking to see your Social Media profiles. And it is my sad duty to report that, despite getting a team of experts, nothing has been done to fix the problem that hiring decisions can be (and likely will be) made on what I have tweeted. Eh, with the economy tanking, England rioting, Verizon striking, GOPers ganging up in Iowa, and San Francisco trying to become a scene from "V for Vendetta", there have been crazier things to worry about.

Guy Fawkes wants to follow you. Accept? [Y/N]:

But I think I've come up with a solution. And Google, heads up, this one is for you. Consider it a freebie.

I like what Google+ has done with its security settings, in that they made it extremely easy for you to monitor exactly who sees your posts. So say something 'risky' and you are able to let only your trusted friends see it. Your boss can still follow you, but its easy to keep him from seeing that rant about how much you hate your job. So it is possible to have both an open and a private life on Big G.

However, if there's one thing missing from their security, it's the ability to go completely anonymous. At least without creating an all-new screen name. But still, in this case:
  1. a) it won't be synced with your existing Google App portfolio,
  2. b) your friends need to follow you on both accounts,
  3. c) you'll have to post on both your personal and anonymous account things you plan to share with both audiences,
  4. d) recruiters won't know you have a massive follower list on your anonymous account
What I suggest is to add an 'anonymous' circle along with our other permission groups. We can set up a side account for our anon identity. A handle (nickname) for the name, and maybe the ability to write a separate bio. When posting, you can choose 'anonymous' as one of the circles, and anyone you have following you in this circle will see it. But they will only see that it's from your handle. So this way you can tweet whatever you want, and no one will know its you.

This method also allows you to advertise yourself and your profile without giving out your real info. I want random people to be able to find my posts, as they do on Twitter. But in the G+ environment, I don't want to have to give out my personal info. Nor do I want it searchable on Google under my real name. So search for my real name, find my 'open-to-all' profile. Search for the blog name or handle, find my anonymous page.

One central broadcasting location, two different channels for viewing. One G-rated and one R. Only you don't know they're related.

As a clean social media presence becomes a near requirement of employment, we need more ways to protect ourselves. But to censor ourselves is both immoral and un-American. Google has a great track record for giving users product features they both want and need. So ball is in your court, Google... can you do this for us?


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Profit Sharing is Caring!
and The Trickle-Up Effect

If you've been paying attention to the news lately, it's no doubt that we're in a serious mess. Our lowered credit rating makes us a laughing stock on the international market, and people are only going to further tighten their wallets. Unemployment is still high, estimated to be in the high teens assuming you count the unreported millions who do not or can not collect government benefits. Gas is upwards of $4 a gallon, and companies are consistently laying people off while collecting record profits. So what are we as a nation to do?

The more I consider the economy, the more I realize we are powerless to end the shareholder-minded profit maximization ideals that companies subscribe to. At least without some revolution that would involve some sort of devastating teardown of our country. But this mentality isn't necessarily a horrible thing for the economy. Ideally we want big, rich companies… they are indeed what keeps an economy strong.

We just need to invoke some sort of profit sharing mandate.

That’s right, enforced profit sharing. As in a set percentage of what a company makes need be distributed fairly through the workforce that allowed the company to make said profit. While some economists theorize we need to place caps on salaries or the size of companies, this allows and encourages businesses to grow. There’s no fear of increased regulations or per-worker costs that make hiring unattractive to big companies. The only cost is a function of the gains that everyone works for. Since this is an after-profit bonus, companies can still boast to their shareholders that they increased profits for the year, which hopefully won’t devastate a logically minded stock market. And this cost all goes into building a stronger work environment.

Most companies these days tend not to reward employees for additional effort. Maybe it’ll lead to a promotion down the line, but there’s no direct compensation for immediate effort that leads to an immediate gain in profits. Does the grill chef at McDonalds get more money if the store is packed that night? Probably not. Does the cashier at WalMart make extra money if the line is out the door her whole shift? Doubt it. The customer service rep during a company recall? You get the point. Add in the ability for companies to make salaried workers round-the-clock employees for no extra pay, and you see the mess we’re in. To quote the immortal words of Peter Gibbons, “It’s a problem of motivation. Now if I work my ass off and Initech ships a few extra units, I don't see another dime, so where's the motivation?”

Fire bad, Profit Sharing good. Staplers better!

Profit sharing is a direct investment in your workers. Well compensated workers tend to be happier workers, right? Show them their added effort, that extra money the company made from their labor, is worth something. If Initech had profit sharing, Peter would have seen a few dimes from working his ass off. And trying to lay off people won’t be a ‘fix’ for this issue, since a mandatory percentage is enforced whether the company has a thousand employees or a million. So workers taking on the burden of a downsized department would actually see an increase in the money they make.

We’ve been reading reports about runaway executive compensation for years. Million dollar bonuses for people on the upper levels in return for corporate success. Why do we stop there? Is it fair that only certain people get rewarded? I mean, in football, even the practice squad gets a ring if their team wins the Superbowl. Obviously these companies have the money to distribute to their staff, executive or not. Now this is their chance to reward the rest of the staff for that same hard work.

Now I have to predict that there are some wingers out there who are going to squawk their favorite buzzword… Communism. How dare I try to mention the idea that we tell a company what to do with their money in this country?!? And I’d like to point out that the communist argument just doesn’t hold up. This system still encourages companies to grow. Free markets and all. No tax increases. All the money stays in the company family. One of famed Republican Ronald Reagan’s legacies is the “trickle-down effect” in which we’d develop a system in which those that make the most money pass it through our economy by hiring and buying things from those economically below them… so on and so on down to where the higher populated lower classes have opportunities that leaves them financially stable (ie not struggling to put food on the table) and able to themselves contribute to the economy, creating a cycle that keeps our economy going. And ideally this is a good, reasonable plan.

Except it has never been enforced. Nowadays, the upper class is notorious for hoarding their money, leaving it in banks and big corporate investments. They cut down on the number of people they hire, lest their profits and stock price take a hit. And those who are not as financially stable are forced to follow suit. And none of this is necessarily for amoral reasons, but for security, as the future holds no certainty. We as struggling citizens are forced to cut back on extraneous expenses, ie going out to dinner, or buying that new car, or even going to school to better ourselves.

And this just compounds the problems we are seeing. Now the once-profitable restauranteur can’t afford a new car, and now the car dealer can’t afford to send his kids to a good school, and the kid can’t get a job because he didn’t go to a good school. Didn’t we say the trickle-down effect was a good thing?

What will help jumpstart our economy is a “trickle-up effect”. It’s proven that lower classes spend a higher percent of their income. So if the lower classes had a few extra bucks to spend, they could potentially buy that dinner once a week, and the restaurant owner seeing a rise in business can buy that new car. And the car dealer can send his kids to a good school. We need to encourage domestic spending, and keeping money out of the hands of the masses isn’t the way to do it.

No handouts, no rewarding people for not working, no deterrent to hiring. Just making sure credit is given where credit is due. It may be the only good ‘credit’ we see for a while in this country. And things just might come out ok in the end…