Posted by: Admin | September 15, 2009

And So We Dance

About a month after I was laid off… the good ‘ol state of NJ required me to attend an “Employment Reorientation Program”.   This session was somewhat comical.  I sat in a room with about 20 other people and had a first row seat to see why unemployed folks are generally looked down upon.  Undoubtedly, many of these people were just like me:  Professionals who were unexpectedly dismissed due to the economy, with many years of experience & education.  Or were they?  I would estimate that 80% of these folks did not bring with them the ID card that’s sent to you by the state as soon as you start collecting checks (the card that your “Employment Reorientation Program” invite explicitly tells you to bring).  I would also say perhaps 85% of the people in the room with me did not bring anything to write with.  I couldn’t do much but shake my head… it actually made me kind of sad.

The woman who worked there, popped in a video and left the room.  The video outlined all the services available to you at the unemployment office; resume writing, career counseling, fax machines, copy machines and so on.  I waited and waited to see what services they provided to white collar, professional folks who have their own computers & don’t need basic skills training, but unless I blinked at the wrong moment, this was never presented.  After the video she had us fill out paperwork, handed out pamphlets about other services and gave us phone #s to follow up about specific items that may be of interest to each of us.

I spent one hour at this class and I did take away one tidbit.  There had been mention of “available funds” for some continued learning that could be used at a local college. Hmmmm…. I thought, I like to learn and I bet there are some classes that could help me professionally and maybe set me apart from other candidates in my field.

 Let the Dance Begin.

 I call the unemployment office.

 “I remember hearing at my session that there are some funds available for continued learning”


“I am in the Sales & Marketing industry and I’m interested in perhaps taking some graphic design and/or web design classes”

“But those are not growth industries…”

“I understand that, but having these skills could help me build my resume and would serve me well in MY industry?

“That’s not how it works,  you’d need to take a class in an industry that’s not struggling”

“So, what you’re saying is, the government has no interest in helping make me more marketable in my current field?  I thought the idea was to help me get a new job?”

“Yes, but we can only help provide you with training in an industry that we deem growing & in demand, something like nursing”

“Just so I understand this.. the only classes you would help me with would require me throw away all of my past experience and completely change industries?”


“Thank you for your time”.

Oh boy… I can’t say I didn’t expect this but, what I realized is that they don’t want me to build my resume.. they want to steer me into a job they’ve decided is worthy.  I’ll admit it, I’m kind of frustrated, but I can’t say I’m surprised.

But… I’m not defeated… I can still hear the music playing.

Another month or so goes by and I’m still thinking ok…. job hunting in my chosen industry, the industry where I have 20 years experience, is not working so perhaps I should consider a career change.  Well, I don’t want to be a nurse but, I’ve have always been interested in real estate, and since I have nothing but time on my hands right now.. maybe I’ll go and get my real estate license. I know the market is horrible but I figure, I’ll continue to look for full time work in my field, and even if I find a job, it would be nice to be able to “dabble” in real estate at any point in my future.  I have no expectation that NJ is going to foot the bill for this.. It would obviously be completely on my dime.

I call the unemployment office.

 “I am currently receiving unemployment benefits, and I’m considering taking a real estate class… will this effect my benefits at all?

“Well, you can’t collect payments for the weeks you are in class because technically you wouldn’t be job hunting”

“Ok, that’s not ideal but I guess I understand that.  What about after the class, can I resume collecting benefits”

“Yes, you can resume benefits.. until of course you begin using your license”

“What do you mean exactly, I wouldn’t actually be making any money?

“Perhaps not, but you’d be employed, which means you can no longer collect”

“That’s an interesting dilemma because I wouldn’t really be ‘working full time’ so I wouldn’t be making any money, which also means I wouldn’t be able to pay my bills without your checks”

“I understand ma’am, but that’s how it works.  Once you are employed, you lose your benefits.”

“Wow, you sure don’t make it easy for someone to try to be self sufficient, do you?”

“I’m sorry ma’am”

So, as I make my way off the dance floor, I’m unfulfilled and frustrated.  I’m feeling immobilized by the system.  I can’t move in any specific direction for fear of losing my benefits. I can’t go backwards to change the industry of experience on my resume.  And I can’t move forward to try to create a new future for myself for fear of not being able to pay my bills. All I can do is sit here and blog about it.. so, that’s what I’m doing.



  1. Loved it, and I can certainly relate. I’ve had the same career for 25+ years, and while it’s always been easy for me to get a job in my field, in this economy it suddenly isn’t, and it’s shocking.

  2. I completely understand your frustration.

    I’m interested to know, apart from nursing, what the Unemployment office thinks are other “booming” industries? Are there any jobs on their list you’d be interested in studying for?

    I had a frustrating experience when I went to the transition agency hired by my ex-employer a few months ago…

    Keep your chin up,


    • IBC… I should have asked them to provide me a list of “booming” industries (perhaps I’ll call back!).. she only mentioned many were health care related. Which unfortunately, is not my cup of tea.

  3. Well let’s see… My dance I guess is a ‘square dance’ because this is what I hear as well in Colorado. As a matter of fact I get paid MORE on UI than if I was to take one of the jobs recommended.

    So, many years ago I was in tool and die making things were booming. The problem? as soon as I finished my training TADA…the market dried up.
    Now I’m in IT and it’s outsourced. What now? New ‘Green’ jobs. The problem? I need to get training in welding ( I used to be certified ASTM pressure vessel for the now defunct domestic oil sector), electrical systems, or other tasks needed in the yet to move alternative energy sector that we were told would explode and make our economy strong (yeah right, remember the solar boom of the late 1970’s for the same reason….oil). Oh, BTW I’m over 50.

    So there you have it. If you are a highly trained and specialized professional you really need to be away from these services that are still aimed at the less trained and skilled workers always at the entry level. How does a person really survive at minimum wage?

    • Dalkoyo…. I totally hear what you’re saying… you’re response actually got me thinking and prompted my “crazy” post today (9/16). They sure do make it difficult to CHOSE to work since alternative jobs will not pay the bills. By the way, my father spent his life doing Tool & Die work (after he was laid off from a role about 20 or so years ago, he was very lucky to find another position!)

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