Further EI and where is my case manager? Has anyone seen her?

I’ve had a request from one of my tiny, miniscule but I’m not counting wee readership for further information on Employment Insurance.  I am speaking only of EI in Canada, although I am very curious about how it all works in other countries.  Like say in Saudi Arabia, if you lose your job, does the government give you money to live?  Or say Prince William loses his job, does the government step in?   Is Meryl Streep going on Medicaid in a few years?  Just curious.

Anyway, EI.  The last few months of my job, I heard “EI” more times than I care to remember.  Lots of folks (myself included) were becoming rather terrified of losing our jobs and were freaked out over how the job was changing –  benefits taken away, salary cut, etc.  Some people, in an effort I figured to make themselves feel better, repeatedly said, “Hey, at least it is better than EI.”  This began to drive me crazy.  To me, it’s like comparing apples and oranges or say a cinnamon bun and I don’t know, dry movie theatre popcorn. Uh, theater for my American readership.  EI is a stop gap measure when you are looking for a new job.  It is not a replacement for a job obviously or an excuse to stay at a bad job.  In a very real sense, I was lucky to get laid off when I did because I had been earning quite a lot and thus got more EI than I would have gotten had my job dribbled away in bits and pieces, which had been a very likely possibility.  My former job is a whole blog unto itself.  Actually, I would need the entire internet to explain it.  That’s right,, the whole internet.  The whole thing.  All of it.  Every last bit.  And paper too.   I’d need the internet and all of the paper at Office Depot and Staples put together, both sides, colour and white paper.  It’s true.  It would be like the bible and the book of mormon put together and all the books about these books.  A blog about my former job would be like the Great Wall of China blogs.  Huge.  But tedious too with lots of footnotes and Ibids and all that kind of stuff.  Dull really.

And then there would be the legalities of taking over the whole internet and what not.  And then there’d be photos and that sort of thing.

When you lose your job in Canada, you may get EI.  Or you may not.  Until 1993 or so I think, you could quit your job and after an eight week waiting period, collect EI.  That has been long gone.  You can now only get EI if you are laid off of your job.  If you are fired for ‘gross misconduct” (I always picture this as someone spitting at work and someone else going, ‘oooh, gross) or you quit, you will not receive it.  No, nyet, no no.  No.  never, no!!!!!!!!!!!  And finally, not.

Well, unless you can prove that you quit for a reason like you were being harrassed or something.  That can be difficult to prove.

There is also medical EI, which I think only runs for 15 weeks.  This would be for a medical condition obviously or if you can prove undue stresss, I think.  Doctors and such must be involved.  Fifteen weeks is not very long.  A former co-worker had broken her knee in many places! and was off work for a year.  Another had to battle a long breast cancer battle and was also off for a year.  Fifteen weeks is not much.

Now, say you are laid off and you are eligible for EI.  This will be a process that may try your patience.  Most companies (but alas, not the one I just worked at) will issue an electronic ROE and a hard copy to you.  The ROE will go directly to EI.  If you work at a dysfunctional or luddite type company, you will have to take the hard copy of your ROE (make a copy!) and actually bring it a Service Canada office.  You will need to stand in a line to do this.  Note:  There will always be a line no matter what time of day you go.  Note:  offices are usually open 8:30-4:30 pm.    Note:  people in front of you in the line will have many many questions to ask the receptionist.  They will look for things in their bags.  They will drop things.  They will stand stunned at what they have been told, mouths hanging open and not move as everyone waits in silence for eight minutes.  This WILL happen to you.  Bring a book.

But hopefully, your company is not dysfunctional and will have sent  your ROE electronically.  Sunny days!  Chasing the clouds away!  You must then, the millisecond you are laid off, your very last day of work (but not before), go to a computer that has internet.  Go to the Service Canada website.  Fill out the applying for EI form.

There, you can breathe a bit more deeply now.  Now, you just have to wait.  You must first serve an at home prison sentence of a two week waiting period.  You cannot work or earn money during this two weeks.  Stay home.  Eat noodles.

Okay, I’m getting bored.  I shall speed this up. It is only supposed to take 4 weeks to finalize your claim but it will probably take longer. You will eventually get retro cheques if you have been approved.  EI will be 57% of what you made I think to a maximum (in Vancouver) at present of $842 every two weeks.  You can get a maximum of 40 weeks.  It all depends on how many hours you have worked and how much money you have made.  If you have no savings, this waiting period will seem interminable.  Some people have to go on welfare until their EI kicks in.  Not a perfect system for sure.

Let me tell you all, all of you, that EI is not enough to live on nor is it intended to be.  It is, of course, better than nothing.  Whilst on EI and for up to I believe three years after, you can take advantage of different EI programs (which are changing, as per my earlier blog entry, “EI, EI, O.”)  But still, there are career planning and job search courses, as well as some funding for starting your own business or wanting to go back to school (that is very tricky money to get and something that takes a lot of effort to get apparently.  Also, the courses you want to take must be approved first obviously and must make you job ready).  But still, these things are there.  I, for example, have a case manager.  Mind you, I never hear from her unless I e-mail her.  She is swamped, I imagine.  But still, but still.  Sigh.

Ok, I’m bored talking about EI now.

Brother, can you spare a job?

Remember that old Depression era tune.  Some of it goes like this:

‘Once I built a railroad.  Made it run, made it race against time.  Now the railroad’s finished.

Brother, can you spare a dime?” 

My father would sing that to my sister and I when we were small.  I mean the poor guy made the railroad race against time!  And now it is finished!   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CVE72Ae82Tw&feature=related – That is Tom Wait’s version.

Today I used the car co-op for the first time.  I had an appointment in West Van – although it ended up being a bit of a bust and I could have skipped it.  Nonetheless, I booked the car for a good amount of time and did some errands and North Shore librarying.  My plan is not to use a car for more than 8 or so hours a week in total as that way I can use my credit for quite a long time.  It was realy nice to drive a car – in this case a 2005 Toyota Corolla – that had such good working brakes!  It took me a little while to get used to how different a well running car is to drive.  I’d had some practice with the great little Nissan Sentra I drove when I was in Winnipeg in October.  It’s an entirely more stable feeling really.  Although when I pressed on the gas sometimes from a dead stop, the car skidded a bit on the wet roads but I think this was mainly because I probably had to press down so hard on the gas of my old car.  And then I got back an hour early and so had to pay a bit less.  I dropped off the car and walked the 10 minutes home.  No fuss, no muss, no more responsibility.  Very nice.

I think it was a good decision to scrap the car, particularly in light of my unemployment.

I think I would love to start my own business. Now, how I can get one off the ground that is viable, I’m not sure.  But what a great thing that would be.  As I say, it is draining sending out resume after resume and hearing nothing.  De-humanizing in a way.

One of our writers’ group members took a lovely group photo of us last night.  He then proceeded to take endless candid shots, something I wasn’t really a fan of.  I’m not a fan of seeing photos of myself, especially ones that show I rather desperately need a new bra.

I was very sorry to hear that George Michael is very ill. My favourite song of his:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DhlkEDY_O84

A fun lunch time

One of my mottos during this time of unemployment is:  DON’T SPEND MONEY.  It’s a good motto really.  However, I don’t necessarily seem to be following it.  It’s hard really – I mean, you still have to like, live.  What I really should do when I know I’m going to be out around meal times is bring something with me – a sandwich,  a carrot, a granola bar, a raw steak, a piglet; that kind of thing.

But I seem not to do this.  Anyway, today I went down to the car co-op to sign up.  It turned out to be a bit of a wasted trip as I don’t get the credit till I get the confirmation letter in two weeks time.  Oops, it was all a glitch and an oversight but never mind, I got my fob and all the information I needed.

Now I find out this morning that a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time, B. is also unemployed.  We’ve been facebooking around but I for some reason hadn’t realized that he is also unemployed.  “We should go for coffee sometime,”  I said to him.  The next thing I know, we are locking our bikes up downtown and heading over to a food court.  Eeek, this is the second lunch out I’ve bought myself in two days.  And it was Taco Time.  Taco Salad in an edible bowl.  Really lettuce with a few pieces of ground beef but THE BOWL IS EDIBLE.  Edible, tasty fat.  Since I now mumble things out loud that I used to be able to keep only in my head, the Taco Time guy heard me say, “Wow, this has gotten more expensive.”  Where was I from, he asked, I think not understanding why I was shocked by the price increase.  For some reason I thought he thought that I was from South America.  I launched into a fairly lengthy, well, originally from Winnipeg but in Vancouver for a long time spiel.  He assured me that tacos on Tuesdays are still only 99 cents if I should happen to be in the area.

I am now bloated from the edible bowl.

Anyway, B. and I had a really fun time hanging out.  I never realized for some reason that we share the same sort of dark senss of humour.  We snorted, chortled, snortled and the like.  It was fun and relaxing.  We are going to meet up again some time soon I think.

“I admit I shall be bitter when you get a job before me,”  I told him, my shaky little hands picking up pieces of lettuce and edible bowl.

It was a nice little piece of support during this difficult time.

Denial is not so much always a bad thing

Sometimes, if I think about the fact that I’m in my mid 40’s, unemployed and trying to get work in a field that is, while not new to me,  one that I haven’t been in in a long, long, time, I get freaked out.

The thing is, I know I have the skills.  I know I’m a good writer, editor, researcher, etc. but . . .

The job market can be freaky.

I  often wake up in the morning and kinda freak out.

I wake up more in the middle of the night.

It is going to be December this week and no one really hires, unless I want to be Santa, but it is even kinda late for that.

And so

a little denial is not a bad thing.

Brought my car to be put to sleep

on Friday.  How is this related to job search?  Well, it’s related to my lack of money which is related to my lack of job and etc and the like.

I got my car in 1998.  It is (was!) a 1986 Honda Civic Hatchback and a rather ugly tan brown colour.  It was a “Hondamatic” – rather unique in that it had a manual choke but no clutch and gears 1, 2 and OD for speeds over 70 kph.

I drove that car into the ground and back again many times.  I’d broken off part of the tail light at least 12 years ago and never had it replaced.  It was dented, scratched, the paint was coming off, the seats had foam coming out of them and the trunk did not stay open, so many times I held it up with my head as I pulled stuff out.  Sniffle.

In 2003, during and after the time I went to find myself in Europe (a bit older than most finding yourselfers but nonetheless, a great great trip) I left it in my friend’s garage for about a year.

I poured a whole lot of money into this vehicle – had the transmission rebuilt at one point and various and sundry that comes with having an old car.  The last several years whenever I was on the highway it shook and felt really unbalanced.  Nonetheless, I drove it to Bellingham twice this past summer, driving a good 30 km slower than the other cars on the highway.  Not so smart really.  Not so smart.  The second time, it began to stall every time I slowed down.  Luckily, I was able to get back to Canada without further incident.

Everytime something went wrong with my car, I was determined to scrap it.  In BC, if you scrap your car at the approved dealership, you get a choice of incentives – I chose a $750 credit to the car co-op.  But then . . . the car would remarkably come back to life.  I admit it, I could not let it go. I’ll never be able to afford another car, I don’t think, so I was clingy.

But then, I lost my job.  And money got super super tight.  The other day, the windshield wipers stopped working, although I could hear the motor still whirring.  Turns out it would need $200 to get it all going again and that was an estimate.  I phoned around different garages and was told the same thing.  I’m sure someone has a great story abut a much cheaper garage but never mind.  It was just time.  I applied for Scrap it and got approved the very same day.  I waited for a sunny day since, well, the windshield wipers don’t work.

The scrap metal place of course has thousands and thousands and thousands of scrunched up cars.  Gulp.  Gulp.  Gulp.

But I did it and tomorrow I will sign up for the car co-op.  I bought good boots to walk me through the rain and storms and puddles of Vancouver’s winter with the coming insurance money.  I’ll be able to get a whole whack of bus tickets too.

I miss my car but I don’t miss the stress that went with having a car that old.  I imagine by now, it has been squashed down.

Goodbye, little Honda.

A little of this, a little of that and: move to Ottawa!

I like asking for advice.  I was going to put people after asking but then I realized that that is pretty obvious.  I don’t ask cows for advice or lemons or beef stew.  Just people.  Oh and only folks who are alive and not in comas or otherwise distracted by their own lives.  For example, say someone calls me up and tells me that to her complete and utter horror, her husband has left her to move to Raleigh,  North Carolina with another woman.    At that point, I would not ask for advice.  I would not say, “Gosh, that is awful.  Do you have any job finding advice for me?”  No, I would not do that.

Or say I’m on an airplane going to say London.  Well, I  wouldn’t be now because I can’t afford it and really it is rather cold there now.  But say I’m on the Air Transat plane, and a teenager is seated at the back of the plane, soundly sleeping with headphones on listening to, I don’t know, Drake (Who was on Degrassi: The Next Generation don’t you know).  And there is really bad turbulence and the captain has ordered everyone to remain in their seats, even if they have to have to have to go to the washroom.  (What if you have diarrhea?).  Anyway, in that situation I would not get up, stumble to the back of the plane and poke the teenager until he woke up and asked him if he had any advice for me.  No, no,

I have found myself asking friend and the like for job search advice.  I find that most people (myself included) like to offer a sage word or two.

A few folks have been rather insistent that I would have a much easier time if I moved to Ottawa.  Why Ottawa I’m not sure.  Now, I’ve been there and it is perfectly lovely.  My sister and my niece live there.  Government folk work there.  They have that nice canal.  But still, no.  Being from Winnipeg,  I’ve done the cold.  And . . . no.  Another friend is currently teaching in Saudi Arabia.  She insists that I could handle this and to come on over and teach with her.  I’m immensely flattered by her thinking I could do this and she is a cool, hip, cool woman who in her other life is a popular Vancouver DJ.  This one I’m vaguely considering.

Others have moved out of the admittedly ridiculously overpriced Vancouver into smaller BC towns and also think that this is a good option for me.  But . . . no.

Interesting ideas though.

Others repeatedly tell me a career transition course or a job search club is the way to go.  Volunteer, says my good friend.  These last few I will consider.

When one is job searching, one needs support.  That is true.

This is inspirational to me

I was looking through the movie listings and noted that a former journalism classmate of mine (from a millennium ago) has a documentary at the Van City Theatre.  Called, “40 Days at Base Camp” it follows people who are climbing Everest.  From the trailer, it looks absolutely stunning and is getting terrific reviews.

Dianne was the rebel photographer of our journalism class of 12 (back in the days of film photography!).  Admired her.   She was funny and intense as I recall.

I’ve followed her career a bit, she has done a whole lot of nice photography and now, wow, is producing and directing great documentaries that are getting played and getting lots of buzz.


I am learning

I am learning things during this time of unemployment.

For example, I’m finding daytime television more annoying than ever.  I mean, it is comforting in its safe sameness every weekday and I shall never ever disparage The Waltons, which is on in reruns.  But I realize that I can only take 8 or so weeks (I know!) of The Talk, The View, Live with Kelly (Regis recently retired during my unemployed stint.  Not related I am sure but, you know, nice to think so) and now Anderson.  That’s right, Anderson Cooper has a daytime talk show that has reached the same level of insulting-to-intelligence as the others in a remarkably short time. The View and The Talk (originally the hosts were all mothers and the show was promoted as kind of ‘Mommy talk.’  Starting its second season it fired two of the mommies and hired in their place, some non-mommies.  Sara Gilbert, whose idea the show was, is still on it.  Oh, Sara, I expected more from you.  I don’t know why –  is it because you’ve always sold yourself as a bit of a rebel?  Is it because you were on the brilliant series, Roseanne?  oh bother) seem to spend most of their time mocking politicians and celebrities.  Anderson’s show has people on  that the audience in the audience and at home can feel superior to.  This seems to be the main theme (and certainly of The View’s Joy Behar’s evening show) – to feel vastly superior to other people and to berate them either to their faces or in group discussions.  Whoopi Goldberg (yeah, she is on a morning talk show. Caryn Johnson must cry herself to sleep) is there with all of them, railing against this and that.  You can tell that they all want to be seen as liberal and broadminded but . . . no.  It’s depressing that they get the high ratings that they must get, because it means that this is the sort of stuff that women want to watch on daytime tv.  Oy, Anderson, go back to Iraq or Afghanistan or the other places you talk about in your memoir.

I’ve also learned that my ‘old’ skills are not an acceptable (as of yet) skill set to any place where I have applied for work.  And yet, I’m not sure that taking a tech writing course or a PR course or a Dreamweaver course is going to give me the leg up that I need.  Seems there are a whole lot of other folks out of work out there.

I’ve learned about networking and how it is essential essential essential.  (Also, right time at the right place, of course).  I’ve networked a bit – with other technical writers and I’m going to be joining a Toastmasters club filled with people who work in communications.  It is every second Tuesday.  I was going to go four days ago but then my 1986 car’s windshield wipers died and I lost my house key somewhere in the dark and rainy night (found it easily the next less dark and rainy day).

I’ve learned that I can spend hours and hours and hours alone and not hate it entirely – except for the times when I freak out.  I do find though that when I am then around people it takes me awhile to remember social skills.

I’ve got myself a business card for the first time in my life, ditto with being on LinkedIn.  I’ve gotten rid of my 1986 car and am returning to full time bus taking with a little car co-op thrown in.  I took my bike out today to the library and to get boots better suited to the constant wintery rain, but I’m more a fair weather cyclist.

I’m trying not to spend money – my kinda not a lot EI runs out in less than a month although I can start a new claim.  That’s a 2 week unpaid waiting period though and it can take them a few months  to finalize it.  I have some savings as a buffer, thank goodness.  It is hard not to spend money but that I always knew.

I read even more.

And I think about how starting my own business in some way some how might be the best answer to it all.

I job search, therefore I am.

I also have a please give me a job blog www.keepwritingon.webs.com and now this one.

It’s apparent I have a lot of time.  Tis true.  I was laid off of my ESL teaching job about three months ago.  I’d worked at the same position for seven and a half years and even though I knew over a year ahead of time that the company was either going to close or change dramatically (and not in a good way), I bided my time.  With a whole lot of other people that I worked with, I basicallly denied what was happening.  It had been such a good job for so long and with such good pay, that even a 25% pay cut didn’t get me working on my resume.

A further 15% pay cut, removal of all benefits and new ownership didn’t either.  The stress of it all was really rather ridiculous but it gave my brain something to focus on.  So, long story short, I was finally laid off in September 2011.  I’ve decided I want to get out of teaching ESL and try to do something more with writing.  I was a journalist a zillion and one years ago and there are so many transferable skills from teaching.  Shouldn’t be super hard, I thought.  Oh sure, I was pretty sure it would be a little hard.  I’ve been unemployed before, although that was back in a better job market and at a time when I was paying much much less rent.

Now though, looking for work is rather brutal in many ways.  I’ve jigged and re-jigged my resume, network wherer I can and responded to I’m sure more than 100 positions.  I’ve  heard back nothing, not even from a volunteer writing position.


Uh oh.

So this blog will be a mix of serious entries and more humourous ones.  But they will all be about my job search.  I don’t expect to get a job out of this but I’d love to find a wee fan base who may find themselves in the same position – in Vancouver or anywhere in the world.  Not so much because misery loves company (which, yes, it indeed does indeedy deed) but it might be nice to bounce ideas off of each other.

And so I begin.