Part 3: Re-Employment:
So, after mostly working around the house and kicking back for a few weeks after retirement, I started looking for a new job.
I'd actually sent out a few resumes before retiring, but now I was trying to work on finding a job every day, usually for several hours a day.
The last time I'd looked for a job, over thirty years previously, it involved perusing want ads in the paper, or going down to the nearest Job Bank office and going thru their microfiche listings. It was difficult, inconvenient, time-consuming and very frustrating.
The advent of the Internet since then has made the process a lot easier: You can browse job-listing sites like Jobing.com or CareerBuilder from the comfort of your own home, and the search engines at those sites, to varying degrees, make narrowing down possibilities much easier and accurate.
The goals I wanted to meet in my job search included:
- At least $9.00 per hour pay. (I'd figured this was what would bring our total income back to Postal Service levels.)
- A commute of less than 10 miles. (My last position with USPS was at a station about 6 miles from home.)
- Inside work, preferably office/clerical type work. (This was what I'd done before being hired by USPS; two-and-a-half years of my Army enlistment as a company clerk, and a year as a legal secretary. The inside work preference was because after thirty years delivering mail in the Arizona sun, skin cancer was high on my list of health worries; I'd had several basal-type spots excised surgically from my upper chest, and had numerous suspicious spots frozen off in my twice-yearly appointments with my dermatologist.)
- Work that would provide the satisfaction of being either creative and/or of being of service to the public.
I started out job-hunting fairly optimistic. There were actually a surprising number of clerical or administrative jobs listed within my 10-mile range. Beyond the listings on the job-hunting sites, I also bookmarked the jobs pages for local governments (city, county, state) and watched for possibilities there. And I also bookmarked some local businesses I felt I might enjoy working for. (AAA has a large operations center just a mile north of where we live, easy walk or bike distance. I've been a member and fan of AAA for nearly thirty years, so thought I wouldn't mind working one of their customer service posts. I also bookmarked some of the local hospitals websites.)
Not that I didn't have a few minor obstacles. My last, strictily speaking, job in a clerical position was more than thirty years ago. That's, ummm, a bit of a gap. (Sorta like the long-time housewives who find themselves widowed or divorced and suddenly trying to get back into the paid workforce.) In drafting my resume, I tried to emphasize the paper-handling aspects of my letter-carrier career (I mean, essentially, isn't sorting and delivering mail like sorting and filing papers, except that the "file folders" are a lot further apart than the ones in an office cabinet?) I also hoped that spending thirty years in the same job would be seen as my being a reliable, dedicated worker.
The other major obstacle was one I hadn't expected. It turned out that a lot -- a LOT -- of clerical-type job listings contained one particular line:
"Must be proficient in Excel."
Word-processing? No problem; I've been using wp programs ever since an old housemate brought home a TRS-80, back in the early 1980's. Publishing and layout programs? Pretty good there, too, with all the fanzines and what-not I've put out over the years. And even a moderate amount of experience with setting up databases, tables, and mail merges.
But spreadsheets? Except for dedicated, pre-formatted spreadsheet programs like Quicken, I've never had any good reason to learn a general spreadsheet program like Excel.
If I'd had the experience and proficiency in Excel, the number of jobs I could have applied for would have gone up by about an order of magnitude.
I took some steps to try and learn Excel. I downloaded a trial version of Microsoft Home & Student Office, and got a couple of Excel guidebooks out of the library. But I had a heck of a time trying to think of anything to actually do with the program, which made for pretty slow going. And meanwhile, the general savings account, which I'd figured would give me about three months coverage for the income gap between retirement pay and actual expenses, was shrinking away, and my mid-August deadline for "Start looking for anything" was getting closer and closer.
As that deadline got closer, I started looking at jobs more than 10 miles away, and loosened my goals; I put in applications for city delivery jobs with companies like DHL and Iron Mountain (a business records storage and transfer company).
Now, I could understand why an office might look askance at the long, long gap in time since my last office job. I might be disappointed, but I could understand why I might get no response. But I was really puzzled that -- with thirty years experience in delivery -- I got no response from any of the delivery-job applications I submitted.
All told, I submitted between forty and fifty applications to various employers before that mid-August deadline I'd set for myself. Out of those, I only got any signs of interest from three of them:
--A local city government sent a postcard saying that they'd determined my resume qualified me for the secretarial position I'd applied for, and that my application would go on to the next step, when they determined which applicants would be called for interviews. I wasn't among those called.
--A medical answering-service company called me in for testing. The test was computerized, and primarily tested for language skills: spelling, word meanings, etc. That's the kind of stuff I can pretty well ace; out of several hundred questions, I think there was only one where I wasn't absolutely sure of the right answer. But again, nothing further followed that testing.
--And finally, a security-guard company actually interviewed me for a receptionist position. My lack of proficiency in Excel was, again, a potential drawback. But the lady who interviewed me actually seemed like she might overlook that, because I had an advantage over all the other applicants.
Y'see, when this security-guard company hired its guards, part of the application process was a drug test. These drug tests were conducted on site, with applicants giving a urine sample. To guard against fraud, the applicants had to be under observation while giving their samples.
All the previous receptionists had been female. Which meant that whenever a guy had to give his urine sample, one of the guys working as an executive or administrator in the office had to stop what they were doing and go into the bathroom with the applicant.
So-o-o-o... if they hired me, those administrators and executives could continue their more valuable work, and I could go into the bathroom to make sure applicants were using their own penises and submitting their own urine.
Somehow, I never thought that "able to stare at another guy's penis without giggling" would turn out to be my most important job qualification.
As it turned out, I didn't get called back for that job, either. I must admit to a bit of relief.
SOMEWHAT IRRELEVANT SIDEBAR: Back when I was in the Army, we soldiers were subject to random drug tests. Eventually, my turn came up, and I had to go over to the Sick Call building. Went into the bathroom there, accompanied by the soldier assigned to observe and verify...
...and my bladder said, "Oh, I don't think so." I ended up standing at that urinal for four hours until the doctor in charge finally said "Come back tomorrow, damn it, and have your bladder ready to burst."
So, not only did I spend four hours trying to piss under observation, but the poor guy assigned to watch had the dubious pleasure of staring at my penis for that entire four hours.
At least, I assume it was a dubious pleasure. I didn't ask, and he didn't tell.
By this point, mid-August had arrived, and I needed a job. This is what I wrote here back in March, when I first announced my plan to retire from USPS:
"And if all else fails, I know from friends and family's experience that if
you have a clean background, reliable transportation, and are willing to
work odd hours, there is always, always, always security guard work
I applied to a security company (recommended by a friend) on August 16th, and started working for them on August 26th. I'll probably have more to say about working security in another post, but I'll say now that it's been more interesting than I expected, and that in my first month there I was shown more respect and appreciation from management than I'd gotten in the last ten years from the Postal Service.
Of my job-hunting goals, listed above, I ended up fulfilling the first ($9.00/hour or more) and partially fulfilling the other three. Three days a week I'm working at a property just under 10 miles from home, and the other two days at properties about 15 miles away. I occasionally work dispatch from the major property's office, so I do spend some time working indoors. (And hey, the office software they use? Primarily Excel. So I'm getting some experience with that, too.) And I do find myself occasionally helping people out in a satisfying way, helping people find their lost cars or lost children, etc.