Funemployment Tales: Of Beagles, Meaningless Degrees and Midlife Changes

We asked readers to share their stories with us. They delivered.

Okay, ladies and gents, we’re back with more stories from the unemployment lines. First an update on my own situation: I have another mystery-employer phone interview tomorrow. An email arrived from an HR company requesting a screening interview, but the job in question wasn’t specified. I suppose it doesn’t much matter; it’s not like I applied to be a dog groomer here and an arson investigator there. They’re all writing and editing jobs, so the skills are the same. I’ll simply answer the questions and be pleasantly surprised when I’m hired as the managing editor of the Hatchechubbee Post in Alabama.

Meanwhile, we’ve got mail. This is from Philly Post reader (and fellow dog-lover) Jim Tosh, who took a buyout from Acme Markets after working there for 30 years. He took a year off to retool his skills, and went back to school as an adult to get an IT certification. He says his subsequent journey was frustrating, but “at least it was funny at times—if you like dark humor.” Here’s the rest of his story:

After 9/11 I was able to take free classes at Delco Community College. I did pretty good and got certified in A+ Net+. That same year I also built a shed and badly trained my beagle puppy (no fault of mine; beagles are ranked 72 of 80 on the dog intelligence scale). The IT job search did not go well. One job I got lasted a week. The owner of the company said, “Reimbursement for travel is just a license to steal.”

Then the best job opening came my way. It was with the Chichester School District. The job was nine months, summers off, just setting up PCs in the classrooms. Good pay and benefits. Well, after three interviews it got down to two of us. The HR director told me I was a shoo-in. “All you have to do is meet and shake hands with the superintendent and you’ll be hired.” That was Thursday. My wife answers the phone on Easter Sunday night. It’s the HR director, who informs me that the superintendent has killed himself because he was under investigation for fraud, so any hiring has to be reevaluated. In two weeks, I got the dreaded letter: The other guy got the job. I called the HR director, and she told me if he gets out of line for anything she would call me. But the other guy had the “right complexion.” Yes, my ruddy Scottish face somehow was not a fit!!

My search continued, but there were no jobs in IT for a 51-year-old guy with no experience. So I went back to my old field of printing. In three months I got two job offers on the same day—one from a university and one from a private company. I took the university job running their copy center, though it paid much less. Tuition reimbursement was a good benefit, and I figured my then-15-year-old daughter could go to school there. She did, made the dean’s list and will graduate in June. I also took a part-time job at the YMCA in the fitness center.

Two things happened in the past eight years since I took the job at the university. One is I almost totally forgot most of the IT education I got— from lack of use, I guess. The second thing is I realized I missed my old job. I knew almost everyone there. We had a ton of laughs, happy hours, softball games, etc. At my current job, there isn’t really any kind of social life. But my part-time job at the Y has filled that need. I get to talk to and meet all kinds of people so that’s really why I keep it.

So that’s my story. When my daughter graduates I may be looking for something else, maybe full-time at the Y—who knows? I’m sure you will have your story to look back on and tell soon. I have to admit, some days were really downers, but I’m glad I did what I did. My shed is still standing and my beagle still doesn’t listen.

Do you have a story about your time on unemployment? Tell me: