Creative high

Plenty has intervened to keep me from writing up a good post. Phone calls from two recruiters, one desperately looking to fill a help desk analyst position by next Monday. Short little 4½-hour days in department stores scanning bar codes. A visit from the exterminator and several hours spent out of the apartment while it was being roach-bombed. And divine inspiration to write a sermon for Overcomers Church Worldwide about the Crucifixion as seen through the eyes of the repentant thief on the cross beside Jesus.

I recently got back from Anu Resources, a job recruiter in Dublin, OH. I was doing a first interview there to determine my suitability for a help desk analyst position at a yet unknown company. Two days before than, I talked to another recruiter on the phone. Spring has been good so far in bringing a fresh influx of call center openings to my attention. Both Monster and CareerBuilder seem to have more of them. Maybe I picked a poor time to get hired by an inventory outfit and the U.S. Census.

While I am on the subject of the U.S. Census, my training starts next Tuesday evening at 5:00. I know I’ll be getting $15.00/hr for doing the job itself over the eight weeks after that, but I am curious about how much I’ll be paid for the four evenings of training that I will do.

In the meantime, I’m praying that my first paycheck from the inventory company comes through tomorrow. My personal checkbook shows me as being nearly broke and the cupboard is getting bare.

In addition to my being on a bit of a creative high writing my sermon on the repentant thief, I’ve also been noticing quite a few things about the clothing stores where I’ve been counting. Did you know that at Old Navy, you can buy shirts with the sleeves already rolled up?  Really!! You really can buy your shirts that way. I wonder who the genius is that thought of that thoughtful little feature. I’ll write a little more on that later.

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Interview at TruGreen

I was interviewed by the general manager himself, Al Karow.  Most experts say that the guy who actually makes the hiring decisions is the guy to whom to pitch your services.

I don’t know how much Al liked me, but I certainly liked this particular interview. I did far more of the right things this time around. I started out by asking him if, any of the calls, the customers expressed dissatisfaction with their service. Al gave me an example of how a customer can complain that his yard still has crabgrass in his yard. In most cases, the customer doesn’t know what crabgrass really is; it may be a fescue or a quackgrass. That being said, I mentioned to him it’s always counterproductive to argue with the customer. No piddlin’ little debate is worth that customer’s continued business.

I characterized my job at the call center as something I liked, giving me mentally stimulating, think on my feet kind of work. I said I was given a lot of latitude to decide what was right for the customer.

I remembered my eye contact with the interviewer. I looked at Al a lot more than I looked at Kelly from AeroTek last week.

Then came the dreaded How I Handled a Tough Call question. I opened by saying that call center work doesn’t lend itself well to tales of heroism, but there was a time I helped a guy who needed his computer reinstalled with new antivirus software in time to converse with his loved ones during a death in the family.

At the end of the interview, I remembered to do something that was missing in nearly all of my previous interviews. I “asked for the sale”. I told Al that straight out that I would really like to work this job. As a result of that, perhaps, Al told me that I reminded him strongly of one of his best salespeople. We might even be relatives, he said.

I went back home smiling. I knew I made a big dent in this guy. I really like my chances with this job.

I need it now!

I am due to receive $150 from Breckenridge Apartments for referring SonicBlu and company to their new 3-BR townhome. However, what really honks me off was that this group of furries took December as their free month of residence here, and that means I don’t get my money until after they’ve paid rent for January, February, and March. Because in a fit of panic I paid an overdue payment on my car, I’ve left myself not enough money to pay the April rent.

Damn! I don’t need that money later. I need it now!! How am I going to get it now?

This morning through Craigslist.org, I found out that Volkert Distributing is expanding and looking for a few new people for office help, customer service, and general labor positions. This afternoon, I go after one of those jobs.

So whatever happened to inventory counting and freelance writing? Well, just browsed a few of the writing jobs being offered at Freelancer.com. I’m starting to see what a virtual sweatshop that site is. Let’s get real here. In most of the writing jobs offered there, what is sought by the employer are totally original, non-plagiarized articles, preferably carpet-bombed with keywords (sometimes many differently worded and phrased versions of the same article), that they can put on their site, slap God knows how many banner advertisements and links around it, and put it up on the Web, and hopefully Google will rank them way up there so they’ll be seen by lots of potential customers.

It really hurts those of us wanting to research certain topics on the Web. We are no longer assured articles written by knowledgable authorities. More often than not, we read the secondhand or thirdhand dreck of hack ghost writers instead.

These employers will pay as low as $1.00 for a 500 word article. It takes me roughly 45 minutes to an hour to write 500 words on topics I like and know. Imagine having to write 500 words on a subject far afield from my expertise for barely enough money for two cans of canned soup at Dollar General. I can’t stand that!

The crazy thing is there is no shortage of writers from English-speaking countries surrounding the Indian Ocean to eagerly snap up these jobs and help unscrupulous webmasters try to beat Google’s system. Too often, I lose work to these low-ballers. Forget it! I’m outta that scene!

It’s easily worth a dollar to write about what I like and not have to assail your eyes with the same phrase over and over again. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have yet another job interview to go to.

New line of work

On a tip from Jo Young of JobLeaders, I’m going to go down to their office this afternoon and put in for some logistics training that they’re offering.

Jo says logistics is second only to nursing in hand over fist growth. I agreed to show up next Monday afternoon for the prescreening for the training program.

Why am I agreeting to do this? Well, I am starting to Get the Message. I think that there might be a glut in the call center job market, or at least the kind that I want that is inbound and deals with tech support. There are plenty of call centers that want credit card collectors. My bad credit makes me ill suited to collecting, and on top of that, I am compassionate and a little bit too spineless to hold a firm position against the protests of callers. I would maybe not hold up well under much more begging and complaining.

And of course, there is also Affinion Group, who makes their money by trapping people into useless subscription services with little or no benefit to credit card holders. I believe they call that posttransaction marketing. They seem to show up at just about every job fair I go to, and there seems to be always the smell of smoke and brimstone around their table.

There is one thing that concerns me, though. Supposing I am approved for training in logistics. It takes time to learn how to drive a forklift. Do I keep putting in for call center jobs in the meantime? What’s the deal here?

I’ll know a little bit better when I go downtown and ask around.

By the wayside

The office at ProTeam has just informed me that their contract with the Ohio Department of Health is expiring at the end of the month. That means I provide them with an updated résumé and begin contacting them at least weekly to see if they have additional work assignments.

Just as well. It is getting to crunch time for parents of school age children. Some of my callers have been getting antsy to get some kind of printout off of the H1N1 site to fork over to the nurses when their kids go to the vaccinations at school. While ODH’s official position is that preregistration is not mandatory to receive the shot, you can pretty much count on some Mensa candidate elsewhere to require it. Probably some school board that lets a law firm do their thinking for them.

And if they do, it’ll be a pretty nasty double whammy to play on anyone to require that kids be vaccinated at the clinic at the school, and require the Patient Form from our web site on top of it. What if the family PC or printer doesn’t work? Who’s going to see to it the poor kiddies cough up the Patient Form?

With any luck, I won’t be there to watch this happen.

This doesn’t hurt me as bad as most layoffs do. I have the distinct feeling in my heart of having pleased God with my little role in helping people get vaccinated for H1N1 in a nice, timely way. I’m happy to have helped.

And as always, I appreciate your prayers that God continues to provide for me.

Stupidity from elsewhere

Let me share a bit about how potential vaccination patients preregister themselves for an H1N1 vaccine.

At the bottom of the form where the individual enters his information, there is a button labeled Print Patient Form. This prints a copy of the demographic information he entered, and he can take this to his vaccine provider. Preregistering ahead of time greases the wheels considerably by getting information about the potential patient into our computers where it can be called up at the time of the vaccination.

Realizing that not everybody is going to have a computer and Internet service, our official position here at the state health department is that it’s not mandatory to produce this Patient Form to receive the H1N1 vaccine. However, if a smaller agency such as a doctor, hospital, city or county health department, school district, or the caller’s employer wants to make it mandatory, we don’t challenge that. We step aside and let them run their own show.

That being said, smaller agencies do require the Patient Form, and I get calls from people with no computers or Internet who are freaking out because their kids came home from school with a note that said 1) they are required to be vaccinated at the school clinic coming up tomorrow, and 2) they are required to produce the Patient Form from our web site to be vaccinated. The red tape unfairly ensnares the Internet-impaired.

So, who should have the responsibility of getting the required Patient Form to the obstinate asses who required it? Me? They never gave us at the call center an option to register the caller over the phone and mail them the Patient Form. And the “not mandatory” spiel will not be enough. Something of a more concrete nature needs to be done.

That brings up the subject of another thing we are not given here—a suggestion box!

The expiration date

The Mandura drink

My Mandura fruit drink arrived off the UPS truck this morning. I didn’t immediately get into it as I was thinking that a product of its alleged medicinal properties ought to be handled like a medication, with meticulous attention given to reading and following its directions.

Its directions say, “Serve cold.” Into the fridge it goes, not to be seen until I come home from work tonight.

I’m still leery of it. $30.00 plus shipping for a 32 oz. bottle is a bit too much to ask for a bottle of fruit juice, no matter how much of an exotic superfood it is. When I drink it, I had better be turning cartwheels. The most satisfying thing I consume right now would have to be the $5 footlongs from the Subway down the street, and those cost only … you know the rest.

The expiration date

I had an interesting call at work today. A county health department—I will spare them the embarrassment of naming which one—vaccinated a lot of people until every vial they had of H1N1 vaccine had been tossed away into the biohazard bin. Then came the time when they had to account for their activities at our web site, and they found to their dismay that our web site demanded the expiration date and would not let them proceed without it.

Oops! Nobody said anything about writing down the expiration date. They were really in a pickle. They called the ODH for help, and got me.

I had to spend some 15 minutes anxiously tapping my toes while my supervisor Jason hunted down the phone number of the vaccine’s manufacturer, then talked to somebody at the manufacturer and fed them the vaccine’s lot number to get the expiration date.

Sigh! The things we do for taxpayers.