Monday, March 03, 2014
Well... I kind of have a job, maybe, sometime.
I was offered a job with a non-profit agency that operates bookstores in national parks. They were asked by the Park Service to take over the bookstores in two parks from a similar agency that is in deep financial doo-doo. Only, the request was made more than a month before the other agency was told they were getting the boot. In the interim, that agency borrowed more money to try to keep themselves afloat-- and they borrowed it from vendors who wholesale books to both agencies.
Now they have (not unreasonably) asked to be allowed to continue operating until the end of the fiscal year (Oct 1) to try to earn back some of what they owe so that, when they inevitably declare bankruptcy, they can hurt their creditors a little less. It is to the new agency's advantage to let them do so, since we'll have to continue dealing with those creditors who, even though they will logically understand that there's a new team in town, will nonetheless have a hard time not emotionally blaming the bookstore for them getting stiffed. (One major vendor may have lent them $100K or more, and we don't know if they paid any of it back. ) The Park Service really doesn't want to give them that extra time; they want them out and us in by the middle of May.
So... If we take over in May, I'll start training in April. That was the original plan, and it gave me a nice little vacation between ending one job and starting the next. If we don't take over until October, I'm out of work for 6 months. I can't really afford that since I'll need at least $3500 on hand for moving expenses and apartment deposit (housing is extremely expensive near these other two parks.) And those 6 months are the off season where I am right now, so I'm not likely to find temporary work here.
The latest plan, though, is that the director of the agency I'll be working for wants to go to the new parks in May and VOLUNTEER to try to get the other agency partway out of their pickle. If that happens, I would probably go at the same time and be paid by the other agency. But I don't know if it's wise to work for them since we know they're still going to go bankrupt; it blurs that line and makes it less obvious that we are separate and unrelated. I have no doubt that we can greatly improve on what they have been doing and recover a fair amount, but we can't fix 18 years of financial malfeasance in 5 months. The vendors are still going to get stiffed.
Oh, well. We'll see. One thing that I have decided is that if I do start work under the old agency, I am going to wear the uniform of the new agency, but the employees of the old agency who will be continuing with us are going to get their new uniforms on the day the official turn-over happens. (They don't have uniforms currently, and that's just one more little piece of the problem. They look like cr*p-- teenagers in ill-fitting, rumpled, worn T-shirts, so when you go into the bookstore, you can't tell who works there, and once you figure it out, you don't have much confidence that they'll know anything about the books (and, in fact, they don't. I'll be doing a lot of training.) It just seems like it will be a good visual reminder that the professionals are coming.
Monday, January 13, 2014
Archimedes commented on my previous post asking if I was done being a Park Ranger. The answer is, "probably, for now."
Sadly, the Park Service isn't a viable career for most people starting out now. There are virtually no real jobs, even for people who have advanced degrees in park management and other programs designed to prepare them for park positions. If you want to be in the Park Service, you basically have to have online work at the same time to beef up the salary and fill in the employment gaps. The vast majority of positions are 6-month seasonal jobs with no benefits and no competitive advantage for rehire the next year. Having done the job before doesn't really make it any more likely that you'll get that job again, no matter how well you did it (unless your supervisor really wants you back and convinces the hiring manager to write some weirdly specific detail into the announcement. Sometimes you'll see a qualification survey that asks, "Have you ever independently made the decision to close the XYZ trail in ABC park due to bear activity during a snowfall?") And veterans get extra "points" in the hiring qualification system, so if there's a vet who has close to the same qualifications you do, s/he gets the job if she wants it. There are a lot of vets who want jobs in the Park Service.
But I haven't given up. I figure I'll take a job for a year or two to beef up my financial status, maybe do some online stuff on the side for extra cash, and then do another season or two in the Park Service. I finally got my Ranger hat, so I need to work for the Park Service again to get some use out of it!
Seriously, though, this is one more symptom of what I think is wrong with our country. There is no respect or demand for people who make things, people who know things, or people who invent things. All of the economic power goes to people who already own things, or people who sell things. I can't get a job as a Park Ranger teaching people how to be safe or helping to preserve the park's resources. I can get jobs selling and marketing books and merchandise with pictures of the parks. I also work in the publishing industry, where the people who market textbooks and educational computer programs have permanent jobs with salaries in the mid six figures, while the people who write those materials are lucky to make the mid five figures-- more likely, they're freelancers being paid by the page, with no benefits and no job security at all. Those people who were talking about "the makers and the takers" had it backward. The makers-- the ones who actually build or create things-- have nothing. The takers-- the ones who sell other people's products and keep the profits from things they had no part in creating-- are making a killing and running the show.
Saturday, January 11, 2014
I've been working at a term job that ends at the beginning of Feb. I started a half-hearted job search in mid-December, but all the things I've gotten nibbles on don't start until April or May. I could last that long because I was working double hours for a few months, but it would largely deplete the little bit of savings I've rebuilt.
And then out of the blue last week, I got offered my choice of two jobs with a non-profit. One pays chicken feed, but it would be very easy and it's right here where I already am, working with people I know and like. The other pays a grown-up salary, but I'm not entirely 100% sure I'm qualified for it. It involves managing people who might not be terribly happy, because their current managers are all getting fired for financial malfeasance. (They didn't do anything criminal; they just mismanaged stuff. They run an operation that should be making lots of money easily, but is barely breaking even, so their non-profit is being evicted from its sites and replaced with the non-profit that offered me the job. I've seen some of their work, and it looks more like a junior high class project than a professional fund-raising operation.) Unfortunately, that one is also in a community where it's evidently next to impossible to find an apartment. Even though it pays twice as much as the opportunity here, my housing would cost two to three times as much. It's hard to find housing here, too, but if you do find it, it's cheap.
And just to complicate things further, the soon-to-be-dissolved non-profit had a position that wasn't offered to me but for which I am eminently qualified. I'm not sure if the director knows my background; he offered me the other jobs because he's seen me volunteering and Rangering, not using this other skill set. So on Monday I'm going to ask if they plan to fill the position I noticed, and if he would let me combine that with the job he already offered me here. I could actually do both at the same time if he'll pay me for them.
Oh, and either of those jobs will pay my health insurance. That was an interesting part of the conversation; this guy-- who is a fairly conservative gun-totin' Texan-- is totally sold on Obamacare. His organization has to insure 4 employees, and it was just about breaking him, and then there was one employee with pre-existing conditions for whom he just couldn't find insurance at any cost. He spent over a hundred hours a year searching, because each company would drop them after a year even though the employee in question NEVER FILED A CLAIM. Not even a normal doctor visit, or a sprained ankle, or the flu. That employee fought with the website for 5 or 6 hours (so did I; it didn't like our addresses down here and instead of saying, "We do not recognize your address" it would say "an error occurred") and then got better coverage than they could get him, at a price that will save them enough to hire another employee at their lowest pay grade.
So, anyway, I basically have to make a decision in the next few days and be ready to move in 3-4 weeks. I hate big decisions and transitions. Wish me luck in creating my own Frankenjob!
Sunday, December 01, 2013
...wasn't the best idea I've ever had.
I was a volunteer for almost 8 months last year, with no income during most of that time (although with extremely little in the way of expenses-- housing was provided and I had laid in a pretty impressive supply of non-perishable food before I started). Then I picked up a freelance job that was supposed to give me 15-20 hours a week at a fairly generous hourly rate. Since I could accomplish 15-20 hours on weekends and evenings, I went ahead and took a low-paying full-time job that came with low-cost housing.
Well, the 15-20 hours somehow grew to 40+ for most of the past month! While I am very grateful to have two full-time salaries, I have to say that 85-hour weeks are not particularly fun. And forget about exercise! I've held my weight steady by not eating much, but since I had gained a few pounds over the summer due to a broken toe or two, I need to do more than hold steady!
The good news is that my hours at the low-paying on-site job are changing so I'll be getting home an hour earlier and have time for a run before dark. The good/bad news is that the online work is going to dwindle soon as the project is almost finished. I'll miss the income, but not the hours. I haven't added it up yet, but I earned enough in the past month or so to make my bank account almost healthy-- but both jobs end at the beginning of Feb. and I don't have the next one lined up yet. I only have one application in, and it's for another low-paying one that doesn't start until May and that I'm not sure I would want, anyway, in a place I know nothing about.
So... Time for another job hunt. I haven't decided whether I want permanent or term/contract. I hate having to look for work every few months, but I do like having new things to learn and do, and I love knowing that if I don't like something about the job, it's going to end soon.
On an almost completely unrelated note, I'm doing my Thanksgiving tomorrow. Most people in the park worked the actual holiday, so there was a quick "park family" potluck hosted by one Ranger who gets Thursdays off. I went to the nearest city two weeks ago (500 mile round trip in one day; another not-best idea) and turkey was 47 cents a pound, so I bought one figuring even if I didn't do Thanksgiving, I could roast it for myself at some point and have protein for a month. But my parents made it down here from the frozen North last week, so they're coming over tomorrow. I'm going to do the turkey, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and roasted cauliflower, and Mom will bring a cabbage dish she learned recently, and maybe a pie. It's a big meal that I don't really need, but it'll be relatively healthy. If they get here early enough and the turkey is done on time, we might go for a little hike afterwards; we'll see.
Tuesday, October 01, 2013
I am, as far as I know, furloughed until the government reopens. There's a slim chance that I could be declared "excepted" and forced to work without pay instead.
Fortunately, I think I'm going to have a fair amount of work from my online job, but it's still going to be a financial hit if it lasts very long.
And I at least still get to stay in my not-very-expensive National Park housing. The people really taking a hit are those who live and work in, but not for, the National Parks. People who run the restaurants, lodging, camp stores, gas stations, etc. have 48 hours to find someplace else to go and some way to get there. Many of these people make pretty close to minimum wage and some don't own cars. If they have to leave this park, it's over 100 miles to the nearest train station, almost 300 to the nearest bus line (in the US. If they sneak across the border into Mexico, there's a bus stop "only" 160 miles south.) If they have relatives they can stay with, it's still going to cost them several hundred dollars to get there, at a time when they've got no income.
Today I'm sitting and twiddling my thumbs while I wait to find out if I have to work tomorrow. If it goes on longer, I'll get out and hike, but that's going to be a limited amount of fun because there are no bathrooms and no trail patrol for safety. Honestly, it's the lack of bathrooms that will curtail us the most. We're also counting on it to discourage visitors from trying to sneak in. That's a big concern, actually. This park is the size of the state of Rhode Island and we're going to have 15 Rangers and 7 Border Patrol Agents watching the whole thing. No food, no gas, no bathrooms, no search plane, no Interpretive Rangers to give safety information, write permits, and know if someone has gone missing. Several people have died this summer, and several more have been rescued, and the main difference in most cases was whether a Ranger knew where they had gone.
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