the catch-22 of finding a job

I finished my bachelor’s degree in February (Bachelor of Science in Business Technical Management with a concentration in Human Resources), and I’m now in my second semester of grad school, pursuing an MBA with an emphasis in Project Management.  I’m due to graduate at the end of October 2015, and I’ve got to say, I’m incredibly worried.

I’ve been perusing job listings, seeing what’s out there, what I could do with what I have, looking at the job descriptions for the jobs I want and seeing if I have the right prerequisites; but there’s always one thing listed as “required” that I just don’t have: experience.

So everyone out there wants to hire someone with experience, but no one is willing to hire people without it in order to give them experience.  Basically, you’re telling me that I need to go get a job that I am grossly overqualified for, so that I can get some experience in the field, but still not in that particular position.  Obviously you all want someone with experience!  That’s a pretty “duh” question to ask: “would you rather take a risk on someone that’s unproven in this particular position, or hire someone who’s done it for years?”  Really??

I get it.  The employment situation still isn’t great, and companies can afford to be picky, but they’re really limiting themselves by not wanting to hire the hard-charging recent graduates who are chomping at the bit to prove themselves and show a company what they can really do.

So I can’t get a job until I gain experience, but I can’t get experience until someone will hire me.  Alrighty then…

There’s another problem, too.  I’ve applied to a handful of positions, and I haven’t heard back from HR on a single one.  At first, I just thought this was incredibly rude and I was angry, but for purely selfish reasons, and then I came across this piece by Dr. John Sullivan on TLNT.com: Why Aren’t Job Applicants Given Decent Feedback?  In the article, Dr. Sullivan poses a pretty good argument for why companies should be giving rejected applicants feedback, and it’s not just about manners.

Furthermore, I’m hearing more and more from old Navy friends that they can’t get jobs either.  What happened to hiring preference for veterans?  I thought we had all this great experience that everyone wanted!  There’s pretty decent tax breaks for hiring veterans as well, especially us disabled vets!  The White House has even released a Guide to Hiring Veterans, it answers all kinds of questions and goes over all of the incentives, so why are we also getting slammed with the “you need more experience” line?

Listen, Mr. Hiring Manager, we have experience.  We have experience coming out our ears.  We have experience doing things you’ve never even dreamed of.  We know how to get things done with limited resources and time.  We know how to treat our supervisors, especially those that are newly discharged.  My veteran friends are some of the most respectful people I know, so much so that it sometimes humbles the people they interact with.  We know how to work as a team, because that was drilled into us from day one in MEPS.  You succeed together, or you fail together (sometimes this can be a bad thing, check this out right here).  Veterans understand safety, following instructions, policy, procedure.  We learn fast because we have to, and many of us are incredibly smart.  Just because you don’t know what an SQR-19 is, or have any clue what it means that someone has worked on the CIWS, doesn’t mean that we don’t have experience doing some very relevant jobs to the position we’re applying for.

Stop looking for the perfect resume, it doesn’t meant the person who wrote it is the perfect candidate.

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why i’ll never sing again

I used to sing.  I’ve always sang, since before I can remember, but I used to be good.  I remember just before my sophomore year started, my mother and I visited my choir director and she asked me to sing for her; she said that my voice had matured a lot over the summer, and that I should expect many solos, which I got, for the next three years until I graduated.  I was an alto, but I could sing anywhere from tenor 2 to soprano 1 (the latter being difficult, but possible).  I had the supporting female role in the Spring Musical my sophomore and junior year, and the lead female role my senior year.  Also my senior year, I was ranked the second best alto at Districts, only missing a perfect score because I was awful at sight-reading.  I’m pretty sure my mother still had my scorecard on the refrigerator at home, even though it was almost eleven years ago.  I also started an a capella group, along with a friend of mine, called the Husky Voices (our school mascot was the Husky, and the irony was that our voices were clear as a bell).  We performed along with two college groups, and were told by many people in the audience that we actually sounded better than they did, I was honored!

When I joined the Navy, someone told the RDCs (Recruit Division Commanders) they had heard me singing and thought I would be a good ARCPO (Assistant Recruit Chief Petty Officer), so when our RCPO (Recruit Chief Petty Officer) got fired, our ARCPO took her spot, and I moved up to ARCPO.  I called cadence for my division (945!) for most of boot camp, but I figured it would stop there.  When I reported to ATT (Apprentice Technical Training), I somehow ended up calling again, and when I reported to my A School in San Diego, I was volunteered by my roommate to call cadence again.  I didn’t mind it, I actually quite liked it, but I didn’t want to be the “look at me!” sailor, I found out really quickly that you don’t want to draw attention to yourself in the Navy, not like that, it appears ostentatious.

Even when I got in trouble and went on Restriction (oops…) my “extra duty” was to call cadence for the 50 State Flag Team, as I was the only one who was loud and clear enough to be heard by all members, even when they were standing in a row, marching single file.  I even got to go to the Chargers game – while on restriction, mind you – in order to call cadence.

I remember one time, I was in the NMT (Naval Military Training) office talking to the LPOs (Leading Petty Officers) and somehow the subject of my singing came up, and one of them asked if I could sing “real” songs, not just cadence.  I started singing “Think of Me” from Phantom of the Opera, and had everyone in that office staring at me, and many of the students from the next door lounge standing at the door as well.  My LPO told me that he had a hard time distinguishing my voice from Amy Lee’s when I sang along with an Evanescence song, he said as soon as I graduated school I should try out to sing and act in his theater group, because they needed a strong female singer.  I was that good.

I had suffered from strep throat multiple times a year since I was a kid, but I never had my tonsils removed because my pediatrician was convinced they would eventually do me some good as an adult.  However, by the time I had gone through winter in Chicago – still calling cadence, by the way – they were constantly filled with pus (ew), took up most of the back of my throat (they touched when I stuck my tongue out), and when I was sick (yeah, the previous two were when I was feeling okay), they would bleed.  I had had strep enough times that a little less than a year after I reported to my first ship, I was referred to ENT for a tonsillectomy.  I was excited!  I had a slight speech impediment that made it sound like I was swallowing my words, my throat was always hurting, and singing was getting harder, more painful.  I thought for sure getting my tonsils removed would be a good thing.

And it was.  I stopped getting sick, I could breathe better (I had obstructive sleep apnea from those damn things…), and my speech didn’t sound so… weird.  Recovering was tough, I do not recommend getting your tonsils out as an adult!  I lost 30 pounds because I couldn’t eat anything, and while I looked fabulous, I was freaking miserable.  I did eventually recover though, but I found that I couldn’t sing very well anymore.  I thought maybe I just needed time, or practice, or to quit smoking.  I did all three and it’s now six years later and I still can’t sing.  I’m so depressed.  I watched the 2004 movie rendition of Phantom of the Opera last night, and I started crying because I knew I’d never sing the way I used to.  I would give anything, I would take it all back, I would just deal with the sickness and the pain and the weird speech, if it meant that I could still sing.  Getting my tonsils removed was medically right, but I’m absolutely miserable.  I want my beautiful voice back! 😥  I don’t even have any really good recordings of me singing, so I sometimes wonder if my fiance even believes me, if anyone does, when I say I used to be a great singer.

I used to sing along with everything.  I’d watch Phantom, or Chicago, or Disney movies, whatever, and I would belt out those tunes like it was nothing.  Now all I can do is sit in silence while the tears spill over and remember all those wonderful times I sang, just for the joy it brought me.  I feel like I’ve lost everything…

Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

USS Arizona

The USS Arizona.

It’s hard to imagine her standing proudly, towering above the waves. She rests so quietly now, just beneath the very water that once kept her afloat. The USS Arizona. Her name brings a slow solemnity over one’s heart, and to see her, an eerie sense of calm. The chaos and destruction that brought her to her knees, dragging a thousand sailors and Marines down with her, smoking and burning. Now look at her.

Softly sitting beneath the calm waters of Pearl Harbor, she looks both proud and sad. Everything above her main deck is gone, her gun turrets stand empty, just out of the water, rusty, and a reminder that she was once the most powerful class of ship in the United States Navy. Buoys mark her bow and stern, the better for visitors to gauge the true size of this ocean monster, but they do little but offer a small piece of reference. A ship is more than its length. A ship is its crew, and this ship continues to weep and bleed for the men she lost. Looking out over the quiet water above her deck, it’s easy to spot the small droplets of oil, rising to the surface in an amorphous tumble, and spreading into little pools as they break the surface. It’s easy to watch the USS Arizona cry. It’s hard to look away. It’s hard not to weep for the men who undoubtedly fought their ship till the end, and will lay with her forever.

The USS Missouri stands behind her, two sisters, marking the beginning and the end of World War II. The Missouri watches over her older sister, her bow facing the Arizona. She is a reminder that we do not forget, that we will never leave our shipmates alone and in the dark, even in death.

So on this day, many will remember the USS Arizona, children will learn of her in school, and people will visit her in person, 4,500 of them, as there are each day. I feel privileged to have seen her while I was serving my country. I feel she has special meaning to those who have served in the Navy. Those are our brothers down there. As close as those who stand beside us on our own ships. It’s a beautiful sadness. The pain that we feel at their loss, but also the pride, that their sacrifice was not for nothing. We remember those who fought on the USS Arizona, and all over Pearl Harbor today, and we thank them for their service and sacrifice, for many, the ultimate sacrifice.

STG2(SW)

USN 2005-2011

I wanted to post something for Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, especially since I’ve actually been to the Arizona.  I went there in 2009 for a friend’s re-enlistment onboard (well, in the memorial building).  I took a few pictures while we were there:

entrance to the museum

Memorial Plaque

list of names

list of names 2

flag at half-mast

forward gun turret

viewing area

oil on the water

oil on the water 2

oil on the water 3

oil on the water 4

sun shining on Arizona

I want to thank any active duty, retired, or veterans (like me) for their service, their sacrifice, and their fulfillment of duty.

how the navy is still %&$#ing me seven months later…

FTN.  A fond acronym that anyone that’s done time (or is the spouse of someone who has done time) in the Navy knows well.  Along with BOHICA, which also applies here…

So.

When I was in the Navy, I was on a ship.  I did back-breaking work the entire time I was there because I thought I was tough, and I didn’t want to be thought of as the “weak girl” in the division (I was the only girl, so it was even more important that I pull my weight).  Anyway, after a while I started to hurt.  A lot.  Everywhere.  My knees and back especially.  And I got check out by the doctor and lo and behold – I had tendonitis caused by arthritis in my knees, and three ruptured intercalated discs in my lower back.  Brilliant.  Just lovely.  So I was taken off of the ship, and sent to a LIMDU assignment on shore duty.  I hobble around with a cane, was on painkillers, muscle relaxers, sleeping pills, antidepressants, and all manner of physical therapy.  I was at Medical about every other day.  This was just before Christmas, 2011.  I was on a six-month LIMDU, and when June rolled around, and I wasn’t better, I marched (well, hobbled) my butt into Medical again and said “I’m not better, I need another LIMDU period, please!” and they said “okay, we’ll do another assessment, come on in, Petty Officer!”  So I did.  And I failed the fit-for-full exam, which says I need another six month LIMDU period.  Then they saw my EAOS was in two months.  “Have you reenlisted?” they ask, “no,” I say “I was denied PTS because of a mistake my Command Career Counselor made on the ship.”  “Ah…  Wait one moment, STG2…”

So I waited.  And I waited.  And finally my PCP comes back out and says “STG2, we can’t give you a second LIMDU because it conflicts with your EAOS, I’m going to have to give you FFD…”

I was flabbergasted.  My jaw hit the floor.  I was standing there, leaning on a cane, and they were telling me that they would have to put me FFD??  “Don’t worry,” she said with a sincere (though now I know it to be naive…) smile, “the VA will make sure you’re taken care of, everything’s in your record, right?”

Uh, yeah, but isn’t that still messed up, lady?  Apparently not, because that’s exactly what she did.  She wrote that I was just fine, and that I was fit for separation with no medical issues.

Wow.

I walked back to my office in a daze, I went straight into Chief’s office and placed the paper on his desk and stood there.  He saw my face and didn’t say a word until he read the report I’d put right next to his sandwich.

“Fit for Full?  Are you kidding me??”  He looked up at me, his blue eyes blazing.  I shook my head, and I felt tears welling in my eyes.

“I don’t know what to do…”  I said meekly, sitting down and wiping my tears with the cuff of my NWU’s, I’d just about had it.  “Neither do I…” he said, sitting back and staring out his window.

That was a rough day.

So I immediately started my VA claim and made absolutely sure every little thing I could get compensation for (and probably a lot of stuff I couldn’t get compensation for) was in my packet.  I did everything I could to make sure the VA knew that I had been discharged a very, very broken little girl.

That was seven months ago, and I still haven’t gotten the results of my claim.  And I just got a letter in the mail informing me that I needed to register with the Individual Ready Reserves or face revocation of my Honorable Discharge and my Post 9/11 GI Bill.

Holy shit.

I’ve been trying to call everyone I can think of, the base Command Career Counselor, the one that signed me up for IRR, but didn’t understand it because if he had he would have realized that me signing on the dotted line with a pen in one hand and a cane in the other was a mistake.  Allow me to explain that particular debacle:

An e-mail was sent out just before I got out about IRR Severance Pay, and I had kept it as an LPO because I knew as soon as I deleted it, some idiot would ask me for it.  I hadn’t given it much thought since I was under the impression that my enlistment would be extended for me to finish my LIMDU and get a Med Board.  Silly me.  When I found out that I would be discharged anyway, I began to panic; what the hell was I going to do?  I couldn’t work, any job I could take wouldn’t hire me with a cane, and I hadn’t finished college yet, so my options were severely limited.  I remembered reading that E-5 over 6 get a $20k severance for enlisting in the IRR, so I jumped on it, if only as a temporary solution.

What they don’t tell you is that if you take a severance, and then apply for disability, you have to pay the severance back before you can collect said disability.  The Navy says it’s being compensated twice for the same period of service.  I call it fucked up.

A fellow from the VFW where my mother works told me this little tidbit and said “do whatever it takes to get that paperwork stopped, do not spend that money!”  I quickly tried over and over to call PERS-93 with no answer.  I left messages.  E-mails.  No response.  When I didn’t receive the bonus, I was confident that they had taken care of it and just hadn’t contacted me about it.  So I relaxed.

Stupid.  Stupid.  Stupid!

So now I’m stuck: register with the IRR by Friday and stay out of a metric fuck-ton of trouble, or don’t register, have said ton fall on my head, and be totally screwed for the rest of my life.

I guess I’ll register then, eh?  Hopefully I can get this shit sorted out later.  I’ve tried to contact the base, PERS-93 (again), the VA, the VFW, no one will take my calls!  But I refuse to give up.  I served my country honorably for six years, goddamnit.  I will get my just compensation, if I have to knock on my Congressman’s very front door, I will straighten this shit out.

Put the word out: anyone seeking disability from the VA should not file for IRR and severance pay – DON’T DO IT!

the navy and tattoos

Okay, so a friend of a friend gets this anchor tattoo, she’s in the Navy like me, so I thought “cool, Navy tattoo, alright.”  Then I find out she’s got a swallow.  She’s been in for maybe two years, and has never been to sea.  A swallow.  For those of you who don’t know, the swallow tattoo is a Navy thing that civilians thought was cool and stole.  Civilians with swallow tattoos don’t really bug me, because they don’t really know the meaning behind it, so I just chalk it up to “hey, that looks cool, I want THAT!”.  But, if you’re in the Navy, and you get all these tattoos, you might want to know what they mean before you start thinking you’re Joe Cool…

Swallows:  Initially, Sailors got swallows before they went out to sea, because swallows always come home; nowadays, one swallow means you’ve sailed 5,000 miles, and two means 10,000.  There’s a ton of hoopla about “flying fists” and other dumb stuff, but in the US Navy, it means you’ve done some time at sea.

Anchors:  Depending on the way it’s done, it can mean a Boatswain’s Mate (it’s their rating badge) a Chief (it’s their rank symbol) or, the original meaning, that you’ve sailed across the Atlantic.  There’s also ties to the Christian Church, however, so this one is kind of iffy.  But it’s pretty much understood that if you’re in the Navy and you have an anchor tattoo, you’re either a Boats, a Chief, or you’ve at least gone underway at some point…

Dragons:  Means you’ve served in the Far East.  There’s a ton of people with dragon tattoos, and I totally wouldn’t rag on someone for having one, because they’re everywhere, and the Navy stole it from the Asians they met there, so this one is less of a big deal whether you’re in or out.  Again, the style has something to do with it as well.

Pig and Rooster:  Probably one of my personal favorites, the pig and rooster tattoos would be applied one on each leg (sometimes on the knee, sometimes the foot) to keep a sailor afloat.  Back in the day, when live roosters and pigs would be shipped overseas in wooden crates, they were often the only remains left of a shipwreck, so it was believed the tattoo would help you stay afloat and get to land if the ship went down.  If you have this tattoo and you’re not on sea duty in the Navy, or at least a hardcore mariner, you’re an idiot.

“Hold Fast” and/or Rope:  It’s a deckhand thing.  Helps you hold the rope, show people your profession, yada yada, not a whole lot of people get these anymore, and if I saw someone  with “HOLD FAST” across his knuckles, unless he was an old, salty-ass Chief, I would laugh my ass off and probably die laughing.  [EDIT: People are getting pissed off at me for saying I would laugh at someone with “HOLD FAST” on their knuckles, so let me explain.  The Navy is no longer using sailing ships.  Hell, we don’t even use steam ships anymore.  We use jet engines.  Sure, we still need to handle ropes in order to dock/moor, and we have all those fun flags we fly, but let’s be honest: Navy sailors just don’t do the rope work they used to!  If you’re a literal “sailor,” and you actually sail, this is not directed at you, okay?  Calm down…]

Jolly Roger:  You know, the black flag with the skull and crossbones?  Well, usually it’s a pirate thing, but I heard once a while ago that it was a symbol for getting in trouble and going to Captain’s Mast.  I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t really want to advertize that shit.  Unless you’re one of my former Commanding Officers (who shall remain nameless) who kept black anchors on this ship to show what a badass he was for not getting fired during an official inquiry – you go, Cap!

Full-Rigged Ship:  You’ve sailed around Cape Horn.  Back in the day, when ships were actually powered by wind, you were also allowed to get a blue star on your ear, and if you did it five times, you could get one on your other ear, because it was that badass to do it and survive that many times.  Nowadays though, a lot of people have full-rigged ships, but most of them were, actually, in the Navy at some point.

Mermaid:  Ahhh, the mermaid, everyone gets mermaids now, so it’s kind of the same situation as the dragon tattoo, but Sailors would get these cuz, hey, it’s porn you can’t lose.  There’s also some linkage to the draw of the sea (“homeward bound, seaward drawn” type thing)  These were really popular back in the day, and when the Navy banned nudity on the pin-up tattoos, they actually created a huge revenue for the tattoo artists because Sailors went back in droves to get little shell and starfish bikini tops added on in order to be in regs.  Ask any tattoo artist that knows his history, and he’ll probably chuckle a bit.

Hula Girl:  Similar to the mermaid, they’re sexy to look at, but it also means that you’ve been to Hawaii, nowadays I would say it means you’ve beenstationed in Hawaii, cuz let’s face it, it’s not nearly as hard to get there today as it was in the 1600-1700’s, so there you go.

Shellback Tattoos:  Those of us that have been through Wog Day never want to go through that shit again.  It’s embarrassing, you’re basically getting IT’d all day, and you’re in so much salt water that you’re pretty much a raisin for the next week and about 17 layers of skin will peel off of you.  In the “kinder, gentler Navy” Wog Day is nothing like it was, we’re not allowed to make you crawl through garbage, or beat you up, or tie you down for hours and torture you.  But it still sucks.  So what some Sailors do is tattoo the date, time, and coordinates of their Shellback initiation on their lower leg, so come Wog Day when the Shellbacks would tear into berthing at 3am ripping people out of their racks and telling everyone to “show a leg” you would literally “show a leg” and prove that you’d already done it, so they’d leave you alone.  Ahhhh, Navy tradition! 🙂

Nautical Stars:  These can be five- or six-pointed, and usually have a light side and a dark side, it’s unanimous that they originated with sailors, but there’s so much debate over where and when and why and all that, but the two meanings I really think are the most authentic are these:  Sailors used to navigate by the stars, using a compass.  There you go.  Covers them both.  Musicians use these symbols as well (usually five-pointed) but that’s mostly because of Sailor Jerry and how everyone thinks it’s cool to get old school sailor tattoos (I can’t blame them, they are pretty fuckin’ awesome).

The Rose:  HA!  Bet you didn’t know that rose tattoos got their start in the Navy, didja???  Well, it’s true, they got popular when Sailors would tattoo a rose on themselves to honor their wife or girlfriend they left behind (well, it was a nice gesture anyways, we all know the rumors about sailor infidelity, I can neither confirm nor deny the purity of any actions of my shipmates while overseas, and there’s even a term for the wives left at home here in San Diego – WESTPAC Widows).

And then there’s all the rate, rank, flag, eagle, etc stuff that is self-explanatory, or is quite simply an obvious military tattoo, the first two you should definitelyonly have if you’ve served, otherwise I’d say that borders on impersonating a member of the armed forces, or at least being a major poser.  And I think any patriotic American that likes tattoos would get a bald eagle and an American flag, you don’t have to be in the military to have it.  But let me just say, if you want to get a tattoo, awesome, but please don’t be that guy that gets it only because it “looks cool” without doing your research, tattoo’s mean stuff, in tribal societies they’re literally magical, don’t shit on them like Russel Brand’s character from “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, go watch the movie right now, because it’s awesome).  I don’t have any Navy tattoos yet, and you want to know why?  I don’t know exactly how I want them done, I want to make sure they’re perfect because I want to make sure I don’t regret them, just like my other five.  I thought long and hard before I got mine, because, especially as a chick, I don’t want to look at them when I’m 40 or 50 and be like “oh… why did I do that… Crap.”  So THINK before you INK, and now maybe you’ll even have new respect for that salty dog in the corner of the bar with all the Navy tattoos, because now you know what they mean 🙂

Also, if there’s other types of Navy tattoos that I’m forgetting (and I’m sure I am, I didn’t spend days researching this, you know) put them here, and what they mean, thanks!