The Unemployment Chronicles: Tales from the Career Center

On Thursday, I rolled up to the Goodwill on Harrison Ave. and trudged into the building for my Career Center training. I entered into a small office off the main lobby to meet my fellow unfortunate souls who’d been called in by the Commonwealth. Unsurprisingly, it was a pretty diverse group. A young male hipster scientist, a middle-aged African-American woman who’d lost her job driving a school bus, a balding woman of indeterminate age using a walker, and a couple of others. Our instructor led us into a computer lab and held forth on the services offered.

After her presentation, we were instructed to use the computers to log into a couple of websites offered to the unemployed by the Commonwealth. Once we’d done that, we waited for the instructor to come back and tell us if we’d been selected for further review by the Commonwealth.

Please don’t call my name, I thought to myself. Please don’t call my name.

Of course, she called my name. So I’ll need to go back to Goodwill one more time in the next couple of weeks to use an additional service, and must return for a follow-up class and a review of the job hunting I’ve done in recent weeks.

Spending time in the Career Center presented me with conflicting emotions. Our instructor underscored the value of education, advising people to enroll in a career training program or trying to get an Associates Degree to stand out from the crowd. Never had I felt so grateful for having the ability to attend college and get my costly Bachelor’s. But that same education also made me feel like an entitled, elitist brat.

I could tell the instructor was turned off by my reluctance to meet with one of the career counselors as my follow-up activity with the Goodwill. But the snotty-sounding truth is that I don’t need their services. I’m fortunate that as an alumnus, Emerson allows me to meet with their Career Center several times a year for resume and cover letter reviews, mock interviews, and similar activities to those offered by the Commonwealth. I’ve taken advantage of that perk several times in my professional life. When it comes to unemployment, I’m definitely not too proud to ask for help.

As I watched several of the older people in my class struggle to navigate the websites, I wished there was some way I could use Emerson’s Career Services office to prove to the state I’m hunting for a job instead of taking up bandwidth at the Goodwill. The services offered by the Commonwealth’s Career Centers are invaluable. But there are unemployed bus drivers and others who need them more than I do.

I’m happy to provide all the paperwork the Office of Labor and Workforce Development needs to keep the unemployment money coming while I surf the job boards and meet people for coffee to get new contacts for networking. But I wish I didn’t have to do it while taking up the time of an agency that has a lot of people to help and very little manpower to make it happen.

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