I've been retired for a few years but have kept in touch with a few of my old students. I wrote about James a few months ago in a diary, Floundering Alone, when I talked about his difficulties finding employment, his decision to join the military and the obstacles preventing him from enlisting.

He finally moved back to Maryland to his father's house, something I'd been encouraging him to do for months. Even though he has no prospects in sight, the employment situation in Maryland is a lot better than in the little town in Appalachia where had been.

I had previously offered to edit his resume but he told me that he could handle it. He told me that a non-profit agency he'd worked with had helped him write it and he didn't think it needed editing. I guess since his resume hasn't gotten him anywhere these past few months, he became open to letting me work with him on it.

Even though he's back in Maryland, I'm still an hour and a half away from him. My husband and I moved to Virginia when I retired. He didn't want to talk on the phone since he is "phone shy" so I said we could discuss it over Facebook chat. I thought at least that way, he would have my comments in writing so he will be able to refer back to them.

I scheduled time to work with him for 11 am today. He emailed a copy of his resume to me the night before. He didn't send it as an attachment, but put it in the body of the email which messed up a lot of the punctuation and formatting. I asked him if he knew how to send a Word document in an attachment and he said he'd forgotten to do that and he resent it. The punctuation came through correctly this time. I sighed and wondered how many potential employers he'd emailed it to the same way he'd sent it to me the first time.

I thought the resume was awful. To verify that it wasn't just my opinion, I checked with my husband who used to do a lot of hiring before he retired. He said it was terrible. We stared at it together. It was hard to know where to start.

I spent three and a half hours working with James. It took three times as long to accomplish something over chat as it would have if we could have worked together in person. He's a slow typist and his internet or facebook connection kept fading in and out and sometimes I would get so impatient I felt like jumping up and down and screaming at the computer (but of course I didn't). I thought about playing Freerice.com while I waited for some of his responses, but unfortunately the site is down today. (shameless plug, join the Daily Kos FreeRice Team.)

By the end of our session, I felt as worn out as if I'd seen three freshman English classes in a row. I had given him direction on people he needed to contact to fill in the gaps on his resume. I had given him some information about temporary hiring agencies that might be able to help him by offering online tutorials to increase his skills using different software programs. (Manpower offers wonderful tutorials for those that are registered with that agency).

I don't mind spending the time and I appreciate that he was willing to put the time in himself, because not everyone will make even that much effort. In this day and age, there is no guarantee that even the most wonderful resume will get a person a job.  

I also have my concerns about how much he will follow through. I gave him a lot to do and it's going to be hard. And it's been my experience that half the time people don't follow through on things till you remind them two, three or fifty times.

But if nothing else, I got him to address one important omission which the consultant who had helped him write the resume had not noticed or had even caused. In this very sparse resume which mentioned some sketchy periods of employment and indeterminate training programs, he left this one major achievement out: James attended high school from August 2002 through May 2006. And graduated June 2006.

Originally posted to JamieG from Md on Fri Aug 12, 2011 at 08:30 PM PDT.

Also republished by Teachers Lounge, Unemployment Chronicles, and Maryland Kos.


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