Is it just me…

March 10, 2010

or would flying halfway across the country for an interview show that I have serious interest in the position and also show that I’d show up for work for anything.

My thoughts on anti-depressants

March 9, 2010

After I lost my job in June of 2008 I felt down in the dumps.  I visited my family doctor and she gave me a depression test.  Of course my answers which were based on the unemployment situation put me in the status of midly depressed.  No Shit!

So I was prescribed Zoloft.  I took it as I was suppossed to and everything slowed down for me.  The world was calm, not so fast paced, I felt happier, I enjoyed life.

Occassionally I would have a panic attack, feel overwhelmed, or just need to take it slow.  Then I started having visions of hurting my children.  I knew the medication was most likely the cause of this so I stopped taking it and told my wife.  We tried to make an appointment to change my medication with a psychiatrist, but those could only be done 6 months out. 

I went to the hospital and checked myself in so that I could see the on-call/on-duty psychiatrist that way.  Heck I had a vision of hurting my children so they should take me in.

After spending a few hours there talking to nurse after nurse then finally the psychiatrist she gave me a new prescription with a different medication.  This medication wasn’t covered by insurance and being that we were already at our monetary limit I wan’t about to pay over $100 for some pills.  So I went without.

I haven’t had antidepressants in over a year now.   The world still goes by slowly.  There are no panic attacks, no overwhelming feelings, no visions, no anything.

Am I depressed?  Of course I am.  Naturally who wouldn’t be?  I’m without a job.  I’m without my family.  I miss reading to my daughter. I miss playing with my son.  I miss giving hugs and kisses and hearing them say I love you daddy.

Do I need a pill to take those feelings away?  No.  I want to miss my children.  I want to care.  I have a purpose.  I don’t want a pill to cover that up and make me feel artifically better.

I’ll feel good once I’m working.  I’ll feel even better when I speak to my children.  I’ll feel best when I hug them again.

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I got a phone call last night…

March 9, 2010

…it wasn’t for a job.

Someone who knows me personally had read the blog.  I haven’t gone into detail as to what my situation was really with anyone.  I didn’t really give out so much in the last posting.  The story does goes very much into deeper issues but the theme is the same.

He called to basically say, he had been complaining about some things in his life, but he really shouldn’t because my life is currently much worse than his.

Let me put this as blunt as possible.  I don’t need or want pity.  I wouldn’t want my situation to happen to anyone.  Individuals should more or less, in my current view, be selfish for themselves and not worry too much about me.  I want you all to worry about your own issues first.  I’m strong enough, or at least seem to think so, to get through this.

Do I appreciate the thoughts and prayers?  Of course I do.  Am I grateful to have been brought up in an Italian family, with strong family values and support?  You bet I am!  People who I haven’t seen in over 14 years, have messaged me on facebook and actually given me encouragement.

 I’m starting over from nothing.  Well not nothing exactly, I still have my degree, I still have my car, and I still have my mind.  I have the opportunity to remake myself.  

I’m going to do it.   Just hopefully the motivation continues.

Two things happened today

March 9, 2010

1. I found out that my unemployment, which expired 3 weeks ago, is not extended from the latest extension that was signed into law last Wednesday.

2. The employment lawyers who were handling my case regarding wrongful termination have closed their file and are no longer involved.  I guess that is what happens when they only attempted to settle from the start, the company just waited them out.

So there ya have it.   Not the happiest of days today.  Some day my luck will start changing for the good.

The thing about unemployment that the news doesn’t cover

March 8, 2010

As I said in earlier an earlier post I have been out of work since June 10th, 2008.   I’ll attempt to give as much background as possible to each part of the story in order to keep it moving.

In 2004 I met my future wife at college in Boston, we fell in love, and we were later married.  In early 2005, my wife missed the Twin Cities of Minnesota and we decided to move to the midwest.  From 2005-2009 I lived in Minneapolis-St Paul, Minnesota.

Jumping ahead to late 2005.  My in-laws had recently purchased a duplex, as a rental property in addition to their own home, in Minneapolis but were unable to find quality long term renters who actually paid their rent on a steady basis and at least 3 in the previous two years had to be evicted.

At about that same time, my wife and I were expecting our first child and we would need a larger place to live so I suggested that we move to the duplex.  We could pay half the mortgage and would also be on hand if anything in the other rented side needed a repair.

So my wife and I moved in.  We had a baby and lived there from the end of 2005 to May of 2008.

In the spring of 2007  my wife and I learned that we would be having a  second child.  I was working full time (40 hours) as an scheduler at a major Minnesota employer and needed to supplement my icome to pay for another kid.  I ended up picking up a second job,  an additional 40 hours a week, with a restaurant franchise getting started in the Twin Cities market.  They were opening one restaurant in July and had plans for a second in October, third in November, and a fourth shortly after that.  I wanted to be there in the beginning.

I was hired as one of four assistant General Managers and worked nights since I had a full time day job.   After a while the District Manager approached me and offered me the promotion to become the General Manager of the next store to open.

In October of 2007 , two things happened.  First my son was born then the next day my store opened.  I had taken baby leave a few weeks earlier from my day job and was able to get my store ready during that time.  I helped unload the equipment trailers, I interviewed, hired, and trained my staff and assistant management team.  Great experience in opening a business. 

While on baby leave, I was having a blast running my pizza restaurant that I turned ina letter of resignation to my scheduling job in early November.  I figured I would use the baby leave as a time to see if managing the pizza restaurant would be a good opportunity for me.  If I decided it wasn’t I could always turn down the promotion, continue working nights and keep my full time scheduling job.  My store quickly established itself as the best in the market so I stayed.

The end of May 2008 my family wanted to save money to purchase a house for ourselves so we decided to temporarily move in with our in-laws in their large house in the suburbs.  We found renters for the duplex quickly.

In June of 2008, costs in the company were up.  They had been late in making payments to our food vendors, health insurance premiums (which I found out when my son needed to be admitted to the hospital), and other expenses.  They needed to cut costs.  So what did they do?  They fired their entire management staff in the North Dakota market; the area manager, 6 store managers, and the Director of Training & Development.  The next week they got rid of the store management staff in Minnepolis, including me!

I was approved, with a lot of opposition from the company, for unemployment.  The $351 dollars a week in unemployment was much less than the over $700 I was making at the store.  At least I wasn’t currently paying rent and had a roof over our head.

Until a couple months later when my wife told me of a secret she had been hiding.  Her parents’ house, which had been refinanced in order to purchase the duplex years early, was facing foreclosure and he had to be out by the end of September.

There’s nothing harder to do then find a place to lease when aren’t working.  I was able to find a three bedroom split level house for rent in the neighborhood of a private college in Saint Paul.  The family living there had not been able to rent it out for the school year, and sympathized with our situation.  We were able to negotiate a temporary rent reduction from $1500/mo to $1100/mo until I was able to find work again.  We signed a lease through August of 2009.

Basically three weeks each month of unemployment would be used to pay the rent.  The last week each month would be used for food, utilities, baby stuff, etc.  Needless to say it was very tough.

The day after Christmas 2008 my wife couldn’t take it anymore.  She took the kids and went to live with her parents, who had begun renting a house earlier thay month.  The house was thirty plus miles away.

I figured that as long as I kept looking for work, sooner or later she’d come back.  She continued to live at her parents’ house but we agreed that weekends we’d all spend days together and do fun stuff with the kids.

That basically happened until June.

June 28 is the last day I spent with my children.  My wife stopped answering her phone and I later found out that she had moved.  Her parents also no longer rented the house anymore.

In July, my landlord informed me that they needed to raise the rent back to $1,500 a month.  I couldn’t afford that with unemployment so while continuing to find work, I also started looking for another place to live. I gave my notice that I would not be renewing a lease in September.

In August I started looking for places that had room for rent.  I looked for something that was good for myself but also kid friendly,  I always had the intentions of my children visiting.  I was offered a room in a nice neighborhood of Minneapolis by voicemail.  I called the owner back, but dialed the wrong number.

Instead I dialed the phone of a restaurant owner I had spoken with six months earlier.   In March I flew back to Massachusetts to interview for a few restaurant manager positions in Massachusetts.  The position was filled, but the manager did not last, the owner suggested that I come back our again and interview.

I didn’t want to start renting a new place while I was out of town so I called the correct number turned down the offer for moving in September first.  However I left the opportunity open for October if the location was still available.

So when my lease ended August 31st, I had given away most of my things already, I took my two suitcases and flew back to Massachusetts.  I would swallow my pride and stay in my childhood home with my parents.

I continued to call my wife’s phone everyday and leave messages for my children.  The calls were never answered.  I later found out that my wife waited until September, in the days after the end of the lease, to file paperwork to disallow me to speak with her or my children.  The courts allowed this and an Order For Protection (OFP) was ordered.

I found out about this in November when my daughter’s preschool would not speak to me about a charge on my credit card.  I called the Sheriffs offices in multiple counties in Minnesota and they each stated that the order cannot be enforced until I was served with it.  So I continued to call and leave messages for my children.

In December, I had a call from a recruiter for a major restaurant chain with a location at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota.  I made arrangements to interview there the beginning of January.  I saved up multiple weeks of unemployment, which was now $170 per week because child support was being deducted as part of the OFP, and purchased a flight and hotel room for a few days in Minneapolis.  If all went well, I’d get hired and start working again.

So I flew to Minneapolis, interviewed for my position and waited at my hotel for a call.  My phone rang. It wasn’t for the job, it was my wife.  She found out I was in town and agreed that she’d bring the kids to the Mall of America the next day so I could spend time with them before going back to Massachusetts.  I had not yet booked my return flight, so I extended my hotel an extra two days and was so excited to be seeing my children.

I got to the Mall of America fifteen minutes before our scheduled meeting.  I walked to the Underwater World aquaruim to check the hours, and also checked the hours and prices for the Butterfly exhibit that was also at the mall that day.  When I returned to the entrance at the specified time I saw a man holding a 8×10 printout of my photo. 

I knew right away he was a cop.  I had already thought that my wife and kids wouldn’t be there and it would be a cop but I had to go because I’d do anything for the chance to spend time with my kids again.  I waited for him to turn his back and I made a jump for the door.  I walked normally, of course, nothing stands out more than somebody running.  It was below freezing outside too, so since I was all dressed up in my winter coat, hat, scarf, and gloves, I figured they could stop me outside and that would at least be an inconvenience.

I made it to the door.  I heard my name called a few times and just kept walking.  I made it outside then stopped and turned around.  Man it was cold, and the undercover detective wasn’t wearing a coat.  He held papers in his hand.  “I guess those are for me”, I said as he handed me papers.

He wanted me to sign them to say I was served papers to act as the OFP.  These weren’t even the actual court papers,  Ihad to go to the court house in downtown Minneapolis to get the actual order.  I told the officer that I always read everything before I sign it and I’d sign it when I was finshed looking it over.  He started reaching for his handcuffs.

I was actually stalling.  I knew the cold was bothering him.  When I guessed he was at his threshold for cold I signed the papers and gave them back to him.  Then turned around and continued walking to the bus station.

I waited a few minutes and sent my wife the following text, I’m disappointed that the kids weren’t at the Mall of America to see me, I then sat down on a waiting bench.

The police arrived a minute later and arrested me for violating the OFP by sending that text message even though nowhere on the paper did it say I couldn’t send a text.

So I spent a night in lock-up and met with a judge the next morning.  I actually slept well because I was expecting to be spending a night in jail anyways.  I had a feeling before hand that my wife wouldn’t be there and I would be arrested so I made sure to prepare myself mentally in advance.  I also dressed in nice clothes so that I could go in front of a judge, if I was arrested, and look presentable.

I met with the judge, they scheduled a hearing in March and I was released.  I told my public defender that I’ve been unemployed since June 2008 and don’t have the money to fly back and forth for all this silly court stuff.  I was able to get my possessions, except for my cell phone.  The police kept that.

I got back to my hotel about an hour later.  I could use my hotel phone to make calls.  I called the detective who was handling my case and he said I would have to go to the police station to pick it up.  The next morning I called a cab went to the police station, then downtown to the courthouse to get the paperwork that was filed on me.

After that was complete I booked a flight back to Massachusetts and thats where I currently am now. 

My unemployment extensions have ended and I have still not been hired anywhere.  My wife filed divorce papers and there is nothing I can do about it.  I could pay $400, which I don’t have, to file an answer to the divorce papers but I’m sure since I’ve gotten no help thus far with the legal system it would do no good and just be a waste of money.  I also called many lawyers to assist me but they all want a $2500-$3000 retainer first.  So I am basically screwed and can’t do anything.

Everything basically comes down to me working.  Once I have that I have some leverage, then have a place to live and I have a little more.  All I care about is spending time with my children.  Every moment I spend away from them hurts.  I take no joy in my nieces or nephews, or friends’ children who love me so much.  How can I have fun with them?  All it does is remind me that I’m not with my own kids.

I cannot believe that the court system allows and encourages this to happen.  I cannot believe that it has been this hard.

But I keep moving on.  Each day is tougher than the last.  I try to stay as upbeat as possible. 

But for how long…

My interview at the downtown Minneapolis hotel

March 5, 2010

I interviewed with for an assistant front office supervisor position at a downtown Minneapolis hotel.  This hotel is very well known for being the leader in guest satisfaction.   Being that I was a Guest Services Supervisor as well as a former restaurant manager I felt I was well qualified for the position.

I was dressed in my recently dry cleaned suit.  My shirt was pressed.  I wore the tie and cuff links that my brother had given me as a gift for being the best man at his wedding the previous year.

I greeted the Assistant General Manager, introduced myself, shook his hand, and placed my resume on the desk in front of him.  He introduced the front office manager who was sitting to his left and stated she would be part of the interview and sat down.  I greeted her and took my seat.

I sat in the chair opposite the Assistant General Manager’s desk.  The chair was rather uncomfortable.  You know those wooden chairs with minimal cushioning that hotels keep in the guest rooms?  That was what I was sitting on in this guy’s office.  Then again, what else would you expect to find in a hotel?

He asked the usual questions, tell me about yourself, your experience, etc.  I answered with the stories of working at a downtown Minneapolis extended stay property, supervising the front desk and assisting the other departments.  I also went in detail about my experience managing a pizza restaurant in the northern suburbs, what I brought to the business, what procedures I developed and implemented successfully, and how I drove customer satisfaction results and increased sales.

My hotel supervisory experience was verified by the current front office manager who was sitting to the side of him.   She had worked previously for the same hospitality group.   The company had two hotels in the same complex; one extended stay property and the other a full service hotel.  They were separated by an indoor water park and arcade.  I had seen her before.  It was common for me to walk through the water park to the full service hotel for the purpose of making deposits and checking the mail.  I would always spend a few minutes speaking to the front desk personnel over there.

At the end of the interview the Assistant General Manager asked, ‘why should I hire you?’

I confidently stood up, shook his hand firmly and stated, ‘my resume, experience, and proven results speak for itself’, then turned around and walked out of the office. 

A felt a pit in my stomach.  I had just done something that I had never done before.  It felt good. 

Once I got outside I called my other brother, a software QA engineer.  I told him what I had just done.  He quickly responded, ‘Wow!’ There was a pause. Then he continued, ‘you have got some extra-large balls.  If anyone ever did that to me during an interview, I would hire that person right there on the spot’.

That was a great feeling.

A week later I got the generic rejection postcard in the mail.  I guess I was the only person who had the balls to take a chance in that interview room.

Are employment publications really helpful at all?

March 5, 2010

A funny thing happened one day as I was out for breakfast in Saint Paul. 

Every now and then in the morning I would take a walk down the street and catch the first #21 bus to get myself an egg mcmuffin, hash brown, and orange juice at McDonald’s.

I would pick up the local newspaper the Saint Paul Pioneer Press, Minneapolis Star Tribune, and also each one of those freebie Employment Guide & Employment News publications and look through them while I sat down for breakfast.

 This weekly issue of the Employment Guide was one of the smaller ones I had seen in quite a while.  As I unfolded it I realized that it was only a four page issue.  On further inspection, the pages were filled with only advertisements for job training in multiple fields: truck driver CDL training programs, a full page of medical assistance training advertisements,  culinary training programs, online college courses, and GED classes.

 What caught my eye was that there were no job listings!  None whatsoever.  Not one. 

I was so surprised by this that it prompted me to make the following sarcastic status update on my Facebook page when I got home:

 I just picked up the new issue of the Employment News.  The unemployment rate in the Twin Cities must be at zero because there are absolutely no advertised  jobs. 

The recession is over!

An interview story

March 5, 2010

Last March the interviews in Minneapolis were starting to settle down.  After a two week span of sending out resumes and getting no response I tried applying for jobs online in Massachusetts.  If I could set up a few interviews who knows what could happen.

 I ended up getting a few responses and since I had nothing set up in Minneapolis I booked a flight for Boston.  As soon as I landed in Massachusetts I called and confirmed my interview with a well-known family pizza restaurant in New England.  I was meeting with the management recruiter the next morning in Leominster.

I arrived for my 8:00 am interview at 7:45.  I waited in my rental car until the employees started to arrive.  At 8:00 I knocked on the locked door and the staff let me in.  The recruiter had not yet arrived but the morning manager said I could wait for her in the dining room area.  I took a seat and prepared my things.  I took out my portfolio and looked over my resume.

After a few minutes I was greeted by the recruiter.  She offered me a fountain drink and I accepted.  She walked behind the counter took a cup and filled it with ice and soda.  She placed it in front of me with a straw beside it.  Then sat down.  I thanked her for the drink then offered her my resume.  Then we began talking.  As expected she asked what I thought about Massachusetts, what I liked best about managing a family pizza restaurant in Minneapolis, you know the usual questions.

I answered all the questions she had and pointed out that I had only been in Minneapolis for the last four years; but I was originally from Massachusetts. I actually grew up in the neighboring city.  I felt that she was quite impressed with my responses and since I was familiar with the area, she wanted me to have a second interview the next day with the district manager in Framingham, a city thirty five miles away.  I said that would work out fine for me.  She checked her district manager’s schedule in her Blackberry and confirmed a nine o’clock interview.

I went to Framingham the next day, Saturday, and interviewed with the District Manager.  He was new to the area and was also new to the position.  As usual,  I provided him with my resume and we discussed my experience.  I told him about  managing the pizza restaurant in Minneapolis from the beginning, the challenges I faced, and what I did to drive sales and consistently lead the market in customer count, ticket average, and sales.  I told stories about putting on the mascot costume prior to leaving and dancing out on the street to bring in extra business.  I also informed him how I had developed and improved measures in the area of inventory, labor control, and other daily tracking that were later implemented company wide.

Everything I answered was right on the money.  I could tell by his expressions that he was impressed.  When we finished up he shook my hand and let me know that I would be hearing from him again.  I left the interview knowing that I just had one of the best interviews I could ever have.  To use a local baseball cliché, I hit one over the monstah onto Lansdowne street.

The 60 minute drive home didn’t feel long at all.  I was thinking how great it would be that most likely within the next week I would be back to work again.  Nothing could ruin this day, it was going so well.  I hadn’t had a day like this in a long time and boy could I really use it.

When I got home the mailman was just leaving.  I went to the mailbox, opened it took everything and walked inside.  I scanned through the letters and there was one addressed to me and put it to the side.  It was from the pizza restaurant dated yesterday;  it’s probably one of those optional diversity questionnaires that companies send out, I thought. 

I turned the letter around and inserted my finger under the sealing flap and slid down to the middle.  I did the same on the other side until the envelope flap flipped up.  I gripped the letter with my thumb and index finger and took it out,  unfolded it and began reading:

Thank you for taking the time to meet with us.  While your experience is impressive we have decided to pursue other candidates.   Good luck in your continued job search.

 

I had just got home from my second interview and the rejection letter has already arrived in the mail; if the recruiter didn’t want me why did she waste my time and have me meet with the district manager today?  It didn’t come as a surprise; after nine months of rejection you kind of just get used to it and just move on. 

On the brighter side I had another interview scheduled for Monday so it wasn’t like I didn’t have another chance to find suitable employment.

On a side note: I was  impressed with the efficiency of the United States Postal Service.

My last day of work.

March 5, 2010

I have stopped counting the days.  The days became weeks, the weeks turned into months, then the month turned into years.  June 10, 2008 was my last day of work. 

It was just another Tuesday morning.   I woke up still tired.  The night before was inventory.  I had spent the entire night counting the product inventory, calculating the payroll, and faxing the paperwork to the home office.  My wife surprised me at the restaurant by picking me up at 1am.  This was actually quite good because I had been using public transportation the last few months (I had recently sold my falling apart car to a junk yard and my wife used the family hatchback I bought her) and a 35 minute drive was much faster than a 2 hour bus ride which included a transfer in downtown Minneapolis. 

I rode my bicycle a few blocks to catch the 6:45am #554 Express and transferred to the #724 Limited stop to Brooklyn Center in downtown Minneapolis.  I always enjoyed riding the express bus because the ride was smooth, mostly interstate 35W or 94, and I could always take a undisturbed nap since each trip was 45-60 minutes long.  On a side note, there always seemed to be minimal, if any, boarding by Metro police officers to take someone off the bus forcefully and arrest them on the express busses.

 I arrived to my store just before 8am.  My day was usually so much simpler if I was able to get all my home office paperwork and phone calls out of the way first.  I did my usual morning routine, opened the time lock safe, balanced the previous days paperwork, corrected the mistakes, and prepared the morning deposit.  Once that was completed I would call the home office and verify all numbers.  Tuesdays there was an extra step which included checking any inventory that looked to be incorrect.  Thankfully everything checked out.  Since I had all my home office things out of the way I could begin focusing on getting my store ready to open.

 My morning help would usually arrive about 9am and we would work together to get the restaurant ready for opening at 11am.  I would begin the daily food preparations around 8:30 until my morning staff would arrive.  The first employee arrived as planned a little before 9:00.  She knew her job well and went right to work.  This freed me up to call in my food and pop order and also bring the store‘s deposit to the bank.

The lunch shift went by without a hitch.  I had trained my staff well and they took the concept to heart; most likely the reason that my store led the Minneapolis district in weekly sales, labor, and inventory.

I really liked my job.  I liked to admit that I was really good at it  too.  I liked the fact that I put up good numbers.  I really liked the fact that each week my boss would point out that I led the area again.  He wanted to know my secret.

The secret was simple.  Service.  Thats all you needed really.  Simply be friendly, don’t take shortcuts, plan ahead and deliver on all your promises,  give your word and stand by it. 

Do all that and your customers will always return.

At around 1:00 in the afternoon my district manager came into my store.  This was not an uncommon occurrence since he would pick up the Fed Ex packet that each store would prepare weekly to be sent to the company office in North Dakota.  It was usually the same every time, he’d ask about my sales, congratulate me once again for leading the area, and he would be on his way.  I actually liked this week since I had just blown away the other stores by over $2,000 this week.

It got a little busy when he arrived and he jumped in to help.  As soon as things calmed down at the store, he brought me outside and said told me that the owner wanted to make a change at the store.

I had been asked to transfer to an underperforming store a few months before but declined the move because it would add an extra 30 minutes to my commute.  Perhaps the owner is mandating the change since that store was underperforming and needed the right leadership.  

Another thought ran through my head that I was being promoted.  During my initial interview process I had let my District and Training & Development manager know that my goal was to run a training store in the Minneapolis market.

Ok, I’m ready its one or the other.  Give it to me!

The change was not what I was expecting and came as quite a surprise. 

I had been terminated.

It is about time I started putting my thoughts online

March 5, 2010

Well as the title of the blog states, I am an DaHospitalityGuy.  I am an unemployed hospitality manager.   Its more or less the worst type of guy to be in this economy.  Hospitality and the fodd service industry have been hit hard during the recession and there are not that many available jobs.

I had lived in the Minneapolis/St Paul area of Minnesota for the past five years.  A few months ago, I couldn’t afford to stay there anymore and had to move back to a small city of 30,000 people in central Massachusetts.  That was a major change moving from a large metropolitan area of one million people thirty thousand.

I hope to post some stories about interviews I had since I became unemployed and hopefully the final entry will be that of receiving an offer and returning back to work.

Each day over the past year and a half have been challenging.  I’ve had good days and bad.  There’s too much going on emotionally and hopefully the blog can be a way to express myself.  This stint of employment has really effected my life, mostly for the worse but if I stay strong and just keep plugging away, sooner or later things will turn around. 

Or at least I hope so.

So I appreciate those that read my thoughts.  I have had the support of friends and family but that can only go so far.  I really can’t do much until I’m working again.  My hope is that once that happens things can be put back together.

So thanks for visiting the site.  I hope my stories are entertaining and I hope you enjoy it.