Monday, November 28, 2016

First job out of college (part 5)

When I had free time, I went out to the local skatepark to learn new tricks and improve old ones. During the week, I lifted weights to keep getting stronger. When I wasn’t doing that, I still played some video games and watched videos on the internet. It was far from luxury however it was cheap and affordable. It was very much the same lifestyle I had in my college days. This way of life paid off. By the end of 2010, I had saved up a total of $8000 in my bank account.

By the time December arrived, I had already completed my classes for tax preparation. I passed the exams and did well in the interviews unfortunately I lost my interest and ambition to pursue the career path. Already, I was working a full time job so they only time I could really dedicate to tax prep was on the weekends and that was completely out of the question for me. I remembered December being a terrible month at work. Being that Christmas was coming up, a lot of the volunteers were depending on the money to buy gifts for their children. This led to a lot of anger and frustration being directed to me and I remember one occasion where a program director told me that I ruined a family’s Christmas. Had I not needed the job, I would have gladly told the woman that her and her family can eat dog food for all I care. It was very easy to lose my humanity but I really did start to develop a hatred for these people and the poor in general. Constantly, I wanted to tell these people that they shouldn’t have had children that they couldn’t afford. Call me a monster or an inhuman jerk but I don’t care. I just remember being hassled on all ends. Being pulled in all different directions and yelled at by everyone made it feel like I had just voided my bowels and all I had to clean myself with was sandpaper.

The other analysts did have some similar opinions. After all, the people that we were serving had very similar characteristics. We could tell because we were required to look through their tax returns, EBT statements, welfare payments, child birth certificates, and child support payments. Volunteers in this government program could only qualify for the child care benefit if they were in a certain income bracket. These people were very poor. Usually they earned $20,000 a year or less and had at least two children. I would say that at least 95% of the members were single moms that were either divorced or more likely never married. I kept on thinking that these people wouldn’t be poor and destitute if they just made sure not to have children. Children aren’t cheap and I knew for sure that childcare was expensive because I had to look at the schedule of fees for hundreds of child care providers. In a licensed day care center, it is reasonable to pay at least $20 an hour just to keep the child there. Of all the states, California seemed to be one of the most expensive states as I remember sending child care providers in California payments that ranged from $500 to over $1000 per month. With as expensive as California is, I would never want to live there let alone raise a child there.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

First job out of college (part 4)

The money made it all worth it. I had to save as much of it as possible because I really didn’t know how long the opportunity would last. By the time November rolled around, the company brought me on as a full time employee. They set me to work 40 hours a week as a salaried employee and I was making $500 a week. After taxes, I was taking home $406 each week which total out to me taking home $1600 on most months and $2000 on the months that had 5 Fridays. This was good however my boss mentioned that the current contract would only last three years. After September of 2013, I didn’t know what would happen. Rob may find another contract for us to work on or he may not. At that point in time, I didn’t know how easy or difficult it would be to find another job. I’d have much more work experience at the time however I didn’t know if the job market would get any better in three years.

For this reason, I made sure to keep my spending to the absolute minimum. In November of 2010, I spent about a total of $500. In December, I spent about a total of $600. Using those two bits of data, I made it my bench mark to try to spend no more than $550 a month. Getting by on $550 would be unthinkable for most Americans however since I don’t pay rent or owe anyone money, I could do it easily.

My biggest expense was car insurance. I had just crashed my car in October and my parents insisted that I get full coverage so I was paying more than $200 a month for coverage. After that, the next biggest expense was gas which ran between $100 and $120 a month. My commute wasn’t far. It was only 16 miles one way and heavy traffic usually wasn’t much of an issue. During that time period, I spent roughly $80 a month on fast food. There was a fast food joint close to my office that is famous for serving sliders. I went there mainly because it was easier to fill up the whole lunch hour. Unfortunately for me, the place didn’t really have a dollar menu so I would spend about $7 on each meal. Each month, I would also spend about $50 dollars on groceries. Even though I was very frugal, I did spend around $50 to $100 a month on miscellaneous stuff that I enjoyed.

I didn’t move into my own place. I didn’t spend money going to bars or clubs to pick up girls. I didn’t spend money on smartphones or expensive gadgets. I didn’t buy a luxury car. I didn’t spend money on going to vacation in Europe. I didn’t go out to fancy restaurants every night or see the latest movie every weekend.

November 2010
This was the first full month when I kept records of all my expenses. I spent a total of $478.20. At the time, my auto insurance cost $222.75. This was the cost of full coverage after a rate increase due to an accident in the month of August 2010. Somehow, I only spent $61 on gas. While driving to South Carolina for a family visit, my dad paid for my gas on both ways so that he didn’t have to drive. I spent $51.79 total on four or five visits to fast food restaurants. I ended up spending $48.50 on going to two sit in restaurants with some friends. I spent a total of $35.53 on one DVD and one audio CD. Since this was the first full month I was keeping track of expenses, I did my best to spend as little as possible. There were several days where I spent no money on anything.

December 2010
For December 2010, I spent a total of $595.79. Auto insurance of $222.75 was automatically debited from my checking account. I spent $108 on gas by filling up a total of 4 times. Gas was about $2.20 per gallon and I bought regular unleaded. I only needed to fill up my tank once a week. I spent $100 on buying a skateboard deck and some extra parts. It was the first big thing I bought for myself. I spent $43.50 on 9 visits to fast food restaurants. Usually, I bought items from the dollar menu. I spent $19.99 on prepaid phone minutes. I could get a total of 120 minutes because my phone gave me double minutes for life. I spent $30 on beer for a party with some friends that month.

First job after college (part 3)

Typically, I’d arrive at the office at 8:30 am in the morning and start working on processing invoices. Sometime around 9 am or 9:30 am, I’d get a phone call from a volunteer needing assistance and I’d have to stop everything I was doing to service the customer. Whatever invoice I was working on got put on hold and things screeched to a stop. After talking to one customer, I’d hang up the phone only to have another phone call waiting for me five seconds later. I’d print out some documents and tell the volunteer I’d send her some corrected paperwork. I’d hang up the phone and start working on her form until 10 seconds afterwards where I’d get interrupted and have to talk to someone about why their check wasn’t the correct amount. After answering that phone call, I’d have to research the rates and payment from a previous month and get to work sending a payment to correct the balance. But before I could do that, I’d have to take another phone call from a program director inquiring about the status of 5 new volunteers. Work environments like that drove me almost to the breaking point and it was quite common when I wanted to start cursing at the volunteers, smash the phones, throw all the invoices out the window, and storm out of the office never to return again. It got so bad to the point where I remember at least one day where I just completely gave up on trying to process invoices and just gave into the fact that I would be on the phones for eight hours a day.

What also contributed to the problem was that most of our system was analog. During the beginning, I didn’t know most of the volunteers by name so when someone called me, I wasn’t sure where along in the process they were. I’d ask them if they were a new applicant, approved, or had received payments from us in the past. After finding their status, I had to physically find their paperwork. If they were a new applicant, I had to search through a giant stack or ask a different analyst if he saw the application. If I misplaced a folder, I couldn’t help the volunteer because we only had one copy of information. I had no database that I could type in a name and find out where all the paperwork was. I had to physically find the documents myself. As I recall, the only electronic trace of anything I had was the emails that arrived in my inbox. Despite all these frustrations and challenges, I had to keep in there because I really needed to save up money. The first few weeks on the job help shaped my worldview in a big way.

First of all, I made the decision to never get married or have any children. I was not happy with my work. I did not enjoy getting yelled at by twenty people a day nor did I enjoy having to juggle twenty tasks at the same time and fixing all the mistakes I made from previous days of work. For what work was, I wanted to make it a goal to minimize the time I spent working as much as possible in my life. This meant that I would need to save up as much money as possible and live as cheap as possible for the rest of my life. Starting in October of 2010, I started recording everything I spent money on in notebooks and I kept track of where every dollar went. Each week, I was getting paychecks of over $500. Since I still lived with my parents, I paid no rent and I was saving at least $1000 per month. At that rate, I’d have enough money to buy a house in a few years. After that was done, I’d have the biggest purchase of my life out of the way and I’d only have to work hard enough just to sustain my cost of living. That was my American dream. That is what I wanted most of all.

Friday, November 25, 2016

First job after college (part 2)

When I first started out, I wasn’t hired on as a fulltime employee. They started me out as an independent contractor and I realized this when I asked how they were keeping track of my hours. The told me that I would keep track of my own hours and submit it to them at the end of each week. On Saturday of the first week, I wrote down my total hours on a sticky note and handed it to my boss’s wife. I think I worked a total of 36 hours due to Monday being Labor Day. She took my note and wrote me a check for $432. It was the first paycheck I ever had. It was the proudest moment I had for the entire year up to that point. Never before in my life had I earned so much money in such a short amount of time.

For the first couple of weeks on the job, I was relatively content. Things were busy and I was a little nervous about the fact that the phones were always ringing but I was never asked to answer phone calls yet. Because of the backlog, I was asked to work on Saturdays for the first few weeks. That did bother me a little bit but since I was paid by the hour, I was okay with working six days a week. At the same time, I was also taking classes at the tax company because I wasn’t sure if my job was going to be permanent and I had already spent the $250 on 8 weeks worth of classes. By the time October rolled around, Denise was about to leave. The entire office went to a local rib shack and wished her well after she left.

Before she had left, Denise showed me how to enter invoices into the accounting system. It was simple, I just entered the same amount on both the debit and credit side. The only other thing I needed to do was add vendors when we got new people into the government program. Lastly, she taught me how to reconcile the balance with the other analyst before we printed the checks.

After she left, the entire experience for me changed. With one less staff member, the work load increased for everyone. In my case, I just wanted to process invoices, print checks, and send them out. Members would send their invoices at the beginning of every month and we promised to process the invoices within 7 business days. However, new members would send applications in and most of the applications sent in were incomplete. Incomplete applications would require communication with the member to get them to send in the complete and correct documents. In addition to that, current members would occasionally send in incorrect or incomplete invoices and timesheets and these documents would require communication with the members in order to get the complete and correct documents. And the worst part of it all was that communication was always a weakness for me throughout my entire life. Throw in the minimum amount of job training and the expectation of learning as you go along, and I experienced a whole mess of frustration that made me want to quit the job within the first few months.

Due to my inexperience, if I came across an incomplete application or invoice, I would just set it aside and move on to an application or invoice that was complete and could be processed. We were overburdened with work and it was my intention to get as much of the correct easy work done before dealing with more complicated matters. Unfortunately, this resulted in members calling back after weeks wondering why their applications or invoices were not processed. At that time, I would bring up the checklist of all the things they were missing and they would get mad at me for not calling them and telling them what was incomplete or missing. However, the absolute nightmare was the sheer volume of phone calls in the month of October, November, and December of 2010.

First job after college (part 1)

It was a very simple operation. There was a government program where volunteers would donate time and labor to various government work. In return for their service, the volunteers would receive a small living stipend and would receive reimbursement for child care services. It was our job to take the volunteer’s applications, determine if they were eligible for the benefit, approve or deny the applicant for the benefit, process invoices from their child care provider, and finally mail payments to the child care provider. It was a simple process but involved a lot of customer service.

It was then I learned a lesson about today’s economy. Companies don’t want to hire new staff until it is absolutely necessary. The first few weeks and months on the job, I remember the phones were ringing off the hooks and a hundred different things always had to be done at once. My company had recently acquired the government contract from a different company a few months prior. One of the requirements of acquiring the contract was that every volunteer eligible for the benefit had to submit their paperwork on new forms that we had to send them. Due to this backlog, I was working full time and on weekends for the first few weeks on the job.

It was the week after Labor Day of 2010 when I showed up for my first day at work. Being that it was the first real job I ever had, it really did feel like a rite of passage. At the time, I was no accountant. My boss said that the job title was business analyst. Later, I would realize that the title analyst was almost as vague as a job title as consultant. I sat down at my desk and I was greeted by Denise. She handed me a stack of volunteer’s applications and a stack of checklists. My first task was to look through all of the applications and check off all the items on the checklist to see what was present and what was missing. This is what I did for eight hours that day. It was boring and mind numbing but by God I was eager to do it.

During the first week, they also handed me stacks of invoices from child care providers. My second task was to look at the invoices and check the timesheets for how many hours the children were in child care. After that, I would look at the rate sheet to figure out how much money the provider would receive and then I would calculate the total amount of the invoice. I did this for multiple hours for many days.

I saw the last part of the process also within my first week. My boss handed me a stack of checks and a stack of envelopes. It was my task to cut the checks away from the stubs, stuff them in envelopes, run the envelopes through a machine for postage, and finally mail out the checks. I was using absolutely nothing I learned throughout my four years at college but that didn’t matter. All I cared about was the paycheck at the end of every week.

When I first started out, I wasn’t hired on as a fulltime employee. They started me out as an independent contractor and I realized this when I asked how they were keeping track of my hours. The told me that I would keep track of my own hours and submit it to them at the end of each week. On Saturday of the first week, I wrote down my total hours on a sticky note and handed it to my boss’s wife. I think I worked a total of 36 hours due to Monday being Labor Day. She took my note and wrote me a check for $432. It was the first paycheck I ever had. It was the proudest moment I had for the entire year up to that point. Never before in my life had I earned so much money in such a short amount of time.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Looking for work after college (part3)

At the time, building a professional career was looking impossible. I started sending out applications to fast food restaurants just so I could make any sort of money. Also, without a car, I need to have a worksite where I could walk to. However, before I got started working in fast food, my parents offered me the chance to work with them fixing washing machines so I started doing that instead.

It was July of 2010 and I hadn’t had any luck landing any job despite having my bachelor’s in business administration. Fixing washing machines was good work however it made me feel like I had failed at life. After all, what was the point of having gone to college to become an accountant in the first place? The work was enough to make some money but I wasn’t working more than three or four days of the week. I also had a back up plan of learning how to prepare income taxes. During my miserable job search, I considered picking up some extra skills to make my resume look better and preparing tax returns was one way to get extra experience.

I looked up a big tax preparation company and learned that they offered a 12 week course that would train people to prepare basic returns. After the 12 weeks finished, every individual was guaranteed a job interview and the company advertised that roughly 25% of the interviewed candidates were hired. I figured it was my best shot at trying to make a living for myself. If I got hired, the company would continue to offer any tax class the employee wanted to take an specialize in. After enough experience, a tax professional could become an enrolled agent. And even if I didn’t get hired, just passing the class would make me look like a more valuable employee and might give me a better chance at getting hired.

The tax course started in August 2010 and I continued to work in my parent’s shop to make more money. Eventually, my dad gave me his old car to make life a little easier. Unfortunately, I ran into a headache when I crashed the car and had to pay a few hundred dollars in repairs and fines which effectively cost me all the money that I had saved up fixing washing machines. Back then I used to want to commit suicide by standing next to a busy street, waiting for a speeding truck to come by, and jumping right in front of it at the last second. It would have been faster than acquiring a gun.

I finally caught a break when my dad told me about a job opportunity that his insurance guy had mentioned. I was told that the insurance guy also ran a financial firm and I was excited about the prospects. After a short interview giving me the overview of his company and an exchange of my questions, I asked for the job and I started the following week. I still remember that my heart sank when Rob said that the job paid $12 per hour. It felt incredible, I was never offered so much money before.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Finding work after college (part 2)

This was the biggest problem I had. I needed prior work experience before I could get an entry level job. I sent my resume to that job position but I never heard back. This became a daily routine. I’d log into the college career database, look for accounting positions, and send my resume there. Each day, there were only about two new accounting positions available. Quickly, I had to come to terms that I might not be able to get a job in my field and should just start sending resumes to related positions. I found myself sending my resume out for accounting, finance, management, and sales positions. I even started sending my resume out for positions that I wasn’t necessary qualified for. I figured that if I could at least get some sort of correspondence with another party, they might be able to network me into a job opportunity. After having applied to over 20 different positions, I got a response for a sales position.

Unfortunately, this position sounded terrible. Since it was sales, it paid a base salary and a good part of compensation was based off of sales commission. It paid $8 per hour base. The worst part was that the worksite was located at least 28 miles from my home which was incredibly inconvenient without a car. Online reviews of the company also brought up results of prior employees being incredibly frustrated with the company and in some cases said that the company was a scam. However, since I never had a job interview before, I decided to go through with it. I dressed up in a suit and took the local transportation for over an hour to the job site.

The problem was that it was not a position I really wanted and that was apparent in the interview. The man asked me why I wanted the job and I stated that I needed any job just to start working and building up job experience. I explained that I wanted to fill the role of accountant if an opening appeared later. After about five minutes into the interview, the interviewer said I was not the right man for the job and promptly showed me the door. The whole ordeal took up at least five hours of my day. I came back home very discouraged without anything to show for it.

During the next few weeks, I sent out about a total of 50 resumes and only received three callbacks. One of the positions available was an accounting intern at my state’s university. Unfortunately, this was a position only available to current students, and when I said I had graduated, the man on the other end of the phone said the interview could not go further. I also had a third piece of correspondence by email. I got a short message stating that someone would like to interview me however I never responded back because I was feeling pretty hopeless at the time.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Looking for a job after college (part 1)

The following is an excerpt from a book I am currently working on. I'm currently posting the pending work in process to my blog in case I never finish this piece and end up scrapping the project. Currently, this book is over 60 pages long in Microsoft Word format.

By the time I graduated my state’s university, it was May of 2010 and I came out of it with no student loans or credit card debt. I had a little bit of money left over from scholarships. I started out with about $2000 to my name. I was in a better situation financially than most of my peers however I faced my biggest challenge just trying to find employment after college.

All throughout high school and college, I kept my lifestyle very limited to ensure having the most amount of time to study and maintain a high grade point average. Until the age of 22, I had never worked a real job before, never had a car, and barely even had a cell phone. If I wasn’t studying, I was either playing video games or skateboarding. Both were cheap forms of entertainment and did not require time commitments. It was a decision on my part to avoid part time jobs and vehicles because those required time and resources. This was a decision that hurt me right after college.

During my last few years at my state’s university, business majors were encouraged to network, join a business fraternity, and submit applications for job openings in order to have a better chance to get employed before or upon graduation. I did none of this because I wanted to focus more on my studies to maintain a high gpa and I really hated interacting with people I don’t know. Networking just always felt incredibly phony. Again, these were decisions that hurt me after graduation.

The prior year of 2009 was when the financial meltdown occurred. During my last few semesters at university, I kept hearing my peers talk about how no companies were hiring, current students were competing with older students for the same jobs, and current employees were getting fired from their positions. It really filled me with a sense of hopelessness but I had no real choice but to just keep going.

After college was done, I enjoyed myself for about a week before I started trying to look for work. It was then when I first felt like the training wheels were kicked off. In college, you attended class, studied, and took exams. It was very routine and you knew what to expect on a daily basis. But when all of that is in the past, you realize that you have to figure out what you want, set your own plans up, and see if you can achieve those goals. I didn’t really have someone give me instructions to find a job, I just had to jump in and see what happened.

I logged into my college’s career database, uploaded my resume, and started looking for positions. And immediately, I saw the desperation of the situation I had walked into. As a college grad, I had no actual work experience in the accounting field. My resume just had my name on it, education, and career aspirations. Ideally, I was looking for an entry level accounting position where I could enter a company and the managers would train me how to do my job. As I looked at the positions available, I saw only a total of three positions available that were related to accounting. What was worse was that two of those positions were higher level management positions that required at least 4 to 6 years of experience. Worse still was that the only position that was entry level required 2 years of accounting related experience.