ANARIE   56,799
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Hurry up and wait

Monday, March 03, 2014

Well... I kind of have a job, maybe, sometime.

I was offered a job with a non-profit agency that operates bookstores in national parks. They were asked by the Park Service to take over the bookstores in two parks from a similar agency that is in deep financial doo-doo. Only, the request was made more than a month before the other agency was told they were getting the boot. In the interim, that agency borrowed more money to try to keep themselves afloat-- and they borrowed it from vendors who wholesale books to both agencies.

Now they have (not unreasonably) asked to be allowed to continue operating until the end of the fiscal year (Oct 1) to try to earn back some of what they owe so that, when they inevitably declare bankruptcy, they can hurt their creditors a little less. It is to the new agency's advantage to let them do so, since we'll have to continue dealing with those creditors who, even though they will logically understand that there's a new team in town, will nonetheless have a hard time not emotionally blaming the bookstore for them getting stiffed. (One major vendor may have lent them $100K or more, and we don't know if they paid any of it back. ) The Park Service really doesn't want to give them that extra time; they want them out and us in by the middle of May.

So... If we take over in May, I'll start training in April. That was the original plan, and it gave me a nice little vacation between ending one job and starting the next. If we don't take over until October, I'm out of work for 6 months. I can't really afford that since I'll need at least $3500 on hand for moving expenses and apartment deposit (housing is extremely expensive near these other two parks.) And those 6 months are the off season where I am right now, so I'm not likely to find temporary work here.

The latest plan, though, is that the director of the agency I'll be working for wants to go to the new parks in May and VOLUNTEER to try to get the other agency partway out of their pickle. If that happens, I would probably go at the same time and be paid by the other agency. But I don't know if it's wise to work for them since we know they're still going to go bankrupt; it blurs that line and makes it less obvious that we are separate and unrelated. I have no doubt that we can greatly improve on what they have been doing and recover a fair amount, but we can't fix 18 years of financial malfeasance in 5 months. The vendors are still going to get stiffed.

Oh, well. We'll see. One thing that I have decided is that if I do start work under the old agency, I am going to wear the uniform of the new agency, but the employees of the old agency who will be continuing with us are going to get their new uniforms on the day the official turn-over happens. (They don't have uniforms currently, and that's just one more little piece of the problem. They look like cr*p-- teenagers in ill-fitting, rumpled, worn T-shirts, so when you go into the bookstore, you can't tell who works there, and once you figure it out, you don't have much confidence that they'll know anything about the books (and, in fact, they don't. I'll be doing a lot of training.) It just seems like it will be a good visual reminder that the professionals are coming.

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ANARIE 3/5/2014 10:14PM

    No, unfortunately I won't get to live in the park this time. I'll be employed by the non-profit, not the park and parks don't even have enough housing for Rangers. I'll have to find a place in the nearest town, where rentals are scarce and expensive. It might be cheaper to buy a small house... except then I'll own a house in a place I don't intend to settle in.

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SHERYLP461 3/3/2014 8:18AM

    A challenge for sure. Will you be housed at the National Park? that to me would be an incentive to go now, get the move over with.

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Why our economic system sucks

Monday, January 13, 2014

Archimedes commented on my previous post asking if I was done being a Park Ranger. The answer is, "probably, for now."

Sadly, the Park Service isn't a viable career for most people starting out now. There are virtually no real jobs, even for people who have advanced degrees in park management and other programs designed to prepare them for park positions. If you want to be in the Park Service, you basically have to have online work at the same time to beef up the salary and fill in the employment gaps. The vast majority of positions are 6-month seasonal jobs with no benefits and no competitive advantage for rehire the next year. Having done the job before doesn't really make it any more likely that you'll get that job again, no matter how well you did it (unless your supervisor really wants you back and convinces the hiring manager to write some weirdly specific detail into the announcement. Sometimes you'll see a qualification survey that asks, "Have you ever independently made the decision to close the XYZ trail in ABC park due to bear activity during a snowfall?") And veterans get extra "points" in the hiring qualification system, so if there's a vet who has close to the same qualifications you do, s/he gets the job if she wants it. There are a lot of vets who want jobs in the Park Service.

But I haven't given up. I figure I'll take a job for a year or two to beef up my financial status, maybe do some online stuff on the side for extra cash, and then do another season or two in the Park Service. I finally got my Ranger hat, so I need to work for the Park Service again to get some use out of it!

Seriously, though, this is one more symptom of what I think is wrong with our country. There is no respect or demand for people who make things, people who know things, or people who invent things. All of the economic power goes to people who already own things, or people who sell things. I can't get a job as a Park Ranger teaching people how to be safe or helping to preserve the park's resources. I can get jobs selling and marketing books and merchandise with pictures of the parks. I also work in the publishing industry, where the people who market textbooks and educational computer programs have permanent jobs with salaries in the mid six figures, while the people who write those materials are lucky to make the mid five figures-- more likely, they're freelancers being paid by the page, with no benefits and no job security at all. Those people who were talking about "the makers and the takers" had it backward. The makers-- the ones who actually build or create things-- have nothing. The takers-- the ones who sell other people's products and keep the profits from things they had no part in creating-- are making a killing and running the show.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

IRVIN01 11/10/2014 1:31PM

  @OBIESMOM2 that movie would be Say Anything.

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LOLA_LALA 2/9/2014 8:14PM

    As someone who was lucky enough to grow up in a family that did quite a bit of camping in national parks, let me express my deep appreciation to you and to what you do for our generous "corner" of mother nature in this country. Yours is noble and deeply appreciated work, a career of inestimable service to the outdoors and humanity alike. I'm so sorry that like so many jobs in this country, genuine merit and individual talent and capability do not take more precedence in hiring and retaining personnel. We need more Anaries! It's sad to learn the system is "working" - or not - this way, currently speaking... All the best to you; you sound like a multifaceted, multitalented person!

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KALISWALKER 2/2/2014 5:44PM

    It's a situation so many people are in. Hope things improve.

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CARDAMOMMA 1/31/2014 12:34PM

    Wow, I don't come to Spark People for rational and articulate (as well as personal) cultural critiques. Really, I just like all the enthusiastic support on days when I'm having trouble sticking to my diet. So what a treat to find your page!

I'd love to see our culture shift, to value things that are actually valuable, again, but I think things may have to get worse before they get better. And I shudder to think of what we may irrecoverably lose in our protected wildernesses until we come to our senses again.

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ECOMUFFIN 1/14/2014 1:11AM

    “Our community of rebels, of humble truth seekers, wants to turn our culture around. We don't despise our country. We don't desire failure. We desire light, a beacon to show the world that our wealth need not show the way to more rapid destruction, but can be leveraged to heal more acres, more backyards, more communities faster than any civilization on the right path has ever done it.” — Joel Salatin

It's sad that we don't value our National Parks enough to adequately fund them. It seems we have our priorities mixed up.

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OBIESMOM2 1/13/2014 2:17PM

    I don't have much to offer. I agree things are way out of whack.

Your blog did make me think of this:

"I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don't want to do that."
anybody want to name that movie? emoticon

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ARCHIMEDESII 1/13/2014 1:41PM

    It stinks not being able to do a job you truly love.

I've said it before. How much a person makes is inversely proportional to their knowledge. In short, the less you know, the more you make.

That's the only way I can explain why some executives with the IQs of roughly equivalent to a bowl of fruit make more money than the employees they micromanage. But that's a rant for another thread because I know really smart people who make squat.

Working for a National Park really is a labor of love. Not unlike being a personal trainer. Don't get me wrong, there are personal trainers who make good money. but, they are few and far between. when I got laid off last year, I thought I could make a go of it as a full time PT. nope. not in this economy. hiring a PT means having descretionary income. And too many people don't have a little extra to spend on a PT.

The fact is, just about all the PTs I know have "side" jobs to make ends meet. I suspect a lot of people these days have more than one job. I'm still working part time at the gym and taking on PT clients when I can. It's not that I need the money right now, BUT if I don't get a permanent position, it means I'll need the extra money later.

So, like Anarie, I've been padding my nest egg in case I get laid off again.

Comment edited on: 1/13/2014 1:42:21 PM

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DRAGONCHILDE 1/13/2014 1:03PM

    That's sad, honestly; I would love to be in the park service. I am considering a Wildlife Management degree, though; that's a bit broader.

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Sometimes you hunt for a job, sometimes a job finds you

Saturday, January 11, 2014

I've been working at a term job that ends at the beginning of Feb. I started a half-hearted job search in mid-December, but all the things I've gotten nibbles on don't start until April or May. I could last that long because I was working double hours for a few months, but it would largely deplete the little bit of savings I've rebuilt.

And then out of the blue last week, I got offered my choice of two jobs with a non-profit. One pays chicken feed, but it would be very easy and it's right here where I already am, working with people I know and like. The other pays a grown-up salary, but I'm not entirely 100% sure I'm qualified for it. It involves managing people who might not be terribly happy, because their current managers are all getting fired for financial malfeasance. (They didn't do anything criminal; they just mismanaged stuff. They run an operation that should be making lots of money easily, but is barely breaking even, so their non-profit is being evicted from its sites and replaced with the non-profit that offered me the job. I've seen some of their work, and it looks more like a junior high class project than a professional fund-raising operation.) Unfortunately, that one is also in a community where it's evidently next to impossible to find an apartment. Even though it pays twice as much as the opportunity here, my housing would cost two to three times as much. It's hard to find housing here, too, but if you do find it, it's cheap.

And just to complicate things further, the soon-to-be-dissolved non-profit had a position that wasn't offered to me but for which I am eminently qualified. I'm not sure if the director knows my background; he offered me the other jobs because he's seen me volunteering and Rangering, not using this other skill set. So on Monday I'm going to ask if they plan to fill the position I noticed, and if he would let me combine that with the job he already offered me here. I could actually do both at the same time if he'll pay me for them.

Oh, and either of those jobs will pay my health insurance. That was an interesting part of the conversation; this guy-- who is a fairly conservative gun-totin' Texan-- is totally sold on Obamacare. His organization has to insure 4 employees, and it was just about breaking him, and then there was one employee with pre-existing conditions for whom he just couldn't find insurance at any cost. He spent over a hundred hours a year searching, because each company would drop them after a year even though the employee in question NEVER FILED A CLAIM. Not even a normal doctor visit, or a sprained ankle, or the flu. That employee fought with the website for 5 or 6 hours (so did I; it didn't like our addresses down here and instead of saying, "We do not recognize your address" it would say "an error occurred") and then got better coverage than they could get him, at a price that will save them enough to hire another employee at their lowest pay grade.

So, anyway, I basically have to make a decision in the next few days and be ready to move in 3-4 weeks. I hate big decisions and transitions. Wish me luck in creating my own Frankenjob!

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ARCHIMEDESII 1/11/2014 2:03PM

    The job that pays a grown up salary might come with grown up stress. I don't know if I'd want to take a job rebuilding a non profit. Do you feel like a challenge ? It certainly sounds like it would be a challenge.

I take it you're done with life as a park ranger ? That too has been a good experience, but I could see how you'd be concerned with job security. Working in a national park is a labor of love.

Well, it sounds like you have opportunities and that's half the battle. My contract job keeps getting extended. Don't get me wrong, I love the job. but I keep wonder what does a person have to do to get permanent status ? On the plus side, I get health care. That's half my battle.

Good luck !

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No work for 6 months followed by 2 jobs at the same time for 6 months...

Sunday, December 01, 2013

...wasn't the best idea I've ever had. emoticon

I was a volunteer for almost 8 months last year, with no income during most of that time (although with extremely little in the way of expenses-- housing was provided and I had laid in a pretty impressive supply of non-perishable food before I started). Then I picked up a freelance job that was supposed to give me 15-20 hours a week at a fairly generous hourly rate. Since I could accomplish 15-20 hours on weekends and evenings, I went ahead and took a low-paying full-time job that came with low-cost housing.

Well, the 15-20 hours somehow grew to 40+ for most of the past month! While I am very grateful to have two full-time salaries, I have to say that 85-hour weeks are not particularly fun. And forget about exercise! I've held my weight steady by not eating much, but since I had gained a few pounds over the summer due to a broken toe or two, I need to do more than hold steady!

The good news is that my hours at the low-paying on-site job are changing so I'll be getting home an hour earlier and have time for a run before dark. The good/bad news is that the online work is going to dwindle soon as the project is almost finished. I'll miss the income, but not the hours. I haven't added it up yet, but I earned enough in the past month or so to make my bank account almost healthy-- but both jobs end at the beginning of Feb. and I don't have the next one lined up yet. I only have one application in, and it's for another low-paying one that doesn't start until May and that I'm not sure I would want, anyway, in a place I know nothing about.

So... Time for another job hunt. I haven't decided whether I want permanent or term/contract. I hate having to look for work every few months, but I do like having new things to learn and do, and I love knowing that if I don't like something about the job, it's going to end soon.

On an almost completely unrelated note, I'm doing my Thanksgiving tomorrow. Most people in the park worked the actual holiday, so there was a quick "park family" potluck hosted by one Ranger who gets Thursdays off. I went to the nearest city two weeks ago (500 mile round trip in one day; another not-best idea) and turkey was 47 cents a pound, so I bought one figuring even if I didn't do Thanksgiving, I could roast it for myself at some point and have protein for a month. But my parents made it down here from the frozen North last week, so they're coming over tomorrow. I'm going to do the turkey, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and roasted cauliflower, and Mom will bring a cabbage dish she learned recently, and maybe a pie. It's a big meal that I don't really need, but it'll be relatively healthy. If they get here early enough and the turkey is done on time, we might go for a little hike afterwards; we'll see.

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LUCKYDUCK2 1/10/2014 11:14PM

    I cannot imagine putting in hours like that and having such an awesome attitude and still thinking about exercise. You find silver linings in everything. I am in awe of you.

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ARCHIMEDESII 12/2/2013 11:27AM

    Hey, Anarie ! As they say, when it rains, it pours.

It stinks to be working so many extra hours, but it's important to keep that bank account healthy while you can. I'm still working this contract job and trying to save as much as possible just in case I'm not made perm at the end of the project.

Because some days the working world really is feast or famine.

Hope you have a wonderful Thanksigiving with your family !

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POUTINGPEGGY 12/2/2013 4:51AM

    Really happy you are blogging again. How different we are! I used to worry if I didn't have a secure long term job. Happy Thansgiving.

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Shut down

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

I am, as far as I know, furloughed until the government reopens. There's a slim chance that I could be declared "excepted" and forced to work without pay instead.

Fortunately, I think I'm going to have a fair amount of work from my online job, but it's still going to be a financial hit if it lasts very long.

And I at least still get to stay in my not-very-expensive National Park housing. The people really taking a hit are those who live and work in, but not for, the National Parks. People who run the restaurants, lodging, camp stores, gas stations, etc. have 48 hours to find someplace else to go and some way to get there. Many of these people make pretty close to minimum wage and some don't own cars. If they have to leave this park, it's over 100 miles to the nearest train station, almost 300 to the nearest bus line (in the US. If they sneak across the border into Mexico, there's a bus stop "only" 160 miles south.) If they have relatives they can stay with, it's still going to cost them several hundred dollars to get there, at a time when they've got no income.

Today I'm sitting and twiddling my thumbs while I wait to find out if I have to work tomorrow. If it goes on longer, I'll get out and hike, but that's going to be a limited amount of fun because there are no bathrooms and no trail patrol for safety. Honestly, it's the lack of bathrooms that will curtail us the most. We're also counting on it to discourage visitors from trying to sneak in. That's a big concern, actually. This park is the size of the state of Rhode Island and we're going to have 15 Rangers and 7 Border Patrol Agents watching the whole thing. No food, no gas, no bathrooms, no search plane, no Interpretive Rangers to give safety information, write permits, and know if someone has gone missing. Several people have died this summer, and several more have been rescued, and the main difference in most cases was whether a Ranger knew where they had gone.

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ECOMUFFIN 10/9/2013 11:35PM

    I thought about you when I heard the National Parks were closing. Hope you are well and able to go back to work soon!

My husband works for a federally funded research and development center. At first, we thought his company would stay open, but last Thursday his company sent most people home, with the "exempt" employees staying on through Friday.

Since his options are taking vacation or not getting paid, he is taking vacation, which means he won't have time left to actually take the vacation we planned at the end of the month. Very frustrating, but I am very grateful that he had vacation time left and I am very mindful that others have it so much worse than we do.

My heart goes out to those who have little to no political influence, but are hit the hardest by this crisis.

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ANARIE 10/4/2013 11:14PM

    Tryingtolose, you don't have to get health insurance if you have no income. Whoever told you that is lying. If your income is less than poverty level, you might get Medicaid if you live in a state that expanded it, but if you really have no income you don't have to get insurance. If you make too much for Medicaid, or if your state wouldn't accept the money for Medicaid, technically you're supposed to buy insurance, but the "penalty" is taken out of your income tax refund. If you don't pay any income tax, you don't have any refund, so there's no place for them to take the money from. It doesn't accumulate from year to year, and they can't take it from you any other way than through your income taxes.

The other lie you keep hearing is the one about "OMG, it's 3000 pages and nobody even knows what's in it!" It's not. I have the whole Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on my computer as a PDF. It's about as long as a college science textbook-- 900 pages, but about 100 of that is the table of contents and the stuff talking about who was there and how it was passed. In my opinion, everybody should get a copy and read as much of it as they can. It's the most boring thing you'll ever read in your life, but it's not fair to support it or oppose it if you haven't even tried to read it.

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ARCHIMEDESII 10/2/2013 10:13AM

    Hey, Anarie !

I believe that if you do have to work, your pay will be retro-active. this shouldn't go on much longer. The longer it does, the worse it looks for BOTH sides of the aisle. I suspect they'll be coming to a compromise in the next week. If it goes to two weeks, I'll be surprized.

Really, congressmen get paid while every other government worker doesn't ? Hmm... who thought that was a good idea ! I do feel bad for all those businesses that do rely on visitor dollars.

I think a hike is a good idea.

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TRYINGTOLOSE64 10/1/2013 8:59PM

    I'll be glad when this is all over with!! Those of us that are taking the hit in the long run are those of us that are unemployed....yet the government expects us to get health insurance when we have no income.

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MSGO72 10/1/2013 8:35PM

  I hope this ends soon for your sake and other who find themselves in similar or worse circumstances!

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