Carol Snyder is always prepared. Carrying a stack of folders and papers, she walks out of the Chula Vista Career Center reading a series of want ads pasted to a yellow legal pad sheet. "I'm trying to find a position in Chula Vista, if possible. I plan on going to the Sweetwater Elementary School District because they have four job openings there. They also have an administrative assistant position for the Salvation Army. They also have three clerical positions open at the City of Chula Vista. The public relations job here is for a utilities company, so I thought I'd go by there too."
At 53, Snyder's stamina makes it hard to keep up with her. "I'm very energetic. I've got lots of places to go and people to see and I'm rarin' to go!" It doesn't add up that someone so determined could ever be unemployed, but that very dedication proved to be Snyder's downfall, and her story shows why some of the best of the unemployed pool are those who quit their last job.
"I had a job at Paradise Valley Hospital. I was a supervisor to over ten girls there. I walked into a bad situation, and I didn't feel that it was going anywhere for me. I had several young girls in their 20s who didn't know how to work. The supervisor asked me to get them into shape and get a program together that worked, but he wouldn't back me up. When I put my foot down with the girls about coming in late, having too many personal phone calls, eating at their desks constantly, and not doing their assigned jobs or helping patients, I went to him. He said, 'Write them up.' I wrote them up, but he didn't back me. Instead, he threw out the paperwork. There was nothing I could do to get the girls into shape, so I left.
"I had that job about four weeks. If you see a situation, and you see that there's nothing you can do because management won't back you up, the best thing to do is leave and look for something else better. And the pay was very good. Excellent. It was $15 an hour. I was working 12 hours a day, and I was bringing home another workload worth about 3 hours a night. I was probably getting about six or seven hours of sleep on a daily basis. I was also going in on weekends and working because these young ladies would not get out of bed or they had too many problems with their boyfriends to go in and work."
Lest anyone think Snyder is complaining, her tone is enthusiastic. She loves the challenge of work but can't stand coworkers who are not as motivated as she. "I went to personnel twice and told them what the situation was. The girls were always late, they all talked really bad to the patients who were at the window, they were all in their 20s, and they all had babies but no husbands. They were always on the phone with their boyfriends, mothers, or friends. They felt that school was more important than the job or taking care of the patients at that particular moment. We were all overworked and short, but they would not hire anyone else. The other bad thing was -- I hate to say this -- the girl that was causing all the trouble happened to be black and my boss was black and he always sided with her. No matter what I did or what I said, she wouldn't do anything, then she would run to him and cry and complain that I was too hard on her.
"It was really sad, because I could not do what I wanted to do to get that office into shape. If he would have let me, I could have done it. I'm ex-military -- I was a drill sergeant, and I wasn't that hard on the girls. I was very polite and very understanding with their problems and social lives and school. I worked around their schedules in order to contend with them going to school, which was why I was filling in for them a lot of the time."
Snyder cites a background of varied experience. "I have a B.S. degree in criminal justice, and part of that involved the study of psychology. I also have an A.S. degree in general studies, and I just finished taking a CPR certification test. When I was very young, I worked for the Imperial Beach Police Department, but the city couldn't afford them, so the sheriffs took over and everybody lost their jobs. I got out of that and went to work for attorneys. Everyone said that was the coming thing, but no, no, no, no, no! I don't like that kind of work. The police department is a lot better, because once you've worked for the police and then work for an attorney and see the same criminals coming in, wanting to get off the charges you know they are guilty of, it's very hard. I recognized too many of them. Before the hospital, I was working for the post office, but I was laid off. We were replaced by machines. When they automated, they promised to cross-train us, but we had to go wherever they wanted us to, which in my case was Rancho Bernardo. They offered me loading and unloading trucks for four hours in the morning, turn around and go home, then go back another four hours in the evening. You'd get your eight hours in, but it's like a split shift. I live out in EastLake by Southwestern College; my car is almost 11 years old, and I have old parents in their 80s that I have to take care of. With my responsibilities here, I thought I would try to find something in this area."
Responsibility seems to be as natural to Snyder as breathing. "I worked at the post office for five years, and I was never absent and always on time. I was always on standby and never refused to come in if they called me, whether it was 2:00, 3:00, or 5:00 in the morning. No matter what, I always went in, even if it was for 20 minutes of work. For five years I held the position of being the number-one employee. I am the sole support of my family, which is my parents and myself. I own my own house and my car is paid for. I'm managing. I have savings, but it's running out fast. I have exactly $100 left, and my monthly bills run about $1000 a month. Since I quit the job at Paradise Valley Hospital, I was not eligible for benefits.
"On October 18, 2000, I was laid off from the post office, and I came here to the work center, got my typing certificate, honed my computer skills, and was hired at Paradise Valley Hospital April 4, and I quit on May 5. I have gone to several interviews, but I haven't found a job yet. I took an interview here with one employer, and they told me that I needed my DMV printout, a Social Security card, and any medical certificates I had. I took medical terminology, so I do have that background there. I went to San Diego, interviewed with her again, turned in all my paperwork, and she said she would call me. I've called her since then, left messages, and got no response. They were due here this morning for another recruitment, and I was going to ask her why they haven't returned my calls. I want to find out where I stand there. I'm pretty sure that the reason I'm having a hard time finding a job is my age, but they don't know my personality. I have a lot of energy, and I'm an excellent worker."
"I've come to the career center here and learned word processing, Word 2000, MS Excel, and I just got a certificate that verifies I can type 74 words per minute with only two errors. But the problem I'm finding with trying to get a job here is that you have to be bilingual, and the pay is only minimum wage. I'm not bilingual yet, but I'm working on it!"
For Snyder, the hardest job of her life seems to be her current job search. "I go through the newspapers first, because I can get through those real fast. I come here every morning and get on the Internet, so I can go through all the jobs. There are several websites where you can go directly to the companies and apply and do online résumés or fax them from the center. That usually takes about three hours. Something should turn up sooner or later. I don't know how much longer I can go on like this.
"I'm trying to move on with my life. If it's a situation that you cannot change, and the job is too much, and you're not getting the cooperation that you need to improve the job performance, then there's no sense of staying at a company if they cannot change. Young people need to find out what it's like. They need more responsibility and more discipline. They need to find out just how tough it really is being unemployed. A lot of them are still living at home with their mothers -- most of the girls at my last job were. Their families were taking care of their children for them, and they just wanted to talk, talk, talk about their problems all day long instead of concentrating and focusing on the job. Young people are very smart nowadays, but they think more of their personal lives than the responsibilities of their job. As long as they have the support at home, they're not going to concentrate on their job. They don't have to worry about money coming in, so that's why they come in late and just do what they want to do."