Navigating Unemployment Brings Unexpected Issues

And North Carolina’s Employment Security Commission would do well to hire a social media consultant because they desperately need one.  They also desperately need more money, unfortunately.

Yesterday, my experience at the ESC was an eye-opener, to say the least.  I’m 40 years old and I’m not stupid by any stretch. But, I must say the process an unemployed worker goes through (in the state of North Carolina anyway) is more confusing then doing taxes. Seriously.

You don’t get that extra personalization unless you ask for it

My most recent layoff was not my first.  Actually, I was laid off twice while I lived in Massachusetts.  The first experience was a heart-breaker and the second not much better, but still much easier to handle.  The process of filing for unemployment for both of those experiences was definitely simpler than it is today despite the fact that at that time the use of web technology was not nearly as great.  Back then, a recently unemployed worker would walk in, wait in line, make an appointment, and actually see a counselor (though I’m not sure that was the title that was used) at that time who would then explain in detail what you’d expect to receive in benefits, how the benefits process works, etc.  Today, it’s all automated.  Sure, you still have to complete a claim but you don’t get that extra personalization unless you ask for it, which is what I had to do yesterday.

If I  had to file my claim in North Carolina all over again, I would do it differently.  Upon entering the ESC, I would wait in line like you’re supposed to, do what they tell you to do when your turn is called, and then request an appointment with someone who can explain it to me in more detail.  Instead, what I did was go through all those steps except making the appointment.  I figured I  had filed the claim through the processor at the desk and if she didn’t see a problem with it at that time, then all was all set and if I had any questions, I would just go to the website for the answers.  Yeah, THAT was a joke.  The website has tons of information, don’t get me wrong, but it lacks in several areas – it’s not personalized, lacks specific information, and it’s navigation is confusing. 

Sure, once you login you have access to your personal information but the breakdown of it is not enough.  If I wanted to know how much time I had left on my current claim (or how much money I had left), it doesn’t really say.  It says my “benefit year ends ____” but really, what does that mean for me?  Would I then qualify for the next tier, an extension, what have you?  It doesn’t tell you that.  No.  Instead, I have to either call the phone number associated (and wait on hold forever only to find out I should’ve just gone to my local office anyway) OR visit my local office.  I made the mistake of the phone call once.  From that point forward, I’d visit my local office and even then, it’s pretty much expected that the personnel at the front desk will be able to tell you “yea” or “nea” and that should suffice.  No, it doesn’t!  With the amount of people currently collecting and the occasional changes to the system, sometimes a person just needs to sit down one-to-one with someone who can explain it all to that person. 

With regards to specific information, I’ll give you an example.  Nowhere to be a found is a section describing in detail how working part-time could affect your receipt of benefits.  Under your personal information, it does tell the account holder how s/he can make up to “x” dollars before benefits will be taken out.  However, it doesn’t explain anything more than that, such as the very important element of how working part-time could affect your benefits negatively over time.  That probably should be a no-brainer but for some of us, we need it explained in detail, especially explained to us personally, not in general.

As for the navigation of the ESC website, number one…and this is probably the biggest issue I have with it… there isn’t even a search bar.  Hello!  What kind of website that houses vital information doesn’t contain even a search bar to look up key words or phrases? Add to that the upteen clicks I had to make in order to research the process of filing a claim only to never find the answer.  Now, perhaps, I clicked too fast or not in the right places but darn if I couldn’t find it.  Those are just two examples.  I’m sure experts in website design and development could find more flaws. 

That brings me to my point that it would be who of them to hire a social media consultant.  Can you imagine the amount of information that could be shared with the community in the form of an informational blog, a Facebook Fan Page, on Linked In, or a Twitter feed even?  I would’ve loved to have been able to visit a blog to learn valuable tips in job searching, new information about changes in processes, success stories from claimants who found a job through JobLink, spotlights on employees who truly enjoy what they do and why they enjoy it.  I’d subscribe to their Facebook feed to keep up-to-date on the latest information, links that are being shared, etc.  See my point there?

There has to be a way to make it easier for those of us that have the unfortunate circumstance for going through the unemployment process.

All this to say that I am absolutely not impressed with the processes to filing a claim or the services that are provided.  I wish we could go back to the day when it wasn’t even a question that a step in the process was to personally see a “counselor” (or whatever they’re called) as part of the initial steps to filing a claim.  I get that the state is strapped for cash & borrowing from the federal government as it is.  I get that their resources are stretched but come on, there has to be a way to make it easier for those of us that have the unfortunate circumstance for going through the unemployment process.

Yesterday was NOT a fun day for me and I still have a headache just thinking about it.  However, I hope that sharing this post with you will help those of you out there that are unemployed.  If there is one thing you can take from this, don’t rely on the procedures.  If you have questions, ASK!  Here I thought all was good to go and that the website was sufficient enough to answer my questions.  I thought wrong.  Don’t make the same mistake I did.


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