Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Doubting Reality

There comes a point after you've filled out dozens of applications, sent out hundreds of resumes, joined forums and networked your sweet ass off only to turn up with bupkiss that you start to wonder if there isn't some sadistic asshat out there who just makes up job descriptions and posts them on job boards to see how many desperate suckers he can get to apply for the nonexistent job. That point came for me tonight after I filled out application number six for a "company confidential" posting. The only response I've gotten at all this week was from a guy who, honestly, sounds like what he wants is a "fence". The "job" would entail making purchases and then "using his personal UPS account" shipping said purchases to him.

First, I am not fronting money for "purchases" for someone I work for (with one exception and that's because I've worked with him long enough to know I can trust him). Because when I've done that in the past, even if I had a receipt there was always some "technicality" that kept me from being reimbursed or they did the bullshit thing of adding it to my paycheck so I had to pay taxes on the money when I'd already PAID taxes on the money, plus sales tax when I purchased the item and so ended up taking a loss. Not cool. (For me... very cool for the employer who gets his "stuff" plus manages to stiff me even if he does "reimburse" me for the purchase).

Second, I am not going to jail for the ethical failings of an employer. I've been in a position where I worked for someone who was shadier than the underside of a boulder and got fed the bullshit line that when you're on the clock you have to do whatever your employer tells you to do whether it is moral or ethical because s/he signs your paycheck. For chrissakes, there are people who work check-out at Target who won't lay a finger on a pork product, which is probably in at least a third of the orders that they ring up so don't tell me that because I'm on the clock I've gotta be doing things that I am morally opposed to (and these are things that I think any REASONABLE person would find offensive).

And maybe that's the problem. I now have ethical standards and don't tolerate bullshit. There are things I will turn a blind eye to now and then because I know that there are gray areas (like letting the co-worker who is occasionally 5 minutes late because she's got one vehicle, three kids in three different schools, a daycare kid and a husband to drop off in the morning...) slide under the boss's radar by saying I thought I saw her when the boss checks in with me in the morning. Strictly speaking, she owes the employer that 5 minutes. Realistically, she works through lunch 3 days a week and doesn't put in for overtime so nobody is getting hurt by that five minutes in the morning.

I'm not trying to espouse that I am morally perfect, either. I'm not. I do try to behave ethically. I make judgment calls about what's ok and what isn't. We all do. Which has nothing to do with whether there is a sadist out there making up and posting job descriptions for his/her amusement. I've gotta believe that 99% of all Craigslist job ads are phishing schemes. And the fact that I'm now making damn little sense tells me that I had best be off to bed to ponder the big questions later on.

Goodnight for now.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Learning the Native Language

Most people figure if they live in the United States that the native language is English. This, however, just is not the case in some places. Such is the state of things where I am living at the moment. I don't speak the same language as 98% of the folks who live in my neighborhood and they, quite frankly, are not going to stop speaking in their native tongue to accommodate me. This means that I need to get with the program and learn the language that so many people here speak or I will continue to miss out on a great many jobs because I am not bilingual.

It's not easy to learn a new language, much less become fluent in that language. Yet, there really seems to be no other option for me. It is a professional liability even worse than not having a degree and I am sure that the no degree + doesn't speak the Native Tongue is a double whammy of "do not hire" that is not helping me in the local market.

I am pretty sure that there are other cultural differences that are proving to be a hindrance to landing employment. I am feeling that there is something that I am really missing that is relaly obvious to the people who are interviewing me and no one has felt the need to let me in on what it is.

But the market being what it is right now, employers can pick and choose. There are hundreds of applicants for every opening. It's a buyer's market and I need to upgrade in order to be a more attractive commodity. So, I am working on what I can most easily change and trying to cram a new language into my brain.

The things we do in pursuit of a paycheck... crazy, huh?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Monday Looming/Holiday Hunting

Another Sunday night... well, technically now it is Monday morning but people without jobs (who are me) keep lousy hours and I'm still up so it's still Sunday night in my book.

My calendar this week is wide open and anyone with half a brain knows that no one interviews on a Holiday week. Unless they really aren't interested in you OR the person slated to work the holiday quit in a huff/got fired for not polishing the knobs correctly and they are DESPERATE because everyone ALSO knows "New Guy Works the Holidays". So, it'll be another exciting week of hunting and sending resumes off to the great abyss. Perhaps I'll be kindling for someone's stove on Thanksgiving so that they can cook their family a lovely meal.

I have no family within a thousand mile radius. No friends, either. I will not get any "pity invites" from anyone because no one around here knows me. Not that I am complaining because I chose this and I have to live with all of the consequences of the choice - good and bad. And I am sure that you can tell I'm a real treat at dinner parties, too.

Not working during the holiday season does have its advantages. You aren't forced to listen to Christmas music for 30+ days in a row til you want to stab your eardrums out with an icepick. You don't have to take part in the idiotic office "Secret Santa" where you always get the witch of a supervisor that you have to get more than a $10 gift for even though the "rules" say that you have a $10 limit because you KNOW that she'll write you up for every little thing for the coming year if your offerings do not please her. It's never a surprise when the "Secret Santa's" are revealed that ::chuckle:: she got your name... (you figured that out when you found the "dollar store" tag on your gift the first day). At least it never came as a surprise to me. And it never failed that even if I found the most unique, one-of-a-kind "something" for her, she a) already had one b) doesn't like those c) saw those at Walmart and couldn't imagine who would buy that crap (let the write-ups begin!) And I cannot begin to thank whomever I had for Secret Santa the year that it was decided that it would be a complete secret, who only participated one day and that was to leave a feminine hygiene coupon on my chair whilst I was at lunch. How original and thoughtful.

Of course, NOT working at holiday time also means that you have yet ANOTHER year where you can't buy gifts for anyone so have to tell everyone not to get you anything because you won't be able reciprocate so you spend the entire holiday season in a somewhat stabby mood.

If you are lucky enough to be working, you will likely make the mistake of wishing someone who doesn't celebrate some form of seasonally appropriate greeting/farewell and they will snarl at you that they don't celebrate and then you'll be all embarrassed OR, if you're really lucky, they'll go to HR and report you for being an insensitive asshat and you'll have to spend your holiday studying diversity videos and penning an essay on cultural sensitivity.

You may run into the situation I did one year, too, where they lovingly(sarcasm) shitcanned someone in mid-December and hired me. (In retrospect, I feel like a total schmuck over that). So, she was let go on a Friday afternoon, I started Monday morning. One of the co-workers came in with a gift for everyone in the office and after being apprised that Former Person was not coming back, awkwardly handed me the gift intended for Former Person. (For the record, it was a mug and I still have it).

Other December company-related weirdness... being the "new guy" at Company Holiday Party time and not knowing whether the "voluntary" festivities are truly voluntary (Hint: It is NEVER voluntary). I've known many companies where if you didn't show for the holiday party, you didn't get your bonus. Sometimes these horrible, forced gatherings are things you are supposed to bring a spouse to. I never had a spouse who would go so I'd cruise in solo and get horrified stares from co-workers and have to make up some lame excuse about the hubby having gone on a bender and having left him sleeping in a puddle of his own bodily fluids or something. On the rare occasion where I suckered a friend into accompanying me, some totally bizarre situation usually occurred that made me even more of an outcast in the office (and possibly prompted the psychological examinations given shortly thereafter). I have had the good fortune of never having gone to a company party where alcohol was allowed so there was never any scandal involving the Receptionist xeroxing her ta-tas or anything of that nature.

There was one job that I started in December and the first staff meeting I went to, the staff was told that there would be no holiday bonus that year and one of the staff started to cry. I was flabbergasted as the biggest "bonus" I'd ever gotten for the holidays prior to that was a $5 Target Gift Certificate so I couldn't imagine what there was to cry over. I found out the following year when we DID get bonuses and it was equal to an entire paycheck. The gal that had cried the previous year made at least 3 times what I made, so I imagine that not having gotten her bonus probably really DID hurt the ol' budget. That was the best bonus I've ever gotten. Even if I get a job tomorrow, I wouldn't be eligible for a holiday bonus so would just be sitting listening to everyone gloat about theirs or bemoan the fact that they weren't getting one.

So... I'll try to make the best of this week and gear up hard for the "find something, anything, before the end of the year" push that will commence on Black Friday.

Friday, November 20, 2009

RIP Professional Courtesy

Used to be, back in the day, that you would get called for an interview, go on the interview, write a nicely worded Thank You letter and either get an offer or a rejection letter. Or you would send your application and/or resume somewhere and get either an interview offer or a rejection letter. Most of the time the rejection letters were a form letter type of thing and I have files full of them to prove that they existed. Then, as things became more internet based, you applied online and either got an interview offer or a rejection email. Which is fine, too. Because although it contains crushing defeat, it is also more "green" than cutting down a tree to tell me that there is no way in hell you'll hire me.

But in the past few months... go on interviews.... never hear another thing. Get called by an agency, go in and fill out a ream of paperwork, am told to call and when I do, get told the person I want to speak with is on another call and never hear back from them. Nary a peep.

I had a couple of interviews I thought went well. I followed up with Thank You letters. And... **crickets** NOTHING!!

And you know what the big problem is that I have with that? It screams to me "your time has no value, MsCleanslate!" And maybe these folks don't place any value on my time. But, if that's the case, why did they bother to interview me? Was I overconfident? Did I ramble too much? Come off as too ambitious? Come off as not ambitious enough? Did I ask for too much money?

Yeah, I had one of the companies ask me what I thought after having looked at their website. And had I only found their website when I Googled them, it might have been a different story. But I found NUMEROUS links to "this company is a scam" and "ripoff report" and "shady practices" and "lawsuits" and a very lengthy "rap sheet" with the Better Business Bureau and so it really caught me off guard to be asked what I thought of them after having researched them on the internet. What I honestly thought was that I was going to be in a position daily where being bent over the desk and sodomized with a 5 gallon water jug would have been preferable if I was offered and accepted the position.

I miss professional courtesy. Even if it is in the form of a form letter. I hope it comes back into vogue, but I'll not hold my breath waiting.

Monday, November 16, 2009

I'm trying to be a PROFESSIONAL, people

Last week I went on an interview. I met with Johnny and Molly (not their real names...) Johnny and Molly are both about 15 years younger than I am. I think they were a little... appalled that I am SOOOO OLD. But, age discrimination aside, I have a bit of a problem.

I asked Johnny and Molly for their business cards. Molly gave me a card with just the company name (and an OLD street address) on it and I asked her if she could write their names on the card. And instead of writing John Hatesyu and Margaret Fakecheery she writes on the card Johnny, Molly and Sherry (I met Sherry for 2 seconds on my way out). So, if I want to write a thank you letter (thankfully I remember the REAL address), I have to either a) look like a dumbass and call to get their REAL names or b) look like a dumbass and address a letter to Johnny and another to Molly which is very informal and not at ALL professional.

Now there is probably a snowball's chance in hell that I will ever even hear from them again since, as I noted, they don't want me, Ms. Jurassic, working for them. Because who wants an office Mom telling you that your coffeecup is growing a science experiment and you'd better pick up that office RIGHT NOW young man and just WAIT until your CEO gets home...

Nevermind that I have a good 30 more years that I will be in the workforce and if I am, at earlyfortysomething, already being looked at like I should be shuffling off for the home, then there's an issue. For the record, I do NOT look to be fortysomething. But if you start talking about having 20 years of experience, I guess the young folks start envisioning you running with the wooly mammoths and you can just forget getting a job. I also thought it odd that Molly said that her fiance is asking her to "move on professionally" from the job which I wonder if it means he thinks she's too old to be "office bitch" or if he's worried that Johnny is gettin' some of the goodies on lunch break in the supply room. Or maybe I missed it and Johnny and Molly are dating and the company frowns on that (since the clients are starting to complain about product being tainted by liberated bodily fluids).

So, I guess I'll write my letters to Johnny and Molly and look like an asshat rather than calling (where Molly will answer the phone) and asking if I can please get REAL names for these folks. It's obvious to me that these kids could use some help (and I just have to say that Johnny had the most delicate, feminine hands I have EVER seen on a dude... it was a little creepy). I think it'll be a hoot for them to actually get letters sent to the correct address even though they did their damndest to thwart me!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Still pounding the pavement (of the Information Superhighway)

Hey y'all. I am still looking for painful gainful employment. It is a frustrating task. 300 applications later I've had a whopping two interviews. One of those I have already been rejected for. I have another interview on Friday but I am pretty convinced that working for a company that has a Better Business Bureau rap sheet that rivals Santa's "naughty" list is probably not a good career move and won't be at all surprised when they bait and switch and the "Administrative" position turns out to be whoring door-to-door. No thank you, not my cup of tea. I also don't much like the fact that the guy used a friggin' speakerphone to call me and his first question is "so, why are you looking for a job"? Dude... LOOK AT MY RESUME, ok? I sent it, along with an application and if you look... HEY, my last job was a thousand miles away from where I am currently applying from... could that, perhaps, be the reason I am seeking employment?

Seriously, though, I am not at all impressed with the agencies I've dealt with here so far. Y'all call me up, have me jump through hoops and then disappear like a rhino fart in the jungle (rhinos live in jungles, right?) and never tell me what I did wrong. Do you folks have some overlord that you need to send a "we conned X number of suckers into spending a half hour filling out paperwork" report to? At least the bitch at FruitNumber back where I used to live told me flat out that she didn't even ever TRY to place anyone over a size 8. But I am starting to get paranoid that something is going on somewhere and I'm not picking it up and it's just tanking all of my prospects. Yeah, I know the market is rough but a 300:2 ratio is absolutely ridiculous.

There is one agency out there that is advertising SPECTACULAR jobs but every time I go to apply for a new one (and this is all stuff that it is not at ALL a stretch to see that I am well qualified) I get a little popup that tells me that they have me on file, please stop applying. And, of course there is no phone number anywhere so I just have to sit and wait for them to deem me worthy of a scrap of their time.

I really hate to panic but the reality is that the money is about gone and when I start defaulting on credit cards and my credit score tanks, it's going to make getting a job that much more difficult. I suppose it is an option to start applying for jobs that are an hour plus one-way commute but then you have to ask for a higher salary to offset all the money you are throwing into the gastank and putting into repairs, increased frequency of oil changes and the like.

I did have a side project I was hoping would turn into something good, but I sent out a prototype and there haven't even been cricket chirps in response so I am thinking that's a bust.

Thinking that soon I will have to do something like hit the mall and see if there isn't a Claire's or something that is hiring. I don't know if I could cut it as a barista. I hear you have to have at least a Master's Degree to get those jobs these days!