Tuesday, December 3, 2013


The search for a ‘real’ job has been going badly. And by “badly,” I mean absolutely horribly, which in this case can be more precisely defined as nine full months of full-scale networking, seeking out, and applying to positions in marketing, writing, internal communications, public relations, and assorted and sundry combinations of marketing writing, marketing communications, and public relations.

I may need therapy before too much longer. The mood swings are about to kill me.

There is an initial surge of optimism when reading a job description containing a perfect match of qualifications and experience, which provides energy to power through the requisite tweaking of the resume and original customized, carefully crafted cover letter. The exhilaration builds at the proofreading/polishing stage and reaches full pitch with the push of the “send” button that releases a simultaneous deep exhalation of relief and propulsion of history, professional qualifications, and best paper version of oneself through the cybersphere to a usually unidentifiable recipient.

And then .... the crushing burden of nothing. Or at best, an auto-respond message from a computer acknowledging receipt of the email, followed by nothing for days, weeks or even months. Once, I received a rejection letter within an hour of submitting my resume which resulted in a period of stunned shock at the near instantaneous rejection, but several months usually pass before receipt of a politely worded email notification that “after careful consideration of the many qualified applicants,” someone else who is not me was chosen for the job.

It was two months into the process when it first became difficult to maintain a level of optimism. This was after sending approximately 30 resumes in response to job postings for which I was an excellent match according to the stated requirements and qualifications and receiving no response. Now that the resume count tallies 80 specific jobs applied to (most with no response), most days it feels flat out impossible to muster even the tiniest spark of optimism. The light at the end of the tunnel is about as bright as the flame from a single, tiny birthday candle which has nearly burned out.

Worse, it has become flat out embarrassing to continually contact specially selected references about the perfect job for which I am applying which requires reference information as part of the application packet, forwarding a copy of the resume packet submitted, and receiving a query a couple weeks later from said references who wonder if they will ever be contacted by the hiring director of the fabulous art museum, marketing company, public relations firm, or university department. Hmmm.... I was wondering if I would ever be contacted myself. No news feels like very bad news here.

I thought my self esteem was low in high school. This job search allows me to daily plumb new depths in mood and confidence.

As ski season and Christmas approached with the annual period of holiday/seasonal hiring, I decided to explore options in part-time employment because for one thing, there has been no income since mid-February 2013. For another, I feel better when I am around people, and I know from experience that I can tolerate even the most horrible job if I know at the outset there is a predetermined endpoint.

Armed with desperation and self-awareness, I applied to two retail establishments and a ski resort. I was really hoping to be hired at the ski lodge where I had worked as a waitress for six ski seasons a lifetime ago, but the call that actually (miraculously) came from HR was inquiring about my availability for a position that involved doing laundry for the departments with uniforms. The hours were not ideal, but the free season ski pass awarded to employees, coupled with the finite duration of the job made it palatable. The phone call was wrapped up with word that the ‘next step’ would be an in-person conversation in a week, but instead, the next week I received a polite email informing me “we hired someone else who is not you.” I was already engaged in training at one of the retailers by this point, which thankfully cushioned the blow a bit. At least I wasn’t completely undesirable, even though I couldn’t score a job washing ski parkas. I never heard from the second retailer, although its holiday job ad appeared regularly in my email inbox for several weeks after I had applied.

As for the job I accepted -- it’s going great. It’s retail, so the schedule and hours are irregular, ranging from eight hours a week during training and bouncing between 16 and 28 hours a week post-training, with no discernible pattern, rhyme or reason to the days or the shift hours. But I get a store discount, my checking account is receiving deposits for the first time in months, and I possess exactly the right amount of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder to find the work meditative. Therapeutic. Challenging. Pleasant, even.

When facing a display of (once) folded jeans that looks like it suffered a violent ransacking or perhaps an explosion, it is gratifying to produce visible progress in the refolding and re-organizing of the colossal denim mess. It is satisfying to direct a customer to the brands of jeans that hit at the natural waistline, discuss tunic tops for leggings, and illuminate the way to the scarves or slippers. I get to be in control of an area, repeatedly picking up shirts with wide boat necks that cause them to spontaneously slip from hangers or items abandoned by shoppers in the fitting rooms, other departments, or on the floor.

One shift, while organizing the clothing on the fitting room rack which is strategically placed to allow customers to deposit the items they do not want to buy after trying them on, I overheard a conversation that made me want to slap someone, or at least deliver a lecture. It went thusly:
    Girl: “Mom, what should I do with the stuff I don’t want?”
    Mom: “Oh, just leave it there. Someone will take care of it.”

I wanted to say, “Oh, is that how it works at your home, Mom?”  But I didn’t. 

When I entered the fitting room vacated by the teenage girl, I was faced with a dozen empty hangers on the hooks and the fitting room seat and a knee-high pile of clothes turned completely inside out and left in a heap on the floor.

This is probably not how I will want to earn my living for the rest of my (many) working years. I would much rather be parked on my butt issuing  high-level strategic challenges to myself like “meet the designated word count/beat the deadline clock” while writing press releases or website content about exhibits or history or finance or economic development or free checking accounts.

But my self-imposed sentence reorganizing the wake of my fellow humans will be served once the New Year rolls around anyway. And like I said, I can tolerate anything for a discrete period of time, even if it is picking up behind people who behave as if the sole function of an entire class of low-wage workers is to clean up their trail of destruction.

No comments:

Post a Comment