Not having a job is a very strange thing. Sometimes I feel like the lack of any meaningful contribution to society, focusing of my time or responsibility to others has drained the very substance that makes one alive right out of me. Not having a job means not having an identity: I am an architect, I am a mother, I am a writer, I am a teacher. Anyone can say, “I am a person” unless the utterer is a dog. Or a pony. Having a job shoe horns one into an entire life of routine, co-workers, schedules, goals, achievements, rewards and cash in the accounts. Not having one leaves one adrift: a sea of opportunity sloshes against your hull waiting for you to master and command it. While the toll economically has been great, the toll emotionally seems to have been greater.
Looking for work used to be fairly easy and pretty fun, actually. You’d wear appropriate clothing and meet a manager or someone close to a manager, face-to-face. You’d get a feel for them, they’d get a feel for you and sometimes, you’d even get an interview on the spot if your timing was right. Either way, you knew what you were dealing with. A phone call within a day or two was the sign you’d either hit it or swung and missed and that was that. An entire day of applying would put your hand in the hand of ten prospects, sometimes more. It was invigorating; you could check things off your list.
Now the unemployed get up in the morning and face applying for jobs online. You log on. You subscribe to job sites that funnel you industry specific jobs. Each click on a link takes you to one of a dozen sites, all of which require you to register. Welcome to your thirty new login names and passwords, all of which are variations on a theme as not all sites allow the same criteria for registration. Oh, joy. Next you are invited to upload a resume, which seems like the solution to all your problems. You select one of your twelve unique resumes and upload with confidence. Custom-made resume in the inbox of employer in need. You feel great.
Until the next screen pops up and you are faced with a scrambled egg version of your uploaded resume wherein most of the information needs to be reentered into a series of different screens all asking for the information that is on your resume, leaving you to wonder why they would ask for your resume in the first place.
You schlog through another fifteen minutes of inputting information and hit submit. You are rewarded with an auto-reply thanking you for submission and letting you know that they will contact you if your qualifications match their needs (wasn’t that the genesis of the applying in the first place; that they placed an ad and your have the qualifications?) You generally hear nothing, although I was recently told in an auto-reply from a retirement housing facility that my qualifications, which include a college degree, matched their need for a dishwasher. While I am not opposed to being a dishwasher, there must surely be something at a retirement housing facility for which I am better suited. At least they led me to believe so in college.
Of course, you also go to Craigslist, home of the great cheap stuff. Also, home to scam-o-rama on the job front. Liars, cheaters, identity thieves and thieve thieves all invite you to work for them in their amazing new business that has its finger on the pulse of the hottest new trend and is looking for eager, young, smart people to make things happen. They just need to use your PayPal account to make the sales. It’ll be exciting. Or they require fifty different skills for their fantastic nine dollar an hour job that regrettably can’t pay benefits at this time. Craigslist ads often ask for photos to be submitted with resumes, further instilling confidence that this truly is a fine, legitimate job. Getting work through Craigslist is surpassed in its lack of success rate only by its getting a boyfriend through Craigslist lack of success rate. Stick to buying used furniture there. Your financial planner and your roommate will thank you.
There is the occasional walk-in application, where you are usually thanked for your resume and then directed to, you guessed it, their website to fill out an application. More tapping on the keys, more registering, more uploading, more scrambled eggs. More waiting.
But the real answer is temp agencies! Everyone rallies around the temp agencies, most of whom are struggling to stay alive in this economy. Why go through an agency that is going to ding you 15% on top of salary when you can post with Zip Recruiter or Indeed or The Ladders or Simply Hired dot com? Why? And temp agency reps should really be toothpaste ad talent. The smiles! The awesome smiles when they meet you, greet you, sweep you off your feet you and then fail to get you even an interview. This does not stop them from sending inspirational emails asking you if you are ready to take your game to the next level, are really competing as well as you should, are on the cutting edge. Are we at the Olympics or the office, I’m confused. Do we want a long jumper to arrive at the front desk or a mature, educated person who can do her job without a babysitter or buddy? I am smart, reliable, competent and pleasant, and believe me, this is not enough. It’s not even close to enough.
It. Is. Exhausting.
“Who am I” is not a new question. The touchy-feelies will say, “It’s not what you do, it’s who you are”. And then most of them either go to a job or lead a life funded or supplemented by another person. They don’t get it. Millions of people used to be this or are hoping to be that, but in the interim, are simply un-categorizable. If you don’t have a category, you can’t fit into the Internet. It’s hugeness requires your narrowness. When you don’t have a job, there is only one reason to get up in the morning: to look for a job. When you don’t know what you want to do, you might as well stay in bed and wait to die.
Everyone says, “Go for your dream!”. The question is, what if you don’t have a dream? What if your dream requires a day job to fund it for a bit? What if you just want to hard work and you’re not all that particular about what it is you do? What if you can do a panacea of things? The answer is, “You’re screwed.” The time for that person has passed. The place for that person is Burma Shave. The chances for that person are slim at best.