Notes From the Unemployed

I went for a job interview today. It was a second round interview. The first I had hit out of the park a couple of days ago with the CEO. He said he wanted to hire me, but he wanted this other guy to meet me first.

So, I went to the second interview with a little more assurance and rehashed my winning talking points from earlier. This second guy wasn’t as easily impressed. By the end, I shook his hand and left with a sinking, “Good, but not great,” feeling in my stomach.

I’ve been unemployed for months. It doesn’t help that my resume is all over map. Professionally, I’ve been a writer, a teacher, and an administrative assistant. At this point, I don’t care what I get hired to do, as long as they pay me. (Actually, come to think of it, that’s not true. I have a lot of standards. Most of them come from being self-aware enough to know which jobs I would suck at and end up getting fired).

Getting ready for a job interview, at least for a woman, is like getting ready for a first date. All morning, and even all the day before, you are planning. What will I wear? Does it need to be laundered/pressed/hemmed/starched? Then, you have to make a run to the store for starch and that wonderful invention that all petite women must be made aware of–the iron-on hemline adhesive. If you don’t know about this, and you are under, say, 5’3″, pay close attention.

You fold over whatever you want to hem, and then insert a strip of this magic paper in the crease, and iron for about two or three minutes–and voila! The dress slacks fit! So, all night, you’re ironing, starching, hemming. Unless you give up and decide to buy an entirely new outfit, which after three hours and four stores you may emerge with the perfect outfit. Or you may emerge with just a headache, and decide to just buy the damn starch and wear that stupid shirt you hated earlier today.

Once you have selected said attire, you may have to make a trip to the nail salon for nail care or waxing. After all, nails must at least be polished, if not professionally manicured. If you will be wearing open-toed shoes, a pedicure, even if self-administered, is mandatory as well. And you begin to stress out because it’s getting late, and places are starting to close and you’ve been getting ready for this interview since lunch.

In the morning, you wake up to shower, and spend an hour with the blow dryer and flat iron. Then, another ten to fifteen tediously applying cosmetics and beauty products to both face and hair. You skip breakfast (who can think of food at a time like this?!) You take sips of coffee in between strokes of the flat iron, and perhaps a few bites of a muffin. Finally, you slip into your carefully selected sexy-but-not-too-sexy heels, and start to gather your supplies.

During my last job search about six years ago, you needed to print directions via MapQuest, and bring a fresh copy of your resume on high quality watermarked paper. This may have required a trip to the local print shop, depending on if you had the nice paper on hand, and the ink levels in your printer. (I could never keep ink in my printer for some reason).

Thankfully, technological advances have largely eliminated this step. Smartphones give you directions, and most employers prefer to reference your resume from their laptop/iPad anyway. Although, having been caught out once with the terrifying question, “Do you have a copy of your resume?” and having to answer, “Uh, no, I’m sorry, I don’t.” I am now paranoid about having my resume.

I arrive to the office, on time, looking effortlessly professional, resume in hand, and smile. He shakes my hand and has no idea what I’ve already been through for this job. If he did, he would hire me just on the effort.

Instead, we have a pleasant thirty-minute meeting, and he thanks me for my time. That’s never a good sign. Being thanked for your time, or being told it was nice meeting you. This is an unconscious clue that they don’t expect to see you again. And that’s it. I go home.

There’s nothing quite like the anti-climax of a job interview. They say to send a Thank You note, but to me it just screams desperation. Maybe I just don’t do them properly, but I’ve never gotten a job I’ve sent a Thank You Note to. Even when I was sure that I had the job.

So, in the end, I went home, changed clothes, and walked around Office Max for an hour wishing I could buy a really cool printer and print out my book and work on it some more.

I guess I shouldn’t complain. Today’s job search strategies are much more efficient than previous generations who had to keep a running supply of resumes, cover letters and letters of reference on hand, and then send them via postal mail. They then had to wait for an answer to arrive the same way, or perhaps by home phone, which may or may not be equipped with call waiting and certainly had no form of voicemail.

Although, I can’t say I agree with this new trend of inviting people to interviews, and even offering jobs, via text message. I get that it’s a valid form of communication now and for many, just as natural. But it still seems too casual for formal business communication to me. These things should be done via e-mail or phone call.

Recently, I applied to a major international oil company, and received a nicely formatted rejection letter on company letterhead, delivered as a PDF file attached to an e-mail. It was slightly weird, but did have something of an archaic charm.

I do think I miss the sort of formal business world that I never inhabited.  In that world, experience and education would actually mean something.. In that world, I could actually get a damn job.


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