Today is Memorial Day in the United States. Banks and government offices are closed, but most of the shops are open, draped in red, white and blue bunting and hawking BIG, BIG sales on every kind of garbage.
My wife does not like national holidays because her beloved mail is not delivered. I don’t care for them for a different reason — because there are no new job openings posted and hence nothing to apply for.
When you’ve been unemployed for a long time, applying for jobs becomes a way of life. Looking for a job is your job.
I have my résumé plastered all over the internet. I generally start out my daily session by checking Career Builder, indeed.com, CalJobs, the federal government employment website (usajobs.com), govenmentjobs.com, the California state jobs site, the websites of several corporations in which I am currently interested, the federal courts site and the jobs websites sponsored by several other states (Oregon and Washington have been particularly productive). Once a week or so, I do a pass through the county employment websites of each of the 58 counties in California. About once a month, I do the same with every county in Arizona.
Most employers accepting applications for middle management positions require the applicant to write a series of essays on diverse topics ranging from your theory of management to your experience in developing department budgets to your methods of handling disciplinary and performance issues to how you go about implementing orders from senior management when you don’t agree with them.
Then there are the application forms themselves. Some are interactive forms that can be sent directly to the employer at the click of a button, others become fillable PDFs only when saved to my hard drive, while still others must be printed out and completed in my chicken scratch handwriting. Some of these are hybrids. Just because a form is fillable, for example, doesn’t mean that all the fields will contain enough room to type everything. Some forms automatically reduce the type size to fit, but others either truncate your text when you exceed maximum characters or cause a scroll bar to appear for the purpose of reading text that is now off the screen. The latter situation is totally unhelpful for forms that must be printed and sent in hard copy format. You can’t scroll a sheet of paper! So the fields in which I can’t fit everything are left blank, to be filled in by hand after printing.
Application forms can be quite lengthy, some literally requiring the details of “all employment since high school.” When you get to my age, this means writing a book. I must indicate the name of every supervisor I have ever had, including the one from my first job out of college on the night shift in my hometown and the ones who were my bosses at employers that are no longer in business and the ones who are long dead. The sad thing is that some of the places to which I apply actually try to contact employers that I worked for thirty years ago. As if anyone there would remember me at this point.
Of course, every job application requires a cover letter. I have numerous templates saved on my laptop, but these nearly always must be tweaked to highlight the particular qualifications that the employer claims it is looking for. If I’m lucky, this will mean changing the wording of a couple of sentences. If I’m not so lucky, I’ll have to rewrite the whole darned thing from scratch.
Then there are the supplemental materials. Some employers want to see my college and grad school transcripts, some want copies of my diplomas, some want a recent typing test certificate and some want an unedited writing sample (sometimes two of them, “one short and one long”).
Some employers will only accept documents in Microsoft Word, others require that all the application materials be combined into a single PDF and attached to an email, while still others will only accept hard copies sent through the U.S. Mail. Following a lot of frustration and more than a few cuss words, I am now familiar with the ins and outs of converting documents from Word to PDF and vice versa, including how to combine, separate and rearrange pieces of things in Adobe.
A very short, straightforward application takes me about an hour to complete. But let me tell you about the doozy that I worked on Friday night. It took me five hours.
I will start by saying that this application was for a Fortune 500 company that I would just love to work for. I applied to them once before and wasn’t given the time of day. Recently, however, I heard through the grapevine that they’re hiring again. I went on their website, created my little profile, uploaded my little selfie, posted my résumé. I bet my wife that I would never hear from them. I lost that bet.
They sent me a pile of application materials via email. I was shocked to learn that they are actually interested in considering me as a candidate for possible employment. Not as a middle manager, mind you. Not even as a first-line supervisor. And, no, not as a floor lead or as a quality control technician. They would be happy to review my application for an entry-level position. Now, this job is not in commuting distance from my home. Nay, it is not even in the state of California. I would have to move hundreds of miles away to another state in order to accept a full-time 40 hour per week entry level position that requires working nights and weekends and pays an hourly wage that would not be sufficient to buy toilet paper to wipe my ass with, much less pay rent on.
And the real punch line to this joke? I am actually thinking about it.
When you have been unemployed for a long time, the descent of your employment standards becomes a little like dancing the limbo. How low can you go? After being out of work for eight months, I think it’s safe to say that I no longer have any standards to speak of. So here I am working through the application materials, grateful that anyone has expressed any interest at all in employing me, while in the back of my mind I am thinking: Will I have to stay in a flea-bag motel and fight the cockroaches? Should I start stocking up on ramen noodles? Will I have to live in my freakin’ car like Homeless Guy #2?
The application form itself asked for the usual education and employment history, plus a series of essays on topics that made me laugh. I was grateful for the comic relief. I won’t risk a copyright violation by revealing the essay questions, but I will say that I actually had a good time answering several of them. They were unique.
Upon completing the application, I had to fill out a survey that seemed to have the purpose of determining whether my personality would be a good match for this position. Then came the online typing and grammar tests. Finally, I had to turn on my webcam and do a video interview, presumably for the employer to get a feel for my demeanor and how I would interact with customers. I really wanted to say “b-b-but I’ve spent years teaching others how to properly interact with customers!” Oh, right, this is for an entry level position. (Sorry.)
Well, this was the first time I’ve ever used the webcam on my laptop. I’ve always known that this is the function of the little eye that sits above my screen and darkly stares at me while I’m pounding away at the keyboard. But since I’m not a vlogger and have no need to create perky video profiles of myself for dating websites, I’ve just kind of ignored the camera function of my computer. Perhaps this in itself is an indication that I lack the technological savvy needed to succeed at even an entry level position in today’s world.
I had no idea how to even access the camera and start recording. But I figured it out. After all, that’s what a manager does all day: Figures things out. It would be an understatement to say that my video interview was bloody awful. I hemmed and hawed, went over my allotted time on every single question, found myself still talking after the camera had shut off.
After that little debacle, I realized that I have absolutely no chance of snagging this job. And although that fact saddens me, I know it’ll be okay in the end.
At least I won’t have to live in my car.