When you cannot find the work for which you are educated, it is time for you to readjust. Yes, it is you who needs to change. Not the economy, stupid, the government or HR departments, it’s you who can and should change due to the wonderful gift of time that unemployment has bestowed.
Television commercials promulgate this wisdom and educate the masses on the different avenues for “fulfilling your potential” open to the unemployed; an unpaid internship, (who wouldn’t love that) a graduate degree,(easy fix) fascinating online courses or training, retraining, cross training, cross dressing,( just kidding ). Any one of these efforts (it is unfailingly mentioned) will result in you becoming part of a professional team, the mode of operation for any and all business environments.
The professional team is dramatized in commercials by a group of people in shirts and ties nodding their heads congenially at each other as they look at a piece of paper, smiling with vocational satisfaction.
I see the light; what is eluding me is the professional team. I kind of resented the people I worked with, but now I understand that being left alone to do what one needs to do is the condition of the unemployed.
Working people work with people. Even though my past coworkers were generally annoying and I never once stood with them smiling in sync at a piece of paper, I realized I needed to roll with the new. I sally forth.
Yes, I will flip hamburgers, I always wanted to do that, just let me be part of the team.
Night work? No problem, I love to work nights, I never sleep. Can I be part of your team?
Low pay? Are you kidding me, I live for low pay I just want to be part of a team of people who are ten years younger than me. Children actually, but who cares, not a problem, it’s the professional team at the end of the tunnel that beams like a neon sign proclaiming, Step up to your future, Spencer.
I don’t know how I missed it before. The restorative balm of the professional team is just one interview away.
Job 1: Entry level clerk at the Harford County ______ ________ _______.
I used to be a supervisor for a similar institution but this was close to my house and no small jobs, just small minds, right?, so I was pumped.
The woman who interviewed me, clearly impressed with her position wanted to impress upon me her “Attention to Detail.” She kept a clean paperless desk and managed a regimented office. She said organization and attention to detail are the key characteristics resulting in her being an effective leader.
She was OCD, according to her, but in the cute OCD way that just makes one extremely effective, not the mental illness OCD way which can be totally debilitating. Whatever, I just wanted a job so I told her I was OCD too, in the good way, and we could combine our OCD tendencies to be an extremely effective professional team.
I wanted this job so badly because I could walk there and save a fortune on gas.
Unfortunately, about halfway through the interview she started asking me about jobs I never had. “Did I like being a loan officer?” “How long did I work for the insurance agency?” At first, I was puzzled, but too intimidated to say anything. I tried to act like I knew what she was talking about but eventually I had to say:
“I have no clue what you are talking about.”
“I have your resume right in front of me where it clearly states that you were a loan officer for 2 years.”
“I am sorry ma’m but I was never a loan officer.”
“Well, I don’t understand the problem Mr. A_____.”
“Well, the problem is I am not Mr. A _____ I am Mr. S_________. You have the wrong resume.”
Ms. “Attention to Detail” had been interviewing me off the wrong resume for half an hour. It was kind of amusing but she was not laughing. Seriously, I didn’t care, I still wanted the job, but her mistake compromised her position, so her OCD went into overdrive, and I was a detail that was dispatched pronto. Strike One.
Job 2: Fun & Youthful Sales Environment for Dynamic Individuals! Going in I knew the youthful part was a bit of a stretch, but I was capable of being immature so I went for it.
I wanted to be part of a professional team and they wanted a dynamic team member. I could pretend to be dynamic for $12.00 base for every appointment you booked and great commissions, up to $100k+, so said the ad. I had never bothered to apply to these kinds of ads, but I was curious and desperate enough this time around.
I walked into the generic office in the generic strip mall with no visible name of the company. I found a few scattered young people that darted through hallways into offices, very hustle and bustle.
Immediately before me, was a waiting area with twenty chairs lining the perimeter of the room and a receptionist sitting in front of a computer propped atop a folding table. No sign of the company’s name or business. I signed the sign-in sheet and took a seat which the 18 year old receptionist said I could do.
Some five minutes later, and after a few perplexed job seekers joined me in the waiting square, a jaunty, and I suspect, dynamic, team member calls me into his strangely anonymous office and he begins flashing his Joe Biden smile.
After enthusiastic, but perfunctory introductions, I’ll call him “Tad” got down to business: “Are you independent but a good collaborator?” he asked. Yes? “Are you a multi- tasker with laser like focus?” Perhaps? “Are you a go-getter that digs a laid back atmosphere?” This was starting to sound even more ridiculous than usual, so I asked what, exactly, would I be doing again that I need to possess all of the contradictory attributes? Tad looked towards the door for a moment, seemed to reflect, but decided to duck the question.
“You can do the application process now, you can devote a couple of hours to your future, right? “ “Application for what?” I said, anticipating something loathsome. Tad, slightly agitated that he couldn’t whisk me into a commitment for the afternoon, gives up the game: “We are a recruiting firm for the premier knife company in America. You would be doing sales, and if you’re the kinda guy I think you are Spencer, then you could make a boat load of commission. If everyone you know buys a complete knife set for roughly $500 you can make 100 grand this year!”
I sighed audibly, maybe loudly. I do not know anyone who has $500 to spend on knives. I think my uncle would buy one knife, just to be a cool guy but that’s it, no other prospects.
Waste of time, I feel like an idiot, and I want to stop the knife-hawkers from wasting other job-seekers time. As I walk out of the office after leaving Tad to polish his pitch, I tell the young, eager to be fun, dynamic and employed in the reception area, “It’s a hustle. You’re going to be selling $500 knives to your relatives; that’s the job.” Strike Two.
Job 3: Health Insurance Call Center – This job paid fifteen dollars an hour and all that was needed was the ability to sit with a headset on and answer health insurance questions. It seemed so simple and, apparently, people moved into “leadership positions” quickly if they did an outstanding job.
Now, the thought of sitting in a cubicle for eight hours a day with 2 fifteen minute breaks and one half hour for lunch would have appalled the old me but the new me was up for it.
I would do anything to be part of a professional team, which meant, firstly, that I was to sit in a cube with a “call center professional” and watch her answer calls for four hours. Four hours of watching someone answer the phone.
It was like water boarding without the cooling effect of the water. It was truly the most boring hours I have ever spent in my life. And evidently, I unwittingly fell asleep while I was on the call center floor.
The manager, who had been in active combat somewhere, was apoplectic with rage. According to him, watching another person take insurance calls for four hours has never caused another trainee to fall asleep before and I was not a professional! Seriously? My behavior was unprecedented so I was out even before the training was over.
Becoming a member of a professional team was slightly more difficult than I had anticipated. But, I’m not defeated; I just haven’t found my team yet.
Here’s how I see it. My old life is fading into the dusk. My new life, dawning on the horizon, is too far away for me to glimpse it clearly. So, I am crossing the dark night of unemployment. Do I give up and throw in the towel? No, I keep going, trying new things, positive in my approach.
One day someone is going to find favor with me, one day my imperfections will be outshone by my perfections and one day my professional team will be smiling congenially and nodding as I hold a sheet of paper in my hand.