Saturday, March 21, 2015

For Real?

Well, that certainly didn't take long.
I officially started my job search - what? one or two weeks ago?  And, to be truthful, it has been a lackluster experience.  Nothing that would prompt the writer's urge to share with the world.
Until yesterday.
Two weeks ago, I started down the yellow-brick road with a review of my resume, last updated here.  It looked okay.  Just a small change, replacing the word "present" with the end date of my last job, and - as far as I could tell - that was all the news fit to print.  Not especially thrilling, and even my exemplary skills could find no way of turning that into fascinating reading.  Of course, I was in a bad mood, just having had my wisdom teeth extracted, so maybe a re-visit is in order.  Perhaps I should follow the lead of one of my friends and add "Cat Wrangling" to my list of "Skills", just to see if anyone is really paying attention. 
It should at least weed out the drones, of which - if memory serves me - there are many.
I have discovered since that I am still sort of on the fence about whether I am ready for a new commitment to underemployment.  Hence my job search has proceeded in a rather halting and haphazard manner.  I did apply to a "dream job", a part-time position I would be absolutely perfect for and would love with all my heart, but - of course - I haven't heard anything (nothing new there).  Let's call that my "reach" job, because I have not yet given up hope and intend to keep applying to every open position they have until I am hired.  This could take some time, so I am in the process of identifying some "safety" jobs, too.  I confess that I have not applied to any of them, because every time I make the attempt, I start thinking about someplace I want to go.
What I did do was apply to some temporary agencies.  I had assumed that by the word "temporary", it  was intended that a native speaker of English would understand "transient, impermanent".  Perfect.  No long-term commitment required.  No headlong rush into job hyperspace.  Instead, I found that I was being asked to browse zillions of open "temp-to-hire" positions, none of which were enticing enough to stir me from my ennui.  And, BTW, why do companies think it's a good idea to include their stupid-ass company "vision" (bonus points if it's an acronym, double bonus if the acronym is also the name of the company) on their job listings?  Do they not understand that there is no extreme of desperation that would induce a reasonably intelligent person to spend the majority of his or her waking hours trying to live up to an acronymous Pharisaism?  That leaves the idiots and the crazies.  Which probably explains the visions.
A day passed and I received a phone call from one of the agencies.  A young lady named Allison, informed me - brightly - that I had a "really great-looking resume" and said that she would like some more information about the sort of "positions I was looking for".  I told Allison - also brightly - that I was looking for true temporary, not temp-to-hire, and that I wanted positions in downtown Chicago.
There was a silence.  "Oh," said Allison, clearly disappointed.  "But you live in the suburbs.  We have lots of openings here in the suburbs."
Ah, yes, Allison, I'm sure you do.  And with good reason.  But I don't drive, thank God, and rely on public transportation, of which - in the suburbs - there is little or none.
By now, Allison was losing interest.  Obviously, I was not going to help fill her suburban quota.  "I'll pass your resume onto our Chicago office.  I'm sure they have something like what you're looking for."  Fair enough, Allison, and thank you for calling.
The next day, I got a call from another young lady from the same agency.  I think her name was Lauren.  She, too, spoke brightly about my resume and enthusastically about all the work they had for me.  A little warning bell went off in my brain.  I repeated the stipulations I had given to Allison.  With identical results.  "Oh," said Lauren.  "I'm based in the suburbs."  Evidently, my resume had missed its intended target. 
Explaining my constraints again, I received Lauren's assurance that their office in Chicago had plenty of jobs and that she would send my resume to them.
The following day, Todd called. 
Same agency, but now they were sending in the Big Guns.  I immediately sensed that a preemptive strike was in order, and started the conversation by stating my need for short-term assignments located in Chicago. 
"Well, I'm in the suburbs."  
Wow.  Again?  I tried to cut the conversation short.  But Todd was nobody's fool.  Enough of this shit.  I lived in the suburbs, therefore I would work in the suburbs.  Per Todd.
"We have plenty of positions that match your resume.  Right out here."
Yeah, I already got that.  Three times, now.  But I don't want to work "out here".  Buyer's market, Todd.
He gave a short, bitter laugh.  "You know, I have to wonder about that.  May I ask why you don't want to work in the suburbs?" he asked, his voice dripping with contempt.
Todd was trying to bully me!  For real?  Todd, a man whose vocal register gave me pause to speculate on the size of his cojones.  Bullying me.  There was a time in my life when I would have been truly outraged.  Now I was highly amused.  I had to admire it.  I also had to wonder how the likes of Todd had a job, whereas I did not.
No, Todd, you may not ask.  I held my ground, and finally he had to cave.  But before he signed off with another promise to send my resume to the Chicago office (apparently, the Valhalla of job resumes), Todd asked me if I had any call center experience.
Call center experience??? 
The thought had never entered my mind.  No, seriously.  Reality flooded in.  With a shudder. 
Maybe this would be a nice time to go to Ireland.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

L'Employee d'Un Certain Age

Maybe it's Stockholm Syndrome.  Maybe a daily dose of bright lights/big city is essential to my well-being.  Maybe the walls are closing in on me.  Maybe I'm greedy.  Whatever the underlying motivation, I am looking for a new job, and have officially embarked upon the search.
Which means something somewhat different than the last time I looked for a job, a little over seven years ago.  That process, and its aftermath, was the premise for this blog.
Seven years ago, job hunting was pretty much what it had always been, except that one searched for jobs on the Internet, instead of reading want ads in the newspaper.  Craig's List had replaced The Reader, and CareerBuilder had become the way to find a job through the Chicago Tribune.  Not all that different, actually.  A little faster, perhaps.  The big difference was that I had become accustomed to companies looking for me, instead of the other way around.  And that difference, at that moment, was my constant companion on my Walk of Shame.
This time there is another difference:  me.
It is entirely possible that I was in denial back then.  I was in my early '50s and most people in their early '50s are in denial, without a doubt.  They still think:
  1. they're cute;
  2. they're fashionable;
  3. they're relevant;
  4. they're interesting dinner companions after three martinis;
  5. they're indestructible.
The reason for this inability to connect with reality is that the mind hasn't quite caught up with the body, which hasn't started sending up warning flares about what's in store in the not-too-distant future.  Not that continued health and vitality isn't what's in store.  They may be.  But now it is going to take a lot more maintenance.
What does all of this have to do with looking for a job?  Well, unlike seven years ago, there's an extra step involved.
For lack of a better term, I am going to call this extra step a "pre-game warm-up".  For me, it involved a mammogram, a colonoscopy, a bone-density scan, a thyroid screening (several of them, until we got it right).  And finally, this last week, the extraction of my wisdom teeth.
The operation was a lot less painful than I thought it was going to be, given the war stories out there.  In triumph I returned home from the oral surgeon's office, announced that I felt fine...
...and then slept for approximately the next 96 hours.
All of this would have had to be done on company time, were I gainfully employed.  So good thing I wasn't.  Hence the pre-game warm-up.  I would hate to score a new job, only to ask for time off to have cataract surgery.  Or for something like rehab for a broken hip, a very real possibility for employees-of-a-certain-age when commuting during a Chicago winter.
Tomorrow, I have my one-week follow-up appointment.  If I get the "all-clear" from the surgeon, I will be going on to the next step:  updating my resume.
Which should be a hoot, considering my adventures in underemployment of the last seven years.
Stay tuned.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Reminder

Just in case you miss my dulcet tones, don't worry, I'll be back.  In a about three weeks, I'll be looking for some gainful underemployment, and I promise to historify every step of the way.

Until then, spend some quality time with my alter ego at:

Philosophy and Food for Non-Italians Who Think They Might Be Missing Something
You are.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

3 Types of Underemployment

Which one are you?
1)  Underemployed/Salary
You are underemployed on the basis of salary if you are making minimum wage, if the minimum wage in your state is at or below the hourly wage you earned as a babysitter when you were thirteen, and/or if the company you work for holds an annual food drive for its employees at Christmastime.
2)  Underemployed/Education Level
You are underemployed on the basis of education level when your boss chides you for using "big" words.  This same boss will have no idea that there are important differences between "there", "their", and "they're" and will use all three with impunity.  And without fear of reprisal, too, because nobody but you will notice.
3)  Underemployed/Age
You are underemployed on the basis of age when a sixteen-year-old representative of the summer help tells you not to touch the computer because you will "fuck it up".
Of course, these categories are not mutually exclusive and, in fact, usually coincide.  If you are earning minimum wage, it goes without saying the chances are high that your acne-prone supervisor will have dropped out of community college and has celebrated his or her 21st birthday in the not-too-distant past, a legendary ceremony fraught with copious amounts of newly-legal alcohol and fights with roommates, and requiring a great deal of under-the-desk texting for several weeks.  However, one of the above categories usually predominates over the other two in the culture of most places of underemployment.  The question is:  Which should I choose? 
Because, you see, very soon I am going to start looking for another job.  Since I apparently have not yet served out my sentence here in the suburbs, I find that I desperately miss my daily commutes into the city.  While I was working, my suburban home was a quaint little weekend retreat.  Quiet and provincial, and not without a certain greenish charm, it was fine as long as I didn't have to interact with the local populace, a feat made possible by the simple avoidance of "power" yoga classes.  But now that I am here 24/7, there's no escape, and it is now beginning to feel like a cage.  A cage in which I am becoming increasingly hamster-like.
Time to get off my block.  Or, to continue the metaphor, hop off the wheel.
Why more underemployment?  At this stage in my life, it provides the perfect combination of freedom from responsibility/entertainment/shoe money.  And, when the going gets tough, I can always shift to the role of amateur cultural anthropologist, which I essentially am anyway, thus achieving a comfortable distance between me and whatever easily-preventable catastrophe my place of employment will not be paying me enough to care about.
Underemployment has its upsides.  The work and commute often provide enough physical activity to allow you to blow off other forms of exercise, you're up-to-date on bad fashion trends and pop music, you stay reasonably current with technological advances, and it provides at least a token amount of monetary compensation.  Yes, most of this can be accomplished without an alarm clock dragging you out of bed at the crack of dawn and sending you out into the cold, cruel world.  But that requires maturity and discipline.  Not my strong points. 
So, until I acquire some maturity and discipline - which, were it left up to me would be never, but life sometimes has other ideas - I have come to the conclusion that I am better off in a relatively safe and structured environment where my delusions of superiority are daily reinforced.  For better or for worse, this is what inspires me, though - in truth - it will just be another wheel in a different hamster-cage.  
But at least there'll be some decent shopping nearby.


Thursday, February 5, 2015

My New Best Friend

Hello to all my faithful followers!  And to the Ukrainians who apparently have nothing better to do but troll for fools on American websites.
Please visit my new blog:
Connie Pappalardo Stuffs a Turkey
Don't worry (like you were going to!), Underemployed Is the New Organic is NOT going away, just slowing down until I get my next exquisitely intolerable job.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Are You Underemployed?

Take the quiz!

Please answer "yes", "no", or "Not sure, can you ask me again when I'm sober?" to the following questions:
  1. Are you over 18 years of age and have a high school diploma?
  2. If so, does your current employment require the use of a hairnet?
  3. Is your "boss" or "supervisor" more than 10 years younger than you are?
  4. If so, has she ever left her belly ring under your keyboard?
  5. Do you have an advanced degree?  That you can remember?
  6. If so, is it in Psychology?
  7. Do you watch "reality" TV shows?
  8. If so, do you feel compelled to discuss them at your job?
  9. Are you ever shocked by your fellow employee(s) work wardrobes?
  10. If so, is it because their attire is truly shocking, or are you just a crabby old bitch?
  11. Are you required to ask permission to go to the restroom at work?  (If you are an air-traffic controller or a guard at Buckingham Palace, please skip to question #13.)
  12. If so, are you also required to clean it?
  13. Do you punch a time clock?
  14. If so, does your company go into a tailspin if you go over 40 hrs/wk?
  15. Do you work enough hours to qualify for benefits at your job?
  16. If so, do they actually give them to you?
  17. Does the word "inventory" depress you?
  18. If so, have you sought medical attention and did you manage to score a prescription for marijuana?
  19. Do you start work before 8:00 am?
  20. Or leave after 8:00 pm?
  21. Do you take public transportation?
  22. By choice?
  23. Are you required to follow a script when greeting a customer/visitor to your workplace?
  24. If so, does it make you sound like a lobotomized six-year-old?
  25. Is there a "no gym shoe" rule at your place of employment?
  26. If so, is it difficult to enforce?
  27. Do the words "on fleek" mean anything to you?
  28. Do you consider yourself more intelligent than your superior?
  29. If so, is he/she from Michigan?
  30. Are any of your co-workers from Indiana?
  31. If so, do they own motorcycles?
  32. Has the carpeting at your place of employment ever been cleaned?
  33. Do you work for a woman with a fiance?
  34. If so, does she spend an inordinate amount of time on the job planning her "destination" wedding?
  35. If so, has it been more than two years since their first child?
  36. If so, has she managed to take off the "baby weight"?
  37. Do you suffer from "Top 40" brainworms?
  38. Do you earn less than $15/hr?
  39. In spite of the fact that you have a college degree, graduate work, 2 certifications, 20 years of experience, and stellar references?
  40. If so, has "Thanksgiving dinner" become the stuff of urban legends for you?
Scoring:  Unfortunately, if you answered "yes" to any question #2 through #40, you are tragically underemployed.  Sorry.
Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending how you look at it), I can happily say that questions #2 through #40 are no longer relevant to me.  Which makes this particular forum for thoughts on the trials and tribulations of underemployment increasingly difficult to maintain.
And probably means that it's time to move on.  I have now published over 300 essays on the subject of underemployment, failing to attract an actual publisher.  What I did attract was a "following" who became friends and companions and sympathetic listerners during my walk-of-shame of the last five years.  Much better than a publisher.
I am not about to give all that up.  Though I am starting a new blog (coming soon to a screen near you!), "Underemployed Is the New Organic" will continue, in a somewhat reduced capacity, until it revs up again when I get a new job (underemployment, of course, because it's just too much fun) or the 2016 presidential election.  Rest assured that a veteran voice of the underemployed will be here to make fun of Sarah Palin, whenever and wherever the opportunity should arise.  (In truth, I should be making fun of her speech in Iowa last weekend, which contained the truly horrific observation: "The man can only ride you when your back is bent."  But I think it stands on its own.)
Keep watching this space.  And I'll keep watching yours.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Fashion for the Polar Vortex

So, where's my global warming?

As I sit here on my seventh day of climate-imposed imprisonment, I ask myself that question.  I had such high hopes.  I thought Chicago was just going to turn into - oh, say, Kentucky.  In my naivete, I imagined wearing cute little jackets and Uggs throughout our globally-warmed winters.  And "hat head" would be an unpleasant memory to drone on about to our grandchildren.

But it was not to be, since global warming doesn't quite work that way, as demonstrated by the effect that the giant ice cube-in-residence in Lake Michigan had on Chicago's weather last summer.

My prison term has included hard labor, as I have also been shoveling snow.  Lots of it.  Just as well, because it's pretty much the only exercise I get these days, and sitting around the house for too long leads me to indulge in idle speculation about things like why Janet Yellen doesn't use eyebrow pencil.

Yes, I've been shoveling snow and, I must say, looking damn cute doing it.  I am a firm believer in wearing make-up, nice clothes, and perfume.  Each and every day of my life. 

Some might find this excessive.

But shoveling snow, and the other hardships of life in the polar vortex, is dispiriting.  It's cold.  It's dark.  Christmas is over, and football season will soon come to an end.  Wave after wave of arctic cold and snow is crashing down on us, and the winter "holidays" we celebrate to enliven our flagging spirits are grim, ludicrous, or boring.  I cite, as evidence, Groundhog's Day.  Obviously, we are dealing with a mental health issue.
I hear you.  "Oh, I'm not going to see anybody today."  But that's not a viable excuse.  Are you going to pass by a mirror?  Then you're going to see somebody.
This is no time to cave.   When the going gets tough, the tough wear cashmere.

What if you ran into your high school sweetheart?  It's not impossible, unless he is no longer counted amongst the living.  That's my benchmark.  What if my high school sweetheart suddenly turned up at my door as my new mailman?  UPS driver?  a Jehovah's Witness?  What if I bumped into him while picking up cat litter at Walgreens?  Would I be dressed for the occasion?  (Do not use this as your benchmark if your high school sweetheart dumped you right after prom or is currently in prison.)

Anything can happen.  The wise are prepared.  When I asked my aunt, 92-years-old and hospitalized after a cardiac incident, what she wanted me to bring her from home, she said, "Lipstick.  A red one."
That's a lot to live up to.  My aunt understood that, at her age, the odds that one of her ex-boyfriends would be wheeled into the room across the hall were not insignificant. 

Dressing for a polar vortex event need not be mutually exclusive with being chic.  Study Julie Christie in Dr. Zhivago.  A veritable Polar Vortex Pin-up Girl.  That woman could rock a turtleneck.  Good thing.  If you remember, she had two boyfriends show up at her door.  And that was in a snow-buried house in the middle of Freaking Nowhere, Russia.  (BTW, that hat is available at Urban Outfitters.)

Here are some Fashion Do's and Don'ts for Sub-Arctic Conditions:
  1. DO try to avoid wearing black turtlenecks if you are over 50.  They tend to highlight the progress your jawline has made towards becoming acquainted with your feet;
  2. DON'T mate with people who wear shorts in the winter.  Why would you want to inflict that DNA upon your progeny?
  3. DO use whatever sense God gave you in your choice of footwear.  There's a lot to be said for being ambulatory;
  4. DON'T appear in public places wearing any article of clothing that contains the word "sweat" in its description.  An exception will be made for Harley-Davidson hoodies that say "Hammond, Indiana" on the back, because that's just too brilliant; 
  5. DO wear brightly-colored accessories.  It increases your chances of being visible to a motorist, though a bicyclist will still mow you down.  But, please, no chartreuse.  
All this takes discipline, but - trust me - it's worth it.  As I shovel the snow in subzero temperatures, as it mocks me by blowing straight back into my well-moisturized face, I feel better knowing that my waterproof mascara is up to the task.

And, Janet, I've come to the conclusion that a touch of Anastasia Beverly Hills may be just what this economy needs.