Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Hallelujah!

As we emerge from a beautiful weekend of spring celebration, I can definitely say that things are looking up.  Having cleared two (count 'em) hurdles in my life this past week, I think I can lighten up on the deep breathing. 

The first hurdle was a visit with my periodontist.  I was expecting bad news for two reasons:
  1. Since my 50th birthday, very few doctors have given me good news; and
  2. My periodontist makes these unhappy little grunting noises whenever he looks at my x-rays, followed by a disturbing evasiveness and discontinuation of eye contact.
What's a girl to think?  At our last visit I was sentenced to having all four of my wisdom teeth extracted.  And I was prepared for things to go downhill from there. 

But to my surprise and delight, and in spite of more of those noises, I was told that everything was fine so far and that I should return in two months.  A reprieve.
 
The second hurdle was a job interview.  True, it was only a temporary agency, but I have been laboring under some post-traumatic job-interview stress stemming from my experiences of the last ten years.  In order to remain gainfully-employed-with-health-care-benefits I have had to make a lot of compromises which I certainly was not in the mood to make. The "downgrade" to underemployment, for one.  Competition was fierce.  A 53-year-old woman with a family to support was no match for the hordes of absurdly well-educated young people willing to work for ludicrously low wages.  And some of the hoops through which the prospective employers felt entitled to make one jump had the potential to scar one for life.

I wasn't truly scarred.  But the experiences did leave me skittish:  interviews that lasted for hours, second and third interviews followed by ominous silences, and - most especially - the "psych" tests.  Over the years, I have been given to understand that my personality is seriously imbalanced - lacking in the most basic social skills and utterly devoid of compassion, while scoring heavily in the "inspirational" and "dominating" categories.  An appealing profile, if somebody were to have an open position for Mussolini.
 
The good news is that this job interview was blissfully free of bullshit.  No quirky little test sessions sprung from the unfortunately fertile imagination of some suit at a meeting.  And I was very well received.
 
At least I think so.  The company seemed anxious to know when I could start, and had me fill out all the forms necessary for me to get paid.
 
I've heard nothing since.
 
But, of course, it is entirely possible that somewhere amongst my references there is a person who responds to inquiries about me by telling the inquisitor that I am a crazy bitch who still owes him ten dollars.  Though I can't imagine who that person might be, it is true that I have been out drinking with all of them, which means there exists the possibility that, at one time or another, I have made unflattering references to their mamas.

So, in the absence of anything else, I am going to Plan B.  Plan B consists of applying for jobs at museums in Chicago until I get one.  Why?  Because I like museums.  And I like Chicago, even though its citizenry has bad taste in mayors.

I'll keep you posted.

 
 
 
 
 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Interview Eve

Tomorrow I have an interview.  My first in five years.
 
It is not an INTERVIEW-interview.  Tomorrow I am being screened by the same temporary employment agency that has been desperately trying to get me to work in the suburbs (see previous post) for the past few weeks.  Wow!  that must be a hard sell, because now I am up to five (5!) people with suburban area codes who have contacted me.  Who all tell me that my resume is "awesome".  I have told all five of them that I only want to work in downtown Chicago, and short-term assignments to boot, but they keep trying.  I have to admire the perseverance and, in salute, I am going to their office - in downtown Chicago, at last! - to be formally interviewed.
 
I am required to bring three copies of my resume, two forms of identification, and three references.  The obvious question is:  if you already have my resume, which I have sent you (twice), and which is why - I assume - you are calling me so frequently, can you not just print out two more copies?  Or are you trying to see if I can follow instructions?  But, if that were true, then why did you call me today to confirm my appointment time?  Whilst I appreciated the reminder call, would it not be a valuable clue to my maturity and competence, or lack thereof, if I didn't show up?  Or showed up late?
 
And guess what?  My three references could merely be three random people that I have slept with in order to get them to answer the phone and say nice things about me.  They aren't.  But they could be.
 
Just saying.
 
Of course, this all could be the preliminaries of what is known in the vernacular as a "stress interview", a truly sorry waste of time and human dignity.  I have witnessed these before, and have come away convinced that the same results could have been less-painfully achieved simply by noting if the applicant's shoes were shined.  What further  awaits me?  A background check?  Fingerprinting?  Drug testing (don't waste your time, I won't pass)?  The Fashion Police?  I shudder to think.
 
Speaking of the fashion police, what should I wear?  I no longer own suits, though I used to look good in them.  Now I think I would look like a prison warden.
 
So I will be sporting a tweed midi skirt, a little black sweater, big silver hoop earrings (something unexpected), my cute new watch (everybody knows that the cutest watches in the world are Anne Klein from Nordstrom Rack and never cost more than $24.99, right?), my thrift shop Burberry trench coat, a silk scarf, and...
 
...oxfords.  I am not wearing heels.
 
It's best to get some things clear right from the start.
 




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
 
at
 
 
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.