Monday, February 20, 2006
Kay's World: Job Interviews
Another day in Paradise. I was laid off from a much-detested job in October of 2004 and have been job-hunting ever since. If the truth be told, I've been job-hunting for 7 years as the much detested job was taken (I believed at that time) only because I'd just left my husband and I needed fast money so I kept looking. When they laid me off 5 years later, I said, "I was looking for a job when I found this one." I honestly thought I would find a job in the 6 months alloted me by unemployment. Silly me.
I spent a scary couple months with zero income until I managed to get enrolled in the Senior Employment Center, a federally funded training program for over 55s ostensibly to help them get skills for full-time work. Since then, I've spent the past 2 years working part-time for various non-profit or government agencies as a "real" job hasn't appeared yet. This is not a job -- it is a training assignment or so they tell us. (Funny -- it feels like a job but has none of the benefits.) We receive minimum wage and all the nagging they can give us about getting a "real" job. Actually, I'm grateful for this program as it's my only income but, it does wear on one's nerves. Are they really helping us? I don't think so. Maybe other states/regions handle it differently but I've yet to receive a job lead from these people.
The job market for us elders is a disaster. Never mind we're more reliable; the days when we missed work because we partied too late or because the kids were sick are long past. They say our health insurance costs too much. Most of us don't go to the doctor unless necessary. I recently had dental surgery and scheduled it so I only had to leave work a half hour early on a Friday so I had the weekend for recovery and didn't need to take time off.
I live in Ohio -- aka the Heart of It All. What they mean by that is that we're the heart of the Rust Belt and jobs are thin on the ground. CNN actually sent a news team to the employment office here because our county suffered the highest per capita job losses in the nation. Usually TV only finds us in August for the Pro Football Hall of Fame festival or to mention that Marilyn Manson hails from our fair city. This is a blue-collar steel town. Steel is dead. And so are all the collateral industries as well as businesses that have closed because people have no money for things they once took for granted: dining out, a drink after work, toys for the kids, new clothes, etc. One former Republic Steel employee told me that Canton is the Youngstown of the new millenium. In the 80s, steel died in Youngstown, Ohio -- northeast of us -- and it's never recovered. Not a hopeful image for our fair city.
I went for a job interview last week. I seem to be getting more of those lately, which tells me I have a good resume, but I knew that. Getting an interview is not an easy task -- several prospective employers have told me that they received over 100 resumes & can't interview everyone. This indicates to me the state of the employment market in our county. Getting an interview is a small victory and that I'm making the cut tells me my resume is very good.
Some companies are very friendly and attempt to make you feel comfortable. Others ask silly questions like -- "Who made you who you are today?" and I have to stifle the urge to shout, "I did, dammit!" or "What's your weakness?" Kryptonite? Other companies just say -- "Tell me about yourself." and you try to figure out what they *really* want to know and muddle through as best you can. I was interviewed by an accounting firm so it was pretty mundane. Two 40ish guys interviewing the Tall Skinny Old Girl. They asked if I like organizing and filing. I said that I alphabetize my spice rack. That got a laugh. (It really is true.) I hoped it would get me a job but I think they were looking for young and pretty instead of old, witty, & reliable so I'm still pounding the pavement and praying that someone decides tht they need my work ethic and skills.
A couple years ago I was interviewed by a gentleman who played the "age card" and I knew I was dead but decided to take a "no guts, no glory" approach. I very sweetly told him that hiring me was a good idea because: I wouldn't report off because my daycare failed me; I wouldn't report off because my kids were sick or had a snow day from school; I wouldn't report off because of parent-teacher conferences or other school activities; AND if I came to him & asked for a pregnancy leave, he should prepare for the Second Coming. He chuckled a bit but I didn't get the job. It's okay -- I'd have trouble working for someone who couldn't see past my age.
Everyone keeps telling me they can't discriminate against my age but I know they do. They are not, under federal law, allowed to ask for my date of birth on a job application. However, they can and do ask the years that one graduated from high school and college. It doesn't require quantum physics or calculus to do the math on those. So they still have your age within in a year or two. Once one is over 40, one's market value drops and past 50, forget it. My B.A. doesn't matter. My reliability doesn't matter. My long history of volunteer work doesn't matter. What does matter is that I'm no longer young and pretty -- like I ever was the latter.
Today I was in the express lane at the grocery when my cell phone rang. I only answered it because I was expecting a call from a friend to let me know what time I needed to be at her house. It was not my friend -- it was what sounded like a chirpy, ditsy little 12-year-old who didn't deign to identify herself or her company asking if I sent them a resume. The upshot of the mercifully short conversation was that she got all flustered when I tried to find out with whom I was talking and which of the many places my resume has been sent wanted to see me and asked me to call them back. I told her where I was and explained I wasn't exactly in a position to write down her number & asked her to call me back and she said she would. I was good -- I didn't say all the things going through my mind. I doubt she'll call back. I also doubt that I would meet their criteria. I wasn't chirpy and cute when I was 2o nor did I wish to be. For sure I'm not cute now. I'm too tall to be cute anyway. Whatever company she was with obviously doesn't put a premium on brains if she got flustered simply calling someone to come in for an interview.
I'm at the point where I'm desperate but I'm not that desperate. I'm not giving up hope but I'm not letting myself be too hopeful. My resumes will continue circulating -- probably for all eternity. Someone somewhere needs my maturity -- I just hope they call and hire me soon.