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Unemployed? Lots of Luck, Pal
By Gloria Diaz
Check out Gloria's Blog — Edge of Gloria!
Fort Wayne Reader
I spent most of the summer looking for a job, and I can tell you I’d rather have a root canal on a daily basis than look for work. It’s humiliating; you’re a college graduate and you are clawing your way through hundreds of other applicants, hoping your application will stand out. That is, if your application ever gets through to the right people.
I long for the good old days of applying for a job: you march in and ask for an application. These days, job hunting takes place in your home, in front of a computer. It’s a time-consuming process, and after maybe an hour to 90 minutes clicking the mouse and answering questions and statements such as “would you sell your mother’s soul to work at Lube Jobs R Us?” (Of course I would, except my mother’s dead) and “if you knew a relative was stealing, would you report it?” and the ever charming, “during the last year, I’ve been involved in (check one) 1, 4, 5, 10 or more fistfights while at work” you begin to feel like a failure for even daring to apply for a job.
Recently, I tried to apply for a job within a local grocery store. I was told that everything was done electronically, and to use the store’s computers if I wanted to apply. I started off with the usual questions (name, position applied for, social security number) but got stuck when the page showed an error. A member of store personnel couldn’t help me, and couldn’t get anyone to help me. So I went home and tried to apply, and had the same problem. Frustrated by now, I walked into the store and talked to a staff member at the place I hoped to apply. I left my name and number and emphasized that I really wanted a job and could someone called me. They have yet to do so.
It’s not just myself that is in this situation. A friend and former co-worker who graduated a year ago with an associate’s degree has yet to find anything and is almost desperate to escape the industrial hell that is getting worse every day. Another friend and former co-worker finally got a job teaching English—in Korea.
I have to chuckle when those reports come out saying if you have a Bachelor’s degree you will make more than someone who doesn’t. I remember the day I got a call from a temp agency asking me if I was interested in a production-type position in a nearby town. They wanted to know if I had five months of experience in a factory setting. Yes. Next question? Did I graduate high school? A bit surprised by this, I told them I had a college degree. Yes, but did I graduate high school? Uh, yes I did. I can’t remember what the third question was, but my answer rendered me ineligible. Since when did a high school diploma become the desired piece of paper over a college degree? Oh, about 2005, I guess.
I’ve probably applied to sixty places and have had four interviews. I keep re-reading Barbara Ehrenreich’s Bait and Switch, not really for moral support (her job search ended in failure, but since it was an experiment and she could return to her charmed life as a full time freelance writer, the stakes weren’t as high for her as they were for the people she met along the way) but to reinforce the fact that times are tough. It’s not like I was an executive, or even a middle management type downsized or fired, rather I’ve been trying to climb my way up for years. A career change was in store, but things haven’t quite worked out the way I planned them. The one bright spot in all this was despite the difficulty I had passing my commercial driver’s license test was that I never gave up.
My efforts of networking with friends, family and strangers actually did pay off. I will be able to use my CDL and also have a part time job in the academic world. But I have to smile at the people returning to school (enrollment always seems to be higher during down times) and at the commercials for various learning institutions on television. Yes, I too bought into the myth that a college degree was the ticket to middle-class contentment, if not bliss. However, no one said the middle class was going to get it in the nuts.
If you are one of the fortunate few to have a “real job,” — one that pays decently and offers benefits plus a 401K, guard it with your life. If not, you may have to ‘fess up to how many times you’ve gotten into fistfights at work, and the times you smoked pot to perform better on the job. Because even if you haven’t, you KNOW you’ve always wanted to.