Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Gloom, Despair and Agony on Me

I've hit a wall in my job search.


Hit. A. Wall.


The two-year job search is finally taking its toll.

'Bout time, you say?

Uh-huh. You're probably right.

It's been 25 months of job search and 17 months on the dole.

I'm exhausted.

I'm sick of it.

I'm really annoyed with the whole process.

After hundreds of résumé submissions and job applications—thousands if you count all those generic e-blasts sent to recruiters—and countless hours of work and networking, I've reached the end of my energy.

As we say in the South:

I'm plum tuckered out;

Worn to a frazzle;

Slap-dab sick of the whole dang thing.

The irony? I'm starting to get interviews for the first time in ages.

Two weeks ago, I had a real in-person interview—only the fourth dress-up-and-go situation since this nightmare began. Sure, I've had numerous phone interviews, but can you believe that in 25 months this was only the fourth actual look-'em-in-the-eye event?

A lot of good it did to pull on that tummy-tucking-feels-like-cast-iron-even-though-it's-spandex thingie (dare I say "girdle"?), style the hair, drive out of town for hours and stay overnight. As usual, the lucky winner is not this girl. Instead, they chose two internal candidates to move forward in the process. I've lost to more internal candidates than I would like to think about.

We interrupt this blog post for a rant:

Why, time after time, do companies, post jobs, hire recruiters, get applicants' hopes up, when all the time the person who'll wind up with the job is already sitting in the company's office at the time of the posting?

Sometimes they think they can "do better" but, c'mon, how encouraging is that to the internal candidate who ultimately gets the job?

Most of the time, it's about money. They suddenly realized they can save thousands by not paying the recruiter (And if you think I'm ticked off you should hear what these recruiters have to say! They usually only get paid if the company hires their candidates). And, internal candidates play right into their hands—they're happy for a promotion and a raise (never realizing it was probably far less than they would've given an outside candidate). Besides, companies score financially, too, when they don't have to move anyone in from out of state.

Even if they hire an external candidate for the position vacated by the recently promoted employee, they have just pushed the real opening lower down the experience ladder and salary scale.

And, yeah, I've tried to get the lower position too. The response? Over-qualified.

I get it, you cheapskates, I get it. Really, I do.

But, in the name of all that is holy, must you disrupt the lives of innocent applicants who don't know this? Must you put us through the agony of going in for a job interview that we don't have a snowball's chance in you-know-where of getting? Really, MUST YOU?

I'd rather stay home in my sweatpants than take on the anxiety of a job interview when you had no intention of really considering me anyway.

And, now we resume our regularly scheduled programming.

But, I've got another interview scheduled. The job is almost identical to my previous position in a similar type of organization.

It's local too—a thought that makes me sigh with relief.

I'm realistic about moving if it comes to that, but I prefer not to if possible. I've built a life here. My family is here. I'll do whatever I have to do, but as nice as some other parts of the country are, I can't see myself shoveling snow or battening down the hatches for a hurricane.

It's just as well because most recruiters and hiring managers seem interested only in local candidates. I found a wonderful job at a great organization last week. I deployed a unique and creative marketing scheme, and it paid off—the recruiter seemed to love me. But, the position is out-of-state, and the recruiter said the client only wanted local candidates. I understand that, but I would have been perfect for them.


I would have.

(Mini-rant alert: Could they not have included that in their job post to save me from applying for something I would never even be allowed a shot at?)

But, I've got another interview coming up—a local one, remember?

Interviews can be exciting—for about the first ten minutes after you get off the phone from setting up the appointment.

You'd think nervousness would be the next emotion, but, no. Instead the emotion is gloom that descends faster than a San Francisco fog.

It feels as if the closer the interview date comes, the closer I am to hearing that particularly painful "no" yet again:

"The client has decided to go with an internal candidate."

"We have chosen another candidate who more closely fits our needs."

"We've decided to only interview local candidates".

Or, worse yet, deafening silence.

I want to send out an email that says: "Hello, anybody out there? Is this thing on? Is there a black hole at the end of my internet connection?"

You see, each time, at the end of the interview, I feel like a single woman out on that awkward first date that ends with the dreaded words: "I'll call you."

Still, you smile as you must, give him the number and know in your gut that he will never call.

The exhaustion has been difficult enough, but now panic has emerged.

My last day of insurance coverage is April 30.

At $464 per month, it's been expensive, but manageable with my ever-dwindling savings account.

I called my insurance carrier yesterday for rates on an individual policy.

It's bad.

Really bad.

$1,224-per-month bad.

But, then it got worse:

"Now, remember on this policy, there are no co-pays," the insurance representative chirped happily. "The plan does not cover anything until you meet your $2,500 deductible."

What the heck? You mean, nearly $15,000 per year buys me nothing?

"It's really more of a catastrophic plan," she continued, ever more cheerfully.

Catastrophic is right. It's the policy that's the catastrophe!

She went on to explain that after the deductible is met then the policy will pay a whopping 70% of medical bills.

"It does cover psychiatric care and counseling," she remarked. "If you need that sort of thing."

"I don't need that now, but give me a few months on that premium, and I just might," I quipped.

After 20 years of administering employee benefit plans, doing without coverage is just not an option for me. I know the really scary things that can happen to people without coverage. I have actually known people who died because they could not afford medical care.

And no, before you bring it up, I can't get the new government health coverage either. For the next few years, you have to be totally without coverage for at least six months to be eligible. Even then, the premiums are astronomical and cover almost nothing.

Accordingly, while I was out yesterday, I spoke to the manager of the drugstore down the street about a job and left the store with a job application.

Thereafter, in anticipation of expanding my job search to those offering minimum wage, I re-did my résumé. I can't tell you how much it pained me to remove my hard-earned master's degree, ninety percent of my previous job responsibilities and all of my significant accomplishments. In it, I no longer call myself an "executive". Supervisor or manager is the most I'll admit to now.
It's not that I'm too proud for a minimum-wage job. It's an honest way to make a living. I'm happy to do almost any job. But, what many folks don't seem to understand is that once you accept a job at that level, you're hard pressed to ever move back to your previous job (and salary level) ever again.

For those minimum-wage jobs, you work awfully hard. You stand on your feet. You work overtime to make an extra buck. You come home tired. You have at least 40 fewer hours per week to devote to the search for a job such as the one you previously had.

Plus, the lower the job level, the less scheduling flexibility a worker has. How would I ever get the head cashier to understand that I needed to swap shifts so I could go on a CEO or VP interview? The reality is that I wouldn't.

How would I choose between the "sure thing"—$7.25 per hour with benefits—and the opportunity to get my career back on track?

But, soon none of those concerns will matter anymore. In six weeks time, I'll get a monthly insurance bill that exceeds my entire monthly dole income. At this point, I no longer care about salary any more as long as the job has insurance benefits.




It's really starting to hit me now.

My inner optimist rails against the oppressive weight, but there is a rising, slightly nauseating feeling that's rolling in.

This cannot be the course of my life from now on.

Or is it?

And, despite the overwhelming feeling nipping at my heels, I trudge on. Next week, I'll put on my best suit and go to that interview. I'll smile as though I don't have a care in the world. I'll exude confidence, optimism and professionalism. I'll swallow hard and fight the queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Because I am totally, completely out of options.

But, I WILL get that job. I WILL.

Because I have no other choices. Because this time I have to.

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Just for Fun: This really cheered me up! Remember "Hee-Haw" the classic American TV show from the 1970s? Yeah, it was cheesy but also pretty fun. I watched this show every Saturday night when I was a little girl. Enjoy this clip from the show.

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Photo Credits: 

Note: Women pictured are not Ariel.

The Scream: Painting by Edvard Munch, painted 1893 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_Scream.jpg



Julie said...

You need to write a book, become a national bestseller and then get Sandra Bullock to play you in the movie. I am not even joking. Praying for you, girl!!!

"Ariel" said...

Thanks for your prayers! I would love to do that. And, how cool would it be to have Sandra playing the lead??? Unfortunately though, I need an ending to this story first. Who knows how it will end? The suspense is killing me. :)

daniel said...

I am convinced that part of the problem is recruiters contacting the wrong people. Over the years I have lost track of how many times I have been contacted about positions where I would be hard pressed to fake even knowing what the job is. This must mean that the recruiters are calling someone else for the positions I could do. Several of my favorite mismatches were the people looking for a veterinary parasitologist and the others looking for a research biostatistitian. Though once I did hear of a addiction treatment slot in Canada and perhaps I ought to have taken that - at least there would have still been health care - both for me as well as my patients.

Amanda said...

I share your pain! I finally got a job as a part-time adjunct instructor at a local community college, but it only pays slightly more than I was making on the dole, and NO benefits (or job security... they can drop me at any time). It's increasingly looking like the only way I'm going to get health coverage is to marry for it.

I've also had problems with places teasing me by interviewing me when they already had someone else in mind. Why can't they just tell me they had no intention to hire me in the first place?

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