Tag Archive | advice

Pounding More Than Pavement: My Frustrations of Job Searching

Unless you’re looking for work, there’s no way you could understand how difficult it can be just to find a decent job.

If I submit 20 applications in a week, you would think that at least one of those would result in an interview, right? It’s a 5 percent success rate. That’s what I hope for, and I’ve turned up empty-handed.

The hardest part is just filling out the application. I have to fill out information for at least 8 different jobs, more if I want to list repeat performances at the same employer. Some places expect a phone number and the name of a manager. My work history spans over 12 years, and includes a store that filed for bankruptcy and closed. At least one of my past supervisors has retired, while others have moved around to different store locations and others have just moved on to other companies. And then, one of my more recent employers happens to be the brother of my ex fiancĂ©, so I’m nervous about any biases he might have against me. If I have to fill out an application where I can’t just import data from somewhere else, I’m spending an hour flipping between tabs in Firefox just to review all of my employment information, with another tab to Google for phone numbers for all of these jobs. And to be honest, I really don’t remember exactly what I had been getting paid, other than my lowest has been $6.25 an hour and my highest has been $12 per hour.

My experience puts me in a bad spot. I have a lot of experience as a sales associate and cashier working in retail environments. I don’t have a lot of management experience. For some places, I’m going to be seen as overqualified. With my experience, I could ask for higher wages. Unfortunately, companies could hire someone who they can pay less. So if I apply for a low-rung management job, I’m up against people with more management experience than I have, which looks better to an employer. In that sense, I’m actually unqualified. It’s like the fact that I have an Associates degree, in that I’m not seen as qualified for a position that requires a Bachelors degree even if I do have the knowledge and experience required.

So if I’m not getting interviews, it looks like I haven’t done anything.

That’s when people step in and offer advice, such as, “have you tried actually pounding pavement? Some places won’t post their jobs online.”

Thank you! I did spend a day trying to pound pavement. Between four different Asian restaurants, I filled out one application, left my name and phone number at two locations, and at the fourth location I was told they weren’t hiring and just sent away. I figured an Asian restaurant would give me an excuse to work on my Japanese, possibly even whipping up okonomiyaki in the kitchen if I was able.

At another restaurant, I asked for an application and was handed one to fill out, and then I was told to complete the form outside of the establishment. This was in the afternoon, and the restaurant was absolutely not busy, so they could have allowed me to sit at their bar or one of their tables and made it look like they were working. I’m fairly certain that my application was filed in the circular filing cabinet anyway, just based on how the one waitress acted towards me.

“Well do you have any waitressing skills?” No, but I could be a dishwasher, or I could bus tables. Does it matter what my skills are? You probably asked me to apply everywhere that was hiring, even though I’ve been trying to find work related to things I know I can do.

Which brings me to my next issue, and that’s the people who act like there is someone, somewhere, who is handing out jobs, but they can’t seem to tell you who that person is. I’m already dealing with my own thoughts about my debt, the bills I have to pay, the ways I’ve probably messed up an application, the fact that I’m not getting phone calls for interviews. Adding to my stress by making me feel like I’m not already spending enough time on job applications, or that I must be making mistakes that no normal person would ever make, is not helping my situation.

And then there’s McDonald’s.

Anyone who suggests that I should work at McDonald’s is the most infuriating person I could meet. I’m not saying the work is beneath me. I will say that there are easier positions that pay more. I just worked at a call center, getting paid $11 to sit in front of a computer and call people. If they were angry, I just had to hear them complain before they hung up the phone as forcefully as they could manage. If I work at McDonald’s, I might be lucky to make $9 an hour, but I certainly won’t be given a full-time shift of 40 hours a week. If I get 20 hours a week, I’ll have to deal with the possibility of hot grease burns on my skin, I’ll have to deal with customers who are irate,…

Actually, let’s talk about McDonald’s customers. People who unleash their temper over an ingredient being put on a burger that they didn’t want, even though they’re not allergic to that ingredient. People who throw things at the employees because things didn’t go their way. People who say the workers are incompetent, even if they make simple mistakes that can easily be fixed if the customer had any patience. People who leave their trash on the tables because they don’t feel like picking up after themselves.

A $2 cut in pay and being scheduled for half as many hours is not worth having to deal with all of that. I’d rather work at the porn store and deal with an armed robbery. If you work in fast food, I really hope the minimum wage goes up and you get paid what you deserve.

If you were wondering, I’ve been trying to work with staffing agencies as well. My last staffing agency hasn’t returned my call after I found a position I was interested in applying for. I just met with another staffing agency today which has two positions lined up that would work with my skills. I’m hoping for that to be my silver lining in all of this, and even if it’s not a permanent position, it should hopefully be something to get me back on my feet for a little while.

I want to be more than I am. I just need an opportunity to show what I can do in the meantime.

Bravery To Know The Truth

I haven’t posted anything in about a week, and that post was on the serious side. What can I really say? I’m back to the desperate job seeking, money is tight, so I’m not really going anywhere and doing anything special. Not only that, but one of the cats is routinely urinating on the blankets I use at night, and my friend thinks it’s funny because “he’s just an animal who doesn’t know any better.”

So my self-worth has tanked. I was sitting on the sofa last night, staring randomly towards the floor, while my blankets were in the wash, and I was thinking there was no point to washing the quilt covering the sofa if it was going to get peed on again, that I might as well just deal with it since my skin never actually touched the part that got wet. Maybe I should just stop caring when the living room smells like cat urine, and let my friend deal with the smell while I’ve been blessed right now with a sinus infection. I didn’t feel worthy of sleeping with clean bedding. I didn’t even feel like my friend cared, like she would think differently if it was her things getting ruined and she had to clean her bedding before sleeping, but I just had to put up with it.

But that much wasn’t important, other than to say I was feeling pretty miserable. My phone, which was sitting on my lap, alerted me to a new e-mail message: “I can talk in about 30 minutes, if you would like.” It was from my friend in Japan.

We hadn’t talked in about two or three weeks. There was a disagreement between us, which resulted in the usual bout of silence. I had the last words, which I used to get a few things off my chest which had been bothering me, but I knew those words could also be my last words ever so I stressed that what I was saying wasn’t out of anger or spite but my own concerns.

If I hadn’t thought about him every day, then it was every other day. I thought about what I said, and I know how it sounded. When I was feeling weak, I considered apologizing for the things I said, but then I reminded myself to stand behind my words. I had concerns, I needed to address them, and I did, so why turn around and wave it off like I wasn’t bothered? I imagined conversations with him and how they would go. And I often looked out the windows towards the street and towards my car, on the off-chance that he got the nerve to come all this way to see me just to say what he needed to say. At night, I just had to pull the blankets over my shoulder and tell myself to stop trying to imagine that I’m living in some romantic comedy.

I really didn’t think that I was going to hear from him again. I questioned how long it would be before I would stop thinking of him. But then his message was met with a bit of uncertainty on my part, so I responded with an “okay.” When he messaged me later to say he was ready to call, I responded with another, “okay.” It’s not the greatest way to begin a conversation, I’ll admit, because I could have been in any kind of mood to give a simple “okay” and he wouldn’t know if things were fine or if I’d bite his head off. The phone conversation started with telling me he was only going to be on the phone for about a half hour. When he got into what he wanted to say, which was his response to my last e-mail and a few things left unanswered, I started to interject and he told me not to interrupt him. He had things he wanted to say, things I didn’t quite understand, and he wanted to make sure he said as much as he could in the time he had.

At one point, I noticed his voice was a bit shaky. I’ve thought about that a few times over the past day. Was it hard for him to say what he did? Was he nervous? Was he determined? Was he scared that I would escalate the argument and start screaming at him?

After two hours, he said he was ending the call. It was only the fourth or fifth time during that call that he said he was going to hang up, so part of me wondered if he was going to think of yet another thing to talk about with me. We got past the worst of the call, as we started talking about my job search. I was laid off a few days after our argument, and I never wrote to him to tell him about that. I just wanted him to think I was still doing okay, that I had a grasp on life and was taking care of things. So when he mentioned me working, I had to let him know what happened. I think it changed his mood a bit, because the conversation did shift gears. It wasn’t about resolving conflicts and having courage to do so, it was about realizing that I had more pressing issues than how things were going with him.

And then we talked about Himuro, which was the most fun part of the conversation. So it’s no wonder that the conversation as a whole lasted almost two hours. It wasn’t spoken, but perhaps we just miss each other at times like these.

I went to bed feeling a little better about things between us. Well, that and my blankets were fresh from the dryer and they were amazingly warm and cozy. I desperately needed the pick-me-up, and my Japanese friend will never realize how meaningful it was to hear from him at all at that moment.

Well, the sun is coming up. I’m not even tired, but this is exactly what my friend would complain about: my habitual bedtimes that fall in the early hours of the morning. It’s only 6 pm in Japan, which means if he finds this before he goes to bed, I’m going to wake up to a potentially unhappy e-mail from him. So… nighty-night!

Gotta Be Coached

Just when I thought things were picking up, I learned there was an emphasis on the word “temp” in the phrase “temp agency.” I was hoping for a longer run, but the work dried up and the need for me was no more.

A lot of good came from having a job again. Probably the most important thing was being able to pay off one of the smaller creditors. Unfortunately I also had a $500 car repair bill, which would have helped to pay off more of my debts if I didn’t need the repair. It is what it is.

Before I left New Jersey, when I had just started with an insurance job, there was one day during training when one of the owners of the agency came in to our class and spoke to us. He gave us four things to remember to do:

  1. Write down your dreams
  2. Be coachable
  3. Have a good attitude
  4. Let go of fears

At the time, I wasn’t writing down my dreams even though the idea of going to Japan was at the forefront. I did have a good attitude, as I was convinced, even while I was watching everything fall apart, that I was doing just fine and that my problems at the time were starting to turn around. I didn’t even think of my fears, so how could I let them go? What was I even afraid of at that time? As for being coachable, I wasn’t in a position to be coached, so I didn’t have to worry about that at the time.

I was coached once in this past month. When I was told I would be coached at some point during that day, it felt like the equivalent of saying to me, “wait until your father gets home.” I was a bit nervous, wondering what I had done wrong in my calls and everything else.

It wasn’t as terrible as I had anticipated, though. To begin, one of my calls was audited and I scored a 92 out of 100. That came later during the coaching session. The coaching actually started with trying to overcome rejections, people telling me they weren’t interested and me accepting that as an answer. I was also asked to change the tone I used for the introduction script, as I was far too cheerful and also sounded like a recording. My boss played one of my calls, and it was one where some woman answered the phone with a curt, “What do you want?” I went into the introduction, completely broken out of the tone I had been using.

“You were talking so naturally,” my boss remarked.

“Yeah, because I was scared of her!”

My boss talked about how I could carry on conversations rather well, as he had asked about my umbrella earlier in the day and I was telling him that no, it wasn’t actually a sword even though the handle looked like a katana. I love that umbrella because it always sparks a conversation or at least catches someone’s glance.

But the meeting wasn’t entirely me being told what to do or what I was doing wrong. If I had questions, I asked them. Sometimes I asked if I was doing something right, or if it was acceptable at all. Sometimes if I was given advice, I would slightly question that advice or explain why I was doing things my way, because I was looking to understand the methods used instead of just blindly doing things a certain way.

I walked out of that coaching session feeling pretty good about things. Better still, I applied some of the advice I had been given, and I noticed an improvement in my metrics, my number of completed surveys per hour.

So understandably, I was sad when work dried up because I’m not working there now. I feel like things had just begun, you know? I was honing my skills, and now I have to see where I’ll be going next.

But I was coachable. And it worked out well.

There is another side to this. Not that there was a time when I wasn’t coachable, although I’m sure I’ve had stubborn moments when I just didn’t understand what I should have done and then didn’t change.

I had one job where my immediate supervisor actually refused to talk to me.

I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t getting a uniform shirt. Someone said I had to “earn” the shirt, but no one told me what I needed to do to earn it. My first shirt was a pink shirt, for breast cancer awareness month, which meant I still needed the regular blue shirt by the end of the month, but it was a start and I wouldn’t need to wear my own shirt anymore. When I got my name tag, my first name was split, and below that it said “Media” while everyone else in my department had a name tag that said “Media Specialist.” After a year, I was no longer on the schedule, despite my willingness to pick up extra shifts when people couldn’t work when they were scheduled. I knew exactly who my immediate supervisor was, and we were rarely scheduled at the same time, but when I did see him, he was always too busy to talk to me. So I never knew what, if anything, I was doing wrong. All I knew was I wasn’t getting the best treatment, but I stuck with it because I thought things could improve or that I could show that I’m actually a decent employee.

Of the four points I mentioned, while I agree with all of them, I think being coachable is so often overlooked and forgotten. I think people get into this mindset of doing things how they want to do them, or they might do their own research to see how to improve, but I don’t think people actually invest the time to talk to others who could point out their flaws and how to change. Even if a person allows someone else to tell them what needs to change, I don’t think enough people actually try to understand what’s being said, they might think they know the advice they’re being given but they don’t know how to apply it or how to change.

And also, write down your dreams. I think I’m going to go do that now. Oh wait, isn’t that why I have a blog?