Tag Archive | job applications

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 fiancé, 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.

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Interview In Pajamas

I’ve become exceedingly lazy lately. If I can’t apply for a job by doing a quick application on a job board, or if I can’t populate all of the fields by linking my LinkedIn account, I hesitate to fill out the application because it will usually take an hour to complete. I have to constantly refer to my Facebook account to verify when I worked at certain places, and then I have to tweak my résumé to customize it towards whatever company or position I’m applying for. When you’re trying to get your application out to a lot of places in the hopes that at least one company wants to offer you an interview, that means a lot of time is spent just trying to craft the perfect application.

So I thought it was pretty awesome when I only had to submit my résumé for this one job I was applying for recently.

I received an e-mail later that day, or the next day, in response. It said there was a questionnaire that I had to complete. Awesome! Questionnaires usually mean they’re interested in knowing more about you. I spent maybe a half hour or so completing the questionnaire, all of those questions that ask how much you agree or disagree with a statement so as to give them some idea of what kind of employee you would be. At the end, I got a message saying I had passed! That was good news to me, because it would mean an interview was coming up.

I went back to the candidate portal to see if there was anything else I needed to do. Yes, I needed to complete an application. I swear, it felt like I spent at least two hours filling out this application. Not only did the application ask for the usual stuff like work experience and references, but it also asked for things like traffic violations in detail. The only one that I can account for right now is my speeding ticket from two years ago, not long after I got my New Jersey license plates, when I looked like someone who would definitely pay the  New York fines by mail. The joke was on them when I walked into traffic court, because I was still in the process of moving out of my New York home and wasn’t as much of an out-of-towner as they believed. I still paid the fines, because the district attorney wasn’t there and I couldn’t deal with the hassle of going back there again when I had more important things to deal with. But anyway, that was one thing I had to account for in the application.

The section for work history was fun, and by “fun” I mean it was quite useful. I could add as many entries as I needed to, because some of the entries could be used to mark periods of unemployment and to explain the reasons why. It also asked for references to verify why you were unemployed during that time, but for the earlier entries I didn’t name anyone. The only one who could really validate that I was unemployed was my own Mom who I was still living with at the time. Unfortunately we didn’t bury her with her cell phone, since she’d go through her data allowance because the cemetery doesn’t have wifi and she’d be playing Words With Friends all the time. So the company I applied for will just have to take my word for it when I tell them about my periods of unemployment.

After the long, exhausting process of filling out that very detailed application, I sat back and waited. And by waited, I mean I perused YouTube for the usual videos, or I just went about life as normal.

This morning, I got an e-mail about an interview! I was excited! I was wondering when they were going to schedule the interview, or what I would wear. I opened the e-mail, only to read that it was a digital interview. I was confused for a moment. A digital interview? I read the guide that was provided, and found that I would need a webcam and microphone. Oh great, I had to record myself. On the bright side, it means I don’t have to drive anywhere, which is a decent trade-off.

Not to mention, I can do the interview in pajamas, which I did.

I know what you’re thinking. “You had to record yourself, on WEBCAM, and you dressed in pajamas?!” My bottom half was still wearing my pajama pants which I had been wearing all day. My top half was in a shirt that was being borrowed from my friend who didn’t like the pink shirt I had chosen. I won’t admit it, but the shirt she loaned me was a better color on me than the pink shirt. She fixed my hair so it looked like I put some effort into it.

I needed a distraction-free environment. The only way I could do that was in the evening when the kids were in bed, since one of the young ones is suspended for a few days. But that also meant herding cats, like literally herding cats, because the kittens would have been doing parkour off the furniture at best and demanding to be cuddled in my arms at worst. Perhaps a kitten would improve my odds of getting the job, but only if the job was for a pet store or a veterinarian. I also wanted to make sure that my background wasn’t too distracting, so I managed to find a boring wall in the dining room with few decorations.

I started up my computer, which I had to move from the living room, then opened up the webpage for the interview. While I was doing that, I went in to my computer settings and worked with my sound input settings until I had everything in good shape. And then I started the interview.

It felt like any interview I’ve had. I had a limited amount of time to figure out a response to the questions being asked, and then I had to figure out which words in the English language to string together to form the perfect statement that also matched the jumble of thoughts inside my head. I feel like I tripped over my words a few times, coming off as if I’m not as well-spoken as some. I feel like I gave decent responses, assuming I’m not up against someone who rescued orphans from a burning building, at which point my responses are basically saying that I went to work and came home at the end of the day.

Maybe ten or fifteen minutes later, I was done with the interview. That meant putting things back where they belonged, making myself less pretty, and kicking myself because my confidence dropped out after the interview was done.

It was a nice alternative to sitting in front of people face-to-face, and I liked the convenience that also came along with doing the interview whenever I could. The only issue I really had was that I’m not completely comfortable sitting in front of the camera while recording myself. Sure, I can record myself without too much of an issue, but I’m always looking at my image on the screen to make sure I don’t look too weird. I did have the option of turning off the video feed so I didn’t have to watch myself, but if I did that, I would wonder if I looked decent. Overall, I do think more companies should offer digital interviews, even if it’s just used as an option for some who might be too busy to make the time during normal work hours.

But now I wait and hope for the best. Okay, I really hope I get this job, because it ties in loosely with me learning Japanese, and I can see how I might need to speak the language if only in rare moments. Beyond that, the job can help me get to Japan in two different ways, the first and obvious way being the income I’ll receive. I just have to be patient, though. If this is a good thing, it will come in time.

Workplace Awards

I feel like I’ve filled out more job applications in the past two years than I ever have before, and that’s despite the fact that I’ve actually been employed twice in that time. I’m at the point where I dread having to fill out an application by hand because there’s no way to populate the fields from my résumé or from another website where I’ve entered all of my career information. It’s about as redundant to me as small talk on a dating website, but at least there’s the promise of being paid if the job application leads somewhere.

One of my biggest peeves is when there’s a space to fill in any awards or accomplishments while at a particular job.

I realize there are jobs out there that actually celebrate good performances, so being a hard-worker sometimes pays off and sometimes it’s good luck. If you put in more time and effort than your peers who skip out five minutes early every day, you deserve an award. If you manage to get the most sales, you deserve an award. If you’re the reason why people keep coming back and it’s not because you did something wrong, you deserve an award.

However, if you got the most sales, it’s not always because you were skillful at closing a sale. It’s possible to be fortunate enough to get people who weren’t going to refuse your service and needed what your company offers. It’s possible that the ones on the low end keep getting customers who are on the fence and wouldn’t have closed a sale even if the best salesperson was speaking with them. The people with the fewest sales might just need to understand that they are doing something wrong, and what it is, and sometimes it takes the right person using the right words to get that message through to the struggling salesperson.

And then you have managers. Not all managers are blessed with a skilled team, and some can’t see the faults of their subordinates or know how to properly educate them to do better. Some businesses congratulate a well-performing team from time to time, but I haven’t heard of any company that evaluates why other teams were underperforming.

I don’t have any awards that I can put on a résumé. I could probably brag about getting a “kudos” when a customer said I did a good job back in 2005. However, that’s one customer out of hundreds that I’ve dealt with in the past 12 years. That’s not to say that I don’t have a few more satisfied customers, just that only one has spoken to a supervisor about me and it’s been put in writing that I was awesome. One customer isn’t much to write home about, so I don’t mention it.

I don’t even try to get awards. If I’m good, I’ll achieve something, but if I try, I’ll stress myself out and disappoint myself when I fail. So I go to work, I clock in, I do what I must, and then I go home.

What about the days when I’m not even up to my regular standards? I’ve gone to work while ill, when I had a bacterial infection in my respiratory system and couldn’t walk to the back of the store without being out of breath by the time I got there. I’ve gone to work with bronchitis, when my bosses wouldn’t let me take any more days off and I have to take phone calls in a call center when I don’t even have a voice. I’ve worked while I’ve had a parent in the hospital on their death bed, when a part of me has wanted to be by their side but another part reminded me that I needed the money and I convinced myself that I might be able to get my mind off of things if I kept busy. Of course, there’s no awards for going to work when you’re not up to snuff, when you’re physically and emotionally drained. The Center for Disease Control would love it if you avoided people while you’re ill, but your bosses always want to keep your seat warm and will be willing to replace you. And no one cares if your parents are dying, but you can get time off once they’ve passed.

So my job application probably looks like most of the other applications being submitted. Then again, maybe I’m the only one without any awards to her name. I don’t actually mind, because maybe I wasn’t in the right place to get an award, or on the right team to develop my skills to one day achieve something great. That’s not to say I don’t already have the right skills, just that I wasn’t in the right place or had the perfect opportunity to use what skills I do have. While I’m looking for that perfect opportunity, I’m definitely building my job application skills. It’s a shame that those skills only pay off when I land a job.