Posts Tagged ‘employment’

Unemployment blues part 4: Applications (Filling them out)

Ok, so a few weeks back I grabbed a couple applications while wandering the University district of Ann Arbor. The weather since then has been utter crap, and since our car is still in the shop, I’d have to catch the bus. Not gonna happen when there’s three inches of snow on the ground and more falling to beat the band (plus high winds that effectively knock the temps into the low teens). I’ll be glad to do that when I get the job (I’ve done something similar back in college), but when the potential for a rejection is still looming, nah. (HEY! I don’t lecture you on your hang ups, don’t lecture me on mine.)

So last night I sat down to actually fill out the applications I had gotten. The first one was to the pita-type place. One page, front and back. Short, sweet and to the point. This wouldn’t be the first time that I’ve worked in a pita joint (there’s lots of them around here), but I’m a bit hesitant. Thanks to my complexion, people tend to mistake me for being Middle Eastern (one random non-ME person began speaking Arabic to me once…I looked at him like he had just grown two extra heads on his shoulders and informed him that I wasn’t Middle Eastern by any stretch of the imagination), and I don’t want these guys to hire me because I’m “one of them”…basically I don’t want to get the job while passing as Middle Eastern. I’ve never tried to pass as anything other than what I am – a light skin biracial woman – even when pressured to label myself as one or the other (no I will not sing the song of the tragic mulatto here because that ain’t me, I’ve known and accepted who I was since high school thank you).

The other application was for an indie theater. I love indie businesses. This one starts off by explaining what the Theater is and who runs it (a non-profit historical theater group) and then has a section where you have to sign a pledge

If hired as a ________ Theater Employee, I will:

  • Provide Great Service to our guests as outlined by my supervisor and the employee manual
  • Arrive at work on time, clean, and neatly dressed in complete uniform
  • Treat my co-workers with the same respect as I treat our guests
  • Be an Ambassador of the Theater by keeping the area clean and inviting and by supporting our business with enthusiasm inside and outside of the Theater.

I respect a business that puts their expectations of their employees right in front of you. You’re not walking into any trap doors with this one. They want you to make sure that you understand that they want to maintain a professional atmosphere. Cool. I can certainly respect that too.

After that it’s the normal “Name/Address/Age/etc” for the rest of the first page. The second page starts with yes or no questions asking about your availability. A large number of their employees are students at U of M so the questions are understandable. After that are questions about what you know about the theater, then asking you to describe a “bad service experience” and how I would have handled it differently. There are a few more questions about former co-workers that you liked, things you enjoyed about your last job and your personal interests. Then came the stunner. An application question that is truly original. And it stumped me.

If you were stranded on a desert island with only a working projector and movie screen, what film would you hope to find in the FedEx box that washed ashore? What snacks would you hope to find?


What movie would I want to watch over and over and over on a desert island? This question is harder than you think. There are a lot of movies I could stand to watch over and over. But your choice of the one says a lot about you. My first thought was “The Princess Bride”. I’ve loved that movie since I was a kid. I had a huge crush on Carey Elwes. The movie is funny, romantic, and features Andre the Giant as a relatively gentle and intelligent guy (this after I grew up watching him bash heads on WWF Wrestling every Saturday morning). But I’m not sure I should go with that or something more classic like Gaslight (which is a movie I not only grew up on but has become a part of our family’s lexicon…we often refer to people trying to “gaslight” us). Maybe one of the Beatles movies (I could see HELP being useful in more ways than one lol).

When it comes to snacks, my more pragmatic, practical side comes out. I start thinking about salt content of certain snacks, and whether they’d be useful in keeping me alive and holds off hunger and thirst fairly well until someone found me. But no one wants to hear that I’d hope to find a jumbo box of Triscuits and gallon of water because my goal is to survive as long as possible, not just enjoy myself until I ultimately succumbed to whatever the island and its climate ravaged me with. I know, that sounds so gloom and doom. But that’s me. I’m just practical like that. I like to think these sorts of things out.

So…let’s get interactive, my darling voyeurs: What movie would you want to have with you to watch over and over on a desert island? And what snacks?


Unemployment blues part 3: Pavement Pounding

So I spent the better part of three hours Friday wandering around downtown Ann Arbor stopping in at different shops, stores and eateries to inquire if they’re hiring. 99% weren’t even taking applications for later consideration.

Part of the problem is, besides the fact that we live in an economically dead state,  that my city is capped on either end by universities. This means most work is fairly seasonal, and with summer break about to start up, a lot of places are not only not hiring, but getting ready to cut back their staff.

I did manage to get two applications. One for a middle eastern type pita joint (which I was half way hoping wasn’t hiring..I’ll get on that later) and the other is a theater that runs indie type films. Which, I have to say, would be sort of cool to work at, even if it’s just for minimum wage (which will be the subject of yet another rant later).

I have yet to actually sit down and fill these out. I plan on making another trip down there to walk the streets that I didn’t get this time around (probably with better shoes too…I love my Harley boots but they aren’t really made for long walks).

Unemployment blues part 2: Applications

I have about thirty minutes before I have to make a dash for the bus so I decided to jot down some thoughts about job hunting real quick; specifically about my biggest pet peeve with the whole system: job applications.

The whole process of filling out applications (whether paper or online) is so. frickin. tedious. There should be one application that you can just copy and hand in. It’s not like most applications change format from employer to employer anyway. They’re all basically set up the same way.

The first page is always basic information: Name, address, phone number etc etc. After that it’s education, with a small section for any awards, honors, or positions held during your educational career. After that is employment history, usually about four or five sections are alloted for this with “Attach Resume If Desired” written along the top.

Now let’s pause here and talk about this. If I have taken out the time to write, re-write, edit and update a resume, the employment history section should be optional. Everyone knows how hard it is to condense years of work experience into a few blurbs, so why should we go through all that trouble only to have to write it out again on an application. And while we’re on the topic of employment history, “Professional References”. Who the hell keeps in touch with former co-workers that well that they can be used as references? I don’t. I barely keep in touch with co-workers while I’m working with them. Plus, most of my co-workers were high school and college students like I was when I was working, that means what phone numbers I might have had for them, probably are no longer the right ones. And provided I could remember their last names (I’m lucky to remember their first), trying to figure out what their new contact information is would be like trying picking a needle from a haystack…and even more difficult if they moved out of the state. All the googling in the world won’t help if you can’t even remember their name.

Back to the application process.

After Employment history is the ubiquitous, and frustratingly vague, “Tell us something about yourself” section. I always want to answer this with “Well, what do you want to know?” Of course I could write a heavily abridged version of my life story, or I could simply say “I’m broke, up to my elbows in debt from college, and in desperate need of employment. Therefore, I’d like to humbly implore you to hire me so I don’t have to start looking for a bankruptcy lawyer before I turn thirty. Please and thank you.” Part of me wants to write “If you have to ask, you’ll never know.” But I can’t see that as being a way to win many friends in the HR department.

Following along there they ask you what hours you would like to work, usually by giving you a list of days with check boxes marked “Morning”, “Afternoon”,”Evening”, and “Nights”. These are also rather vague. As a stay at home mom my morning usually starts around 9am (or at least that’s the time when I most resemble a human being), so I doubt they really mean that. Afternoon is fairly self-explanatory, and doesn’t require much clarification. However “evening” does. How do you judge the beginnings and ends of the evening? If afternoon shifts start around noon, then an evening shift couldn’t possibly start until at least 6 or 7pm, otherwise you’ll be changing shifts after only a few hours. And let’s be perfectly honest, no matter what the season or time of year, 8pm is considered night time. So you have an evening shift that starts at 6 and gets off at 8. Not very sensible. I much prefer it when they have boxes where you can fill in your available times. That’s much more helpful, especially when you have a family and need to be home at a certain time.

Next up comes the “Have you ever been convicted of a crime, not counting minor traffic violations or non-violent misdemeanors?” Which is followed by the parenthetical statement “Felony convictions will not result in an immediate rejection of your application.” or something equally false. Let’s be honest. If convicted felons could find actual jobs once they got out, the recidivism rate wouldn’t be half of what it is. Most find getting gainful employment impossible; in fact, if you have a drug felony on your sheet, you can’t even get a federal student loan to go back to school. So much for rehabilitation in an effort to prevent repeat offenders huh? They always put this question as far to the end of the application as they possibly can, as though it weren’t relevant in their application process. But, you know, it must be, because they went through the trouble of putting it on the application at all.

Finally, well almost, comes the question that irks me the most: “Can we check your credit score along with your criminal record?” What the hell does my credit have to do with whether or not I am capable of doing the bloody job I’m applying for? You want to know what my credit looks like, ask me! I print out a copy of my credit report every year in hopes that that year will be the year that I get it all handled and taken care of. I’ll be glad to supply you with a copy all your own. Then you can see, for yourself, that my credit is crap and I need a job to take care of these debts.

After this you just sign on the dotted line “swearing” that everything you’ve said is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. And that any misrepresentation can lead to a rejection of your application and/or the loss of employment if you have been hired. Personally I’d like to think that if I was smart enough to con a HR person into believing that I really am all about team work and working as a cohesive group with my workmates then I not only deserve my job, I deserve a promotion, because I couldn’t tell that lie straight faced if I wanted to.

All that said…I’m off to pound some pavement, and pick up a few applications.

Unemployment blues

Can I tell you how much I hate being unemployed? I don’t like being unemployed. I don’t like being fiscally dependent on someone else. I feel like a drain on our finances because every other day I’m asking for money for something else. I should me making my own money. I shouldn’t have to go to H like some hapless teenager asking for an advance on her allowance. He doesn’t make it seem that way, but that’s the way I feel.

I started working about a month before my 16th birthday, and kept working until I got married back in 2002. I held the same job at the same company from the time I was 15 to the time I was 21 (albeit there were intermittent times when I wasn’t working there, like when I left for college, but I’d work over holidays and breaks as an contingent employee). I never got written up. Rarely had problems with my bosses (though I had the occasional tiff with my co-workers). Other employees in my building knew me and liked me just fine. I was polite and courteous. 90% of the time, if they called me in to fill in for someone, I came. Even when it was the morning shift and I had to be there at 630am but had gone to bed late the previous evening.

But, for whatever reason, none of this matters because I’ve been unemployed (taking care of my daughter) for a little over four years. I ran a business for about two years (and I don’t mean some door-to-door avon type stuff [no offense to avon sellers, but that ain’t for me], I mean I started and ran my own business), by myself. No employees. No assistants. Just me. I bought the supplies, I made the product, I advertised the product, I shipped it. Ok, H helped too in the advertising aspect. His friends and coworkers still bug him for cookies. (Yes I had a business making and selling cookies, largely over the internet) But this doesn’t seem to matter either. All they see is a college drop out (I was in college for three years with no clue as to what I wanted to do with myself…so rather than racking up even more debt with student loans and wasting my time, I quit to take some time to figure myself out) who has been unemployed for nearly five years.

The economy in Michigan isn’t helping either. We’re number one on the list of worst places for employment. How depressing is that? Growing up in Detroit, it was all but written on your birth certificate that so long as you had a high school diploma, you were going to have a good, well paying job –with benefits– with the Big 3. If you had a family member working for one of them (and you always had at least one), you were in. Guaranteed. You’d start at about $15/hour and go up from there. You were unionized, you got health and dental insurance and you got employee discounts on cars. You were set. But this isn’t the case anymore. Factories aren’t hiring. At least they aren’t in the Western Hemisphere. Because the auto industry is such an integral part of our state’s economy (what was that saying about putting all your eggs in one basket?) when the Big 3 take a hit, many other businesses do to. Everyone from parts suppliers to restaurateurs to convenience stores. The Big 3 go down, they’re sinking with them.

I kinda feel deceived. With the auto companies taking major hits every fiscal quarter, life here becomes more uncertain. There are more people on food stamps now (1.21 million I believe is the number they’re throwing around now) than there ever have been in this state. Our unemployment rate continues to rise (though it fell seven points in January, it’s still higher than it was at the same time last year). And the problem with unemployment statistics is that it only counts the people who are actively looking for work. That means those of us who have become frustrated by the sheer lack of opportunities (for whatever reason) and have given up our search go uncounted. Foreclosures are skyrocketing in the Metro Detroit area. 1 out of every 4 fires (in this state) involving homes and cars are arsons because people are taking desperate measures to hold off foreclosures and repossessions. Honestly, I’m sort of surprised that riots haven’t broken out.

The state government is trying, though the Republican lead state Senate seems to want nothing to do with helping those who are in low or lower middle class income bracket. A few years back the Governor passed a bill that allows laid off workers to get re-training or education in a different sector. Which is great. People who have been doing the same job for many years and suddenly find that their particular skill set is no longer viable deserve some sort of assistance in getting a new trade or skill. But with our (continuing) budget shortfall, I can’t see this lasting.

And I won’t mention the massive brain-drain going on. Students coming in for college and then leaving as soon as they graduate.

Tomorrow I’m hopping the bus to try, once again, to find a job. Wish me luck.