It’s tough being unemployed. But the lack of money, food and shelter doesn’t compare with the misery of the job hunting process itself. The applications employers want you to fill out for these low paying, loser jobs are worse than working outside in sub zero temperatures while someone pours ice water down your back.
Recently I got a call for a job as a vendor – something. A person who fills vending machines. They actually called me twice. The first time I kind of blew it off, as I still had some food in my refrigerator and the cable and internet was still on.
So the lady tells me before the interview to download the application and have it filled out before the interview, which would be the following day. OK, fine. Shouldn’t really be a difficult application, probably a page or two.
Apparently, having been employed for the last two-and-a-half years, I have a lot to learn in the world of job hunting in a crappy economy. I didn’t think there’d be much need there for a lengthy and detailed employment history for a job like this. I printed out the application: all 28 pages of it. It was downhill from there with this bold statement in capital letters:
“A complete employment history is required. Begin with very first employer during or after high school and list entire work history up to the present. Complete all questions for each employer.”
Wait, I graduated in 1981! It’s now 2009! That’s 28 years. Do you know how many jobs I’ve had since then? Like 5,000! And you want me to remember names, addresses, phone numbers and supervisor’s names as well as the dates I was employed? How much could this job be paying to require all this? Unless it’s in the $400 an hour range, I’m not doing it! Alright, I have to, I’m desperate.
If your employment history couldn’t fit on their application, you were to supply additional sheets of paper listing your information. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough paper on hand to list all the jobs. Additionally, I can’t afford to go out and buy the paper to supply this numbskull company with nearly three decades of employment history. Well, I had plenty of envelopes from unpaid bills I could use to write on.
Then, there was this baffling statement:
“Explain reason for period of unemployment longer than three months between high school and your first employer.”
At age 45, my memory is not quite what it used to be. But some pleasantries I can remember. I thought back to the summer of 1981, when I graduated. My days were consumed with walking down to the lake and sunning myself until I was golden brown. My nights were consumed with partying, as the legal drinking age back then was 18. Should I tell them that I took the whole summer off in 1981 to sunbathe and party? Nah, might not look good.
“Explain reason for unemployment between first and second employers.”
And second and third, and forth, and so on. And in my case, between employer 3,672 and 4,957. Oh, and explain all periods of non-employment. In 1982 I was arrested for running naked through a park carrying a case of beer. My parents refused to bail me out for a while. Then in 1983, well, you get the idea. I would have to pull out my journals from 20+ years ago to fill out this application correctly. Painful events and people I had forgotten about would come back to light. This was psychologically abusive! What were they trying to do to me??
“Include contact phone numbers and references from previous employers.”
Let’s see, I drove a cab for a couple of years but I knew that company was long out of business. Maybe I could still get a reference. I began typing names into Google. I got some hits.
“Hello, George? This is Mary Kirchhoff nee Dugan. I used to work for you a long time ago, like 25 years I think it was? For the cab company? Do you remember me?”
“Speak up, honey, I can’t hear you. Did you say you needed a cab?”
“No, I want to talk to you about the cab company you used to own a while back. I’m looking for a job and I need references from previous employers.”
“Who is this?”
“My name was Mary Dugan back then, do you remember me?”
“Who did you want to talk to?”
In the background I heard, “It’s time to take your medicine, hang up the phone!” The call was disconnected. What could I expect? He was an old man when he owned the company, he couldn’t be in great shape now. Well, no reference there. Too bad, it was one of the jobs I’d held the longest in my life.
I’m in therapy now, trying to learn to cope with the job hunting experience. As soon as I can afford paper for my printer, I should be in good shape.