Unemployment Nine: A different take on ‘What if … ?’

Since the two-year anniversary of my layoff passed, I haven’t posted much. I still love writing and still find this blog to be incredibly therapeutic. There just isn’t a hell of a lot going on.

The number of job listings has started to dwindle again. I keep reading about how the unemployment rate is going down, and I wonder if that’s because everyone else got hired but me.

Even the freaking Stormtroopers are getting laid off!

And something I’ve complained about in the past is only getting worse and worse. The requirements that accompany job listings have become insane. Job listings that used to have four or five requirements now have 15 or 20. People in charge of hiring are looking for the absolute perfect candidate, and they’re absolutely entitled to so do, but by doing so, they’re eliminating an awful lot of candidates who could easily learn the one or two missing requirements and do a fantastic job, like, yours truly. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m sending out fewer résumés because if a job listing says, “must have experience covering bond markets,” and I have exactly zero minutes of experience in that field, they’re not going to call me in for an interview. I’m not being cynical — I’m being realistic. If they make it a point to list something in their requirements, it’s obviously important to them, and if I don’t have it, I’m not going to waste my time or theirs.

Another gripe of mine is also getting worse by the week: The long online application processes used by many companies are only getting longer, and dumber. Until I know that you’re going to call me in for an interview, I am NOT spending a half-hour (no exaggeration, and one was actually closer to 45 minutes) duplicating every piece of information on my résumé and trying to find addresses and contact information for jobs from the 1990s, when the companies have moved and the people I worked with have moved on. If a company isn’t interested in me, that information is useless to them. And while I may be unemployed, it doesn’t mean I’m not working, and it doesn’t mean that my time has so little value that it’s worth it for me to waste on these online applications. There’s a document called a résumé. It’s attached. Fucking read it. If there’s enough interest to have me in for an interview, I will fill out all the forms you want.

If you want proof that I will step up if there’s interest, I went on an interview this past Tuesday. It was only my second interview since returning from my honeymoon in mid-May. I thought it went very well, but two-plus years have taught me not to get too excited about anything, because I’ve had the same feelings about other interviews, and the results (or lack thereof) are obvious. Anyway, I was asked to take a writing test at home, and I worked very, very hard on it. The assignment was to re-create the publication’s home page, and it involved selecting articles, rewriting headlines, finding art, and a few other elements. I spent a good, solid four hours on it and, whether I get the job or not, I know I gave it my all, although I may weep if I don’t get at least a second interview out of this. My point: I had no problem whatsoever with investing four hours in this project, with no guarantees, because interest was already expressed. But I do have major issues spending a half-hour or 45 minutes on the online job-application system from hell while knowing there’s probably about a 1% chance that anything comes out of it.

OK, I’m done ranting, but there’s one thing that scares me the most. It took me exactly two years, one month, and 10 days to get to this point, but today is the first time I’ve ever actually wondered: What if I never get a full-time job again?

When I first got laid off, I was probably a little cockier than I should have been. I’m very confident in my experience and my abilities, and even though I knew the economy was heading into a downturn, I thought I’d find something within weeks and enjoy the bonus of earning a salary and severance pay at the same time. Needless to say, that didn’t happen. But even when the picture became more and more bleak, I’ve always felt that something will come up at some point. Now I’m not sure I can say that with any conviction and, frankly, that’s frightening.

One problem I’ve also brought up before in this blog — hey, in two years-plus of blog posts, you tend to cover a lot of topics — is that while I’m not stubbornly opposed to changing careers, I have no concept, clue or theory what other field I’d go into.

I am not the least bit handy, so any kind of mechanical job is out. I’m nowhere near in the kind of shape I’d have to be in to do anything construction-related, and using tools is nearly foreign to me. I’m not good at dealing with strangers, and I have zero skills at negotiation, so any kind of retail or sales job is out. I am horrible at public speaking and remembering people’s names, and I suck at explaining how to do things, so teaching is out. I have no kitchen skills, and I doubt I could even bartend, because I am awful at mixing ingredients. I’d coach the Cowboys, but Jerry Jones must have missed my e-mail.

So, what’s next? Just keep sitting, waiting, and hoping? Until my layoff, I had been fortunate enough to never be unemployed before. I was actually laid off from my very first job, but they kept me on as a freelancer until I found another job, so I never experienced that hopeless, out-of-work feeling. In my worst nightmare scenario, I never expected this to drag on for two years and counting. And unless I strike gold with the interview I mentioned earlier, it will probably drag on another few months, because no one adds head count at the end of the year, and no one posts jobs or holds interviews during the holiday season (bah, humbug).

I’m not ready to throw myself out of a Wall Street skyscraper window, 1929-style, but at this point, I have no answers whatsoever.

Unemployment Nine: Applying for jobs is getting completely out of hand

As I battle through month No. 18 and counting of being unemployed, those rare moments when I find a job listing worth pursuing have begun to turn more and more irritating.

Homework SUCKS

I’ve blogged in the past about how requirements on job listings have become more and more specific, to the point where it seems like employers are trying to find the ultimate, perfect candidate on paper and ruling out candidates who could be great fits for the advertised positions but might not comply with all of the stringent requirements.

The latest trend I’ve noticed is potential employers trying to get applicants to do something I personally haven’t done since my senior year of college in 1990: homework.

Don’t get me wrong: I have absolutely no problem taking copy editing tests, providing writing samples, or performing other tasks to demonstrate and prove my abilities once my résumé has emerged from the first wave and it’s obvious that there is some interest in my candidacy. Companies should do whatever they feel is necessary to reduce the height of their résumé piles.

But more and more companies are asking for long, time-consuming tasks to be performed as part of the initial application process. I may be out of work, but that doesn’t mean I have absolutely nothing to do. If you haven’t shown at least some interest in me, expecting me to spend one hour on what amounts to a glorified homework assignment, with no guarantee that it will ever be looked at, seriously borders on abuse of power.

One company that runs a Website that combines social networking and lists expected applicants to join their site, compile several different top-10 lists (10 favorite books, 10 favorite movies, etc.), then basically write an essay explaining your choices. This is getting worse than applying to colleges. What’s next: What I did on my summer vacation?

Another company wanted you to go through all of their video content, pick out your favorite video, and tell them what you would do to improve it, among other tasks they requested. So, let me get this straight: You want to pick my brain on how to improve your Website, without the slightest promise that you’ll even consider me for an interview? Sorry, but my days of working for no pay ended with my last internship many years ago, while I was still in college.

I’m not trying to sound like a lazy, unmotivated person. All I ask of whoever is making the hiring decisions: Look at my résumé first and determine if I have a fighting chance at the position. I’ve been out of work for 18 months, and I don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. If you express some interest in me, I will do whatever it takes to convince you that I’m the right person for the position. But I will not do one hour, or even one minute, of extra work when there’s no guarantee that anyone will even look at it. I may have been born at night, but I wasn’t born last night. Stop taking advantage of desperate, unemployed people.