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 require you to fill out for these low paying, loser jobs are worse than standing outside in sub zero temperatures while someone pours ice water down your back. No wonder people give up and go homeless.
Recently I got a call for a job filling 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, and frankly, the job didn’t sound that appealing. But, some income is better than none, so I reluctantly called them back.
I was told to download the application and have it filled out before the interview, which would be in a few weeks. I thought that was strange, but OK, fine. Shouldn’t really be a difficult application, probably a page or two. Hah!
Apparently, having been employed for the last several years, I had 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.”
This was going to take some time. I canceled my doctor and hair appointments, put out extra food and water for the cats, put a “Do not Disturb” sign on my front door and set about the task of getting this app done.
Since I graduated some 30 years ago, I’ve probably had, oh, about 3,527 jobs. And they wanted me to remember names, addresses, phone numbers and supervisor’s names as well as the dates I was employed? Were they serious? How much could this job be paying to require all this?
If your employment history couldn’t fit on their application, you were to supply additional sheets of paper listing your information. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough paper on hand to list all the jobs. Additionally, I couldn’t afford to go out and buy the paper to supply this numbskull company with 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.”
I thought back to the summer when I graduated high school. My days were consumed with walking down to the lake and sunning myself until I was golden brown. My nights were consumed with partying. A lot of that time period is a mystery. Should I tell them that I took the whole summer off in 1981 to sunbathe and party? Nah, might not look good. The person reviewing my application was probably not even born in 1981.
“Explain reason for unemployment between first and second employers.”
And second and third, and forth, and so on. Didn’t want to work. Lived with parents. Did a stint in rehab. Couldn’t find a job. Didn’t want to look for a job. Briefly joined a cult and worked for free as part of a community. Had a baby. Got a divorce. Did some time in the county jail.
“Explain all periods of non-employment.” At around age 19, a couple friends and I were arrested for running naked through a park carrying a case of beer. My parents refused to bail me out for a while. Then a year later… 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?”
“There’s no Mary here!”
In the background I heard, “It’s time to take your medicine, hang up the phone!” The call was disconnected. What did 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.
After working on that application for three weeks, I gave up and went into therapy where I’m learning the necessary coping techniques to properly complete job applications. We have a very nice group session that meets weekly and each week our number grows.